News

Amphitheater foes will continue battle

By Kevin Hanson, The Courier-Herald

Opponents of the White River Amphitheatre haven't given up their fight.

The Enumclaw-based Citizens for Safety and Environment lost another round last week, when a federal judge dismissed its claim that the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe underestimated potential environmental impacts when planning for the concert venue. U.S. District Court Judge John Coughenour granted summary judgment in favor of the tribe and its amphitheater partners, stating that environment risks were adequately considered during the planning stages.

David Bricklin, attorney for CSE, shrugged off Coughenour's decision, claiming the judge's ruling doesn't carry much weight, since it involved only "potential" impacts. Now, with the amphitheater up and running, he said, everyone can deal with real facts and figures.

And the reality of the situation, Bricklin said, is concerts are "causing much longer backups than were forecast by Clear Channel or the state." Clear Channel Entertainment operates the concert site for the tribe.

With that in mind, Bricklin said amphitheater opponents are focusing on a lawsuit they have pending against the state's Department of Transportation. DOT handles traffic issues on SR 164 and, according to Citizens for Safety and Environment, was too lenient in allowing access to the state highway. A hearing in King County Superior Court, where the suit against the DOT was filed, is scheduled for Aug. 22.

Bricklin said many within CSE would have loved to have stopped the amphitheater project entirely, but a more realistic goal has been to limit the size of concert crowds - and, in turn, the impacts on traffic and the environment. During the Aug. 22 hearing, he'll ask a county judge to invalidate the permit issued by DOT for the amphitheater, Bricklin said.

"We would be agreeable to a cap on attendance," he said, allowing that crowds between 8,000 and 10,000 are manageable. A crowd of 12,000 might be OK, Bricklin said, if the time and day were appropriate. Traffic isn't impacted as much on weekends and during later-starting concerts, he said; the problem comes during weeknight shows that might start a bit earlier and conflict with commuter traffic.

The White River Amphitheatre has yet to record a sellout (20,000) and already traffic has backed up onto state Route 18 for certain shows, Bricklin said.

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