By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Whether or not they’re directly responsible for the illegal tree-cutting in the Duwamish Head Greenbelt, nearby property owners may be taxed for it, sooner rather than later.
Checking the status of the investigation and other revelations, we found out today from City Councilmember Lisa Herbold that the King County Assessor has received a “constituent request (to) increase 2016 real-estate tax to reflect View Property status.” She says the Assessor’s Office already “has sent division directors out to visit the site and will be sending an appraisal team out shortly.”
Speaking of valuation, Herbold told us there’s something else that she’s emphasizing to the City Attorney’s Office and others who are investigating:
I want to be sure the evaluation of the value of the trees takes into account the role the trees play in maintaining soil stability in an environmentally critical area by absorbing water, thus lessening the risk of landslides onto a major arterial.
Further, trees maintain air quality by absorbing carbon —an important issue in West Seattle, which sits adjacent to SODO and the Duwamish industrial area. The Green Cities Research Alliance 2012 Report, Seattle’s Forest Ecosystem Values, has additional information about Seattle’s trees, estimated to have a replacement value of $4.9 billion — an important capital asset.
If you’ve been away or are otherwise just tuning into this, The Seattle Times broke the news last Friday night that the city was investigating the illegal cutting of more than 100 trees on parcels owned by the city Parks and Transportation Departments in the Duwamish Head Greenbelt, north of 35th SW and northwest of 34th SW/City View.
We followed up on Saturday and on Monday, which is when the City Attorney’s Office disclosed the cutting was brought to the city’s attention in January, and that a lawyer for at least one of the guilty parties had written to the city about it in early February. We published a statement from lawyer Clayton Graham in our Monday report. We now also have a copy of his February 5th letter and the proposed restoration-plan outline, both obtained from the City Attorney’s Office. Here’s the letter (PDF); below is the restoration-plan outline, which Graham said on Monday was provided to the city on March 9th. The city stresses that it has NOT approved the plan; we publish it to show you what was proposed before this all came to light:
RESTORATION ACTIVITY OUTLINE
Hire contractor approved by SPRD for following activities:
SITE PREPARATION Spring/Summer 2016
Install erosion control along perimeter of site per SPRD and DPD guidelines
Move cut logs to accommodate work and utilize as erosion control and terraces as possible
Invasive Shrub/Vine Removal following SPRD guidelines within perimeter of exposed canopy
Invasive Tree Removal/Herbicide (if necessary) under SPRD guidelines within perimeter
Broadcast Herbicide (if necessary) under SPRD guidelines within perimeter
Mulch to a depth of no greater than 6” consisting of arborist chips, straw or burlap will be installed across area to suppress weeds, increase moisture retention and limit erosion potential
PLANTING Fall/Winter (2016)
Install trees, shrubs, groundcovers in species and numbers as prescribed by Green Seattle Partnership – SPRD guidelines for similar sites.
Planting will be done in the suggested mosaic for the site with adaptation for existing native plants.
Location and species of trees planted to be determined based on discussion with City staff and owners’ urban forester.
IRRIGATION Winter/Spring (2016)
Installation of a temporary water reservoir and drip irrigation system in the spring is requested. Water will be supplied by adjacent property owner
If system is not approved contractor will be engaged for 3 seasons of watering and continued invasive species control and erosion monitoring
ESTABLISHMENT WEED CONTROL Spring-Summer (2017-2020)
Invasive weed control and plant health monitoring will be contracted for three growing seasons to assure success of plantings and site
Again, that is what the one unidentified homeowner proposed in early February, and it has not been approved by the city. Graham’s Monday statement said he and his clients “offered to provide a detailed restoration plan (complete with tree size, species, placement and ongoing care obligations) from our client’s urban forester when the City was ready to review it.” (Since that apparently has not yet been received by the city, we’re asking Graham if his client would make it public.)
Whether it’s from that plan or not, will the city take any action to start restoring the cut slopes before it’s decided whether those responsible will be prosecuted, and how they will be penalized? We asked the Parks Department that question yesterday and are still awaiting the answer.
Finally, if you haven’t already seen it in our previous story’s comment thread, this online petition is in circulation, asking the City Council to toughen the laws governing incidents like this.
If we get any more new information today, we’ll add it to this story.
ADDED 4:59 PM: Parks spokesperson Christina Hirsch‘s reply to our question about whether any immediate restoration work is planned:
Right now we are working with our own restoration experts and are also consulting with outside advisers to figure out the plan to restore this area. This is a unique situation and restoration will be a challenge, both because of the scope of the damage and because it is such a sensitive and environmentally critical area. Because the situation is so severe, it could take years to get the area back to where it needs to be. Restoring this area is something that we need to do and we are working diligently with our team to put together a plan. We don’t have a complete timeline for restoration, but we do know that restoration in this area will not be something we can complete in one attempt; we will have to work on restoration on an ongoing basis.