Creek project put on hold

Logs buried in the ground for decades have brought a screeching halt to a King County project just north of Enumclaw.

The county had received a $750,000 grant from the state’s Salmon Recovery Funding Board to redesign the mouth of Boise Creek, making it more fish-friendly. The county had put money toward the project as well, pushing to total expected cost to nearly $1 million.

But no one took into account the old railroad bridge that spanned the creek years ago, just upstream of the present state Route 410 bridge. After work crews cleared trees, graded the land and began creating new stream beds, crews found old timbers coated with creosote, typically applied as a wood preservative. While effective, creosote also has associated health risks, forcing the county to halt construction.

Mason Bowles, project manager for the county, said the project was designed to widen the mouth of Boise Creek. Currently, the creek is narrow and has steep walls, he said, which means salmon-spawning areas get washed away when the creek is flowing high and fast.

Work crews were making a new stream bed just to the west of the present creek. The plan was to divert the creek to the new bed, which has a broad flood plain. As a result, Bowles said, spawning areas would not be impacted during heavy flows.

But dozens of creosote-treated timbers are in the way and money wasn’t budgeted for their removal, Bowles explained, so the project has been put on hold until next year.

Bowles was quick to point out that the timbers do not pose a health risk to humans, but cannot be left in a sensitive salmon-spawning area.

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