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Tour of Fennel Creek features city resource

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By Brian Beckley

The Courier-Herald

From its first, short passage through Eastown to its prominence in the middle of the city, to Victor Falls and its exit toward the Puyallup River, Fennel Creek is one of the Bonney Lake's most prized natural resources.

To learn more about the creek and the stresses placed upon it by modern city life, more than 35 people, including citizens, elected officials and state and county officials, gathered last week to take a tour of four sites, drawing attention to the creek and its place in the city.

Hosted and organized by the Puyallup River Watershed Council, the event was designed to draw attention to developmental impacts on the creek.

"I wanted (the citizens) to understand the intersection of watershed issues and land use issues," Council Chair Linda Burgess said.

During the tour, which began on Charlotte Kontos' property just north of city limits in Eastown and made a second stop on Kelley Lake Road, county officials discussed their plan to purchase all of the wetlands on the north side of Old Buckley Highway between Kelley Lake Road and 214th Avenue East.

According to Marsha Huebner, senior planner for Pierce County Water Programs, there is $600,000 available to purchase the land in the current budget and an additional $600,000 scheduled for 2006.

Huebner said the purchase would give the creek more room and a larger flood plain since development has forced "more water in less place."

"What was once a very wide wetland flood plain is now a very narrow Fennel Creek," she said.

The plans also include the raising of the road and bridge over the creek on Kelley Lake Road and protection of trees in the wetland areas.

According to Huebner, the county wants to save as much adjacent flood plain as possible through acquisition. Huebner said the county, however, would only buy property from willing sellers.

"We do not condemn," she said.

The tour's third stop was on a bluff in a neighborhood overlooking the Corliss property and the creek.

Washington Department of Transportation Biology Program Manager Carl Ward said the state began widening Old Buckley Highway in 1989 and completed mitigation regarding the creek in 1992, setting up a an area west of the current Target site as publicly owned and protected land.

"As with all our sites it is protected in perpetuity," Ward said.

Ward said then, as now, the biggest concern regarding the land around the creek was flooding.

At the tour's final stop, near where the creek meets the Puyallup River between Sumner and Orting, Russ Ladley, fish biologist for the P puyallup Tribe, discussed the salmon that spawn in the part of the creek below Victor Falls, including the "phenomenal return" of pink salmon.

Ladley warned that development upstream in Bonney Lake can affect the spawning rates downstream and reminded those on the tour that flooding in the channel is an indicator of an unstable stream channel.

"All that development will have an effect on the stream," Ladley said.

Bonney Lake citizen Thomas McCormack said he took the tour to learn more about the creek.

"Fennel Creek is a lot more fragile than we think it is," he said following the tour.

Sandy Jeppsson, a resident of Hinkelman Heights, located in unincorporated Pierce County but surrounded by Bonney Lake, said she also wanted to learn more about the creek and found the tour "very interesting and very informative."

"I feel more optimistic there will be preservation," she said.

Brian Beckley can be reached at bbeckley@courierherald.com.

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The Puyallup River Watershed Council meets at 5 p.m. on the fourth Wednesday of each month at Sumner City Hall, 1104 Maple St., Sumner. For more information, visit www.piercecountywa.org/PRWC or call 253-798-2725.

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