News

White River Park and Wildlife Refuge gaining momentum

By Shawn Skager

The Courier-Herald

The proposed White River Park and Wildlife Refuge took a step toward becoming a reality recently when $200,000 was allocated in the Washington state 2006 Supplemental Capital Budget.

The money was earmarked for a study of land acquisition.

Spearheaded by Sen. Pam Roach, D-Auburn, the study will look into the feasibility of acquiring 3,000 acres of land along the White River stretching from Buckley to Auburn.

Currently the land is owned by Puget Sound Energy and various appraisals have pegged the land's value at between $25 million and $35 million.

Previously the land was part of PSE's White River Hydro Power Project, which was operational from 1909 until it ceased operation in January 2004.

The area has been closed to the general public since the hydro project was begun.

Although the majority of the land would be used for the park, 500 acres of the property owned by PSE would be set aside for mitigation in a water transfer project.

“In the past several months I've met with local officials from Auburn, Bonney Lake, Buckley, Enumclaw, South Prairie and Sumner about this proposal, as well as those from Pierce and King counties, the governor's office, state departments of Fish and Wildlife, state parks and congressional staffers,” Roach noted in a press release last week.

According to the senator, Auburn, Bonney Lake, Buckley, Enumclaw, South Prairie and Sumner have all passed resolutions supporting her park/refuge proposal.

In addition to providing a pristine slice of nature for the public to enjoy, the park is also home to several species of wildlife, including deer, elk, herons, osprey, nesting birds and eagles.

The river itself is home to two species of endangered fish, the Chinook salmon and bull trout.

Shawn Skager can be reached at sskager@courierherald.com.

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