Habitat restoration projects stalled due to budget

When state legislators failed to pass the capital budget, projects across the state focused on habitat restoration were stalled.

After lawmakers failed to pass the capital budget, statewide habitat restoration work has come to a halt.

One of those projects is a popular trail on Lake Washington.

The area near the State Route 520 bridge and the Montlake Cut is Seattle's biggest wetland. It's accessible to the public thanks to the Arboretum trail, but that trail regularly sinks.

"You're standing on a trail made of compacted wood chips, and you can see it pumping underneath me," said Seattle Parks Senior Project Manager Garrett Farrell. "And then you get to our structures, which are at the end of their service life. We do the repairs we can, but we really need to re-invest in this system and try to give it another 30 years of life."

The trail needs major upgrades, he says. Boat wake is just one of several challenges to its structure and usability.

"You have the waves that come. You have constant boat traffic from the Montlake Cut, and those waves come off the cut and ripple through here and hit our wetland and our marsh edge," he said.

It also floods during heavy rains. People have to get creative to still cross it. The mud on the trail makes it nearly unusable for families like Susan Minogue's.

"It is charmingly in disrepair. We love the space so we'll love it in all it's forms but it needs some infrastructure help, for sure," she said.

Except, there's not enough money to complete the work due to a failed capital budget. It's one of about 100 projects statewide in the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program that won't get needed funding. Some focus on fish habitat, others on protecting land from development.

"Projects like the Arboretum Waterfront Trail Redevelopment are funded through the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program (WWRP), which is our state's premier outdoor grant program. The legislature's failure to pass a Capital Budget puts the future of all 102 new WWRP projects in limbo," said Andrea McNamara Doyle, Executive Director of the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition, the program's chief advocate.

The wetland around the Arboretum is vital habitat and the restoration work would raise the trail off it.

"We can take more people through this and have less impact on the wetland. We're no longer going to be filling a wetland with woodchips only to try to keep a trail open only to see that trail get saturated seasonably and rendered impassable," Farrell said.

Without state funding though, the work can only start in stages. That will cost more to complete in the long run – if it's ever completed at all.

© 2017 KING-TV


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