Photo by Edward F. Palm)

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Forest, Virginia, United States
A long time ago, my sophomore English teacher, Father William Campbell, saw something in my writing and predicted that I would someday become a newspaper columnist. He suggested the perfect title for my column--"Leaves of the Palm." Now that I have a little extra time on my hands I've decided to put Father Campbell's prediction to the test. I'm going to start using this blog site not just to reprint opinion pieces I've published elsewhere but to try to get more of my ideas and opinions out there. Feedback is welcome. To find out more about me, please check out my Web site: www.EdwardFPalm.com (Click on any of the photos below for an enlarged view.)

Thursday, October 15, 2015

My Column for October 4, 2015

ED PALM | All wet along Clear Creek?

This column represents a change of pace. I have to be fairly positive about a project the county has undertaken. I hate when that happens!

Regular readers of this column will recall how I’ve been loath to cut the county any slack over the Bucklin Hill bridge project. I was similarly inclined this summer while walking the Clear Creek Trail in Silverdale with my dog Phineas. We often walk along the western extension of the trail, the part between Silverdale Way and Highway 3. In early June, we noticed a sign along the far side of north-south loop of trail proclaiming that the county had closed an offshoot of the main trail for “wetland restoration work.”

Frankly, I didn’t see how the area in question was ever a wetland to begin with, much less one in need of restoration. It was a large open field, and more to the point, it was uphill from the existing wetlands at the beginning of trail. I could see that the area could be a watershed — but a wetlands? There is a difference between the two, is there not?

The sign further disclosed that area was being “restored” under the direction of the Kitsap County Department of Community Development (DCD) and that it was being “funded as part of a required mitigation for the Silverdale Trails Shopping Center located on Greaves Way.”

I kept tabs on the project throughout the summer and soon discovered that two large areas of at least an acre apiece had been gouged out with a bulldozer and that tree stumps and logs were being trucked in and dumped into these holes. Then, making matters worse, two-inch white PVC pumps soon appeared along the trail complex leading to the holes. Shades of the late John Denver and his concern about creating “more scars upon the land”!

As that sign invites people to do, I finally contacted the county for “more information and project details.” I wanted to pin down the county about whether they were restoring wetlands or creating new ones. I also wanted to know who was paying for this and how it was related to that new shopping center being built on Greaves Way.

I recently spoke to Steve Heacock, the DCD’s senior environmental planner, who was happy to fill me in on what the county is up to along the Clear Creek Trail.

At the turn of the century, Heacock explained, Clear Creek meandered throughout the entire valley where the trails are now located. There was also an extensive beaver-dam complex in the area. When the Schold family settled there, they trapped the beavers and straight-lined the creek by ditching. They also drained and cultivated the land.

Now that the county owns the area, Heacock said, the goal is to “turn it back to the condition of pre-European development for the benefit of the community.”

Frankly, that strikes me as a noble but an unrealistic goal. Clear Creek will never again meander throughout the valley. I can understand a nostalgic longing for the way it was before white settlers pushed aside our “first nations” (to use the Canadian term). But not all development can be undone, and a utilitarian, eminent-domain-type consideration should guide all such restoration projects: We have to look to the greatest good for the greatest number.

Of course, the one lingering concern I did have was who’s paying for it. Heacock assured me that the developer of the new Greaves Way shopping center is responsible for completing and for bearing the total cost of the project. This is required under Kitsap County Code 19.200, which is further underwritten by state and federal regulations. Heacock pointed me to the section of the code requiring a developer to create 1.5 units of wetlands for any one unit affected by development.

The contractor is also required to get state and federal permits, and the work is monitored by the county, Heacock added.

Regarding the aesthetics of the project, Heacock admitted that it will take about two years for these newly created wetland ponds to look natural. He further assured me that the PVC pipes are not a permanent fixture. They’ll be removed once the ponds have become self-sustaining wetlands.

So, is the county all wet with this project? I grew up in Delaware, where wetlands and mosquitoes are abundant. Hence my initial skepticism about “restoring” wetlands along Clear Creek. But since the project is limited to county land and does not displace or inconvenience anyone — and swallows and dragonflies should help keep the mosquitoes in check — I’m giving it the benefit of the doubt.

As for that other project, I have not softened my position. Today marks Day 96 of the Fishy Deal — the 14-month closure of Bucklin Hill Road for the construction of a new salmon-friendly bridge.

Contact Ed Palm at efpalm@centurylink.net.

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