City Council OKs baseline marsh study; takes a look at 5th option for buffer

High water at the Edmonds marsh in February 2017. (Photo by Bill Anderson)

Following months of ongoing discussions by the Edmonds City Council regarding the city’s draft Shoreline Master Program (SMP) and an appropriate buffer for the Edmonds Marsh, a solution — in the form of a fifth option — may be on the horizon.

After considering two options — A and B — proposed by the Department of Ecology, a third hybrid known as option C and a fourth alternative know as option D — on Tuesday night the council was presented with a fifth option, known as Option M.

In introducing the idea, Councilmember Mike Nelson said that he and Councilmember Diane Buckshnis worked with City Attorney Jeff Taraday and the Washington State Department of Ecology “to try to find a path forward with the SMP.” The result is Option M (M standing for Marsh), presented Tuesday night in draft form, plus a city council-funded baseline study of the marsh.

“What you are going to hear tonight we believe will protect the marsh while meeting the requirements of the Shoreline Management Act and hopefully getting final approval from the Department of Ecology,” Nelson said.

Taraday explained in a council presentation that the goal in creating Option M was to take the position of the majority of councilmembers on the marsh buffer issue and repackage it — not only to gain Ecology Department acceptance, but also to perhaps satisfy the concerns of Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling and the three minority-opinion councilmembers who opposed the council’s original position on the marsh buffer last fall.

Option M calls for a 110-foot fixed marsh buffer and a 15-foot setback. According to the proposed language, any possible alternate buffer width would be derived from a scientific site-specific study, and would be subjected to a shoreline conditional use permitting process.

Taraday was careful to make a distinction between a site-specific, project-level study and the council’s planning-level study, which would be done “to establish the 2017 baseline ecological conditions.” The council study would happen “on a completely separate track from the SMP,” Taraday said, with the city council controlling the timing, the consultant selection process, the contracting and scope of work — all of which would be performed at the city’s expense.

The baseline study “would just simply do the work that hasn’t yet been done to analyze species that are using the marsh, what’s living there, what are the habitat needs of those species,” Taraday said.

In contrast, a project-level study would happen “potentially much later down the road,” he added, and would “likely be funded by the Port (of Edmonds) as a master plan proposal and that study would have a different focus.” With the baseline conditions already established, the emphasis of a project-level study would be to figure out how a proposed project would impact the existing conditions of the marsh, as well as what buffer width and vegetation would be required to mitigate that impact, Taraday explained.

The Port of Edmonds owns the Harbor Square Business Complex property adjacent to the north end of the marsh.

Councilmember Buckshnis made a motion to use council contingency funds to conduct a baseline study, seconded by Councilmember Adrienne Fraley-Monillas. Councilmember Dave Teitzel said that while such a study makes sense, he worried that the council would be “writing a blank check” without knowing the actual costs. Council President Tom Mesaros added he was concerned that there were no specifics about what the study would actually involve and proposed waiting a week for a council vote until that information could be developed. “We have nothing in writing about what we are going to do,” he said. In the end, Fraley-Monillas proposed an amendment — approved unanimously — that a scope of work and costs be brought back to the council before any study is launched.

Taraday asked for councilmembers to provide comments and amendments to Option M by the end of the day Wednesday, with the idea of revisting the option at next week’s meeting. And since the council was facing a March 31 deadline for responding to the Ecology Department’s latest proposal regarding the city’s Shoreline Master Program, councilmembers also voted unanimously on Tuesday to notify Ecology that the response would be coming a month later — by April 30.

Also at its meeting Tuesday, the council heard the 2016 annual report from Snohomish County Fire District 1, and a presentation from Community Transit. More on both of those presentations will be included in a separate report Wednesday.

The council also agreed to move the following items to next week’s consent agenda for approval:
– A contract with James G. Murphy to sell surplus city vehicles and surplus city equipment
– Supplemental agreements with Murray, Smith & Associates for design work related to the Five Corners Reservoir re-coating project and the Blueline Group to provide capital project construction management, engineering and inspection services for 2017.

Finally, the council received news from Mayor Dave Earling that the Washington State House of Representatives has approved a transportation budget that includes $700,000 for the city’s waterfront access project. “That will move us, with the money we’ve assembled locally, potentially to the next step, which would be environmental work and preliminary design,” he said. Earling cautioned, however, that there is no word on whether the Senate will include similar funding in its budget. “While it’s very good news, it’s not conclusive news,” he said.

In other potentially good news on the legislative front, the mayor said he heard from State Sen. Marko Liias that the Senate’s capital budget includes $391,000 to cover needed repairs to the Frances Anderson Center roof. “Again, it’s only the Senate that has approved it,” Earling said. “We don’t know what the House is going to do.”

— By Teresa Wippel



3 Replies to “City Council OKs baseline marsh study; takes a look at 5th option for buffer”

  1. I believe there were also public comment made on the issue of sexual harassment in the Edmonds Police Department, which just cost the taxpayers $235,000. Why isn’t that in your report?


    1. Hi Leslie: While I sometimes do include public comments, this particular meeting summary did not include any made by anyone on any topic — there were several made on the Edmonds Marsh as well that weren’t included. It wasn’t a matter of purposely leaving any one out, just a matter of time constraints for me as I was up late trying to synthesize the council actions. However, we did report on the settlement when it was announced during an earlier council meeting — here — and we did send out via Twitter two tweets about what Council President Tom Mesaros said at the end of the meeting in response to that comment:
      Council President Mesaros, referring to public comment about sexual harassment and police dept., says police chief will come to council
      Chief will be asked to speak about training that police are undergoing following recent sexual harassment lawsuit that settled out of court

      We will also report on whatever the police chief says regarding the topic when he comes to the council.

      — Teresa


  2. Let us spend more money on a study so the council doesn’t have to make a decision Please get on with it!!! You are a bunch of passing the buck passing losers


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