For those of you following the final work on the Shoreline Master Program, here is a copy of an email I sent to city hall on Friday summarizing my questions about flood risk and possible parks impacts. (Marcie Palmer raised the parks question on Monday night, so she may be asking her own questions about this).
I believe the staff is also following up on questions raised by the public at last Monday’s council meeting.
To: Renton Council President Don Persson
At our last council meeting I raised some questions regarding the SMP that staff offered to look into for me. I appreciate their willingness to follow up on them. I am sending this email to give more specifics about my questions, and a couple examples, in order to hopefully save as much time as possible.
I am interested in hearing from Public Works regarding the risk of increased sedimentation occurring in the Cedar River bed downtown as a result of SMP provisions regarding shoreline stabilization. In particular, I would like confidence that we are not increasing the risk of significant river channel migration (either over time or dramatically during a flood) immediately upstream of our downtown commercial zone, with the resulting dislodged deposits reducing under-bridge flow capacities at Bronson, Wells, Williams and Logan bridges. Since flood water was lapping at the bottoms of several of our bridges in a storm less than two years ago, I am concerned we do not have any capacity left under these bridges. It’s of course a balance– ecological concerns dictate that we have the most natural Cedar River possible, while safety concerns dictate that we keep the river in a strongly defined and stable channel where it travels through the the urban area.
Note that per a suggestion given at the council meeting, I checked on the City of Kent’s SMP as an example of an approved document for a river-front city. When I read through this 203-page document, I could not find any section that required property owners with developed sites to remove existing serviceable bulkheads, whether on the Green River or on a lake. The main discussion of shoreline stabilization on the Green River is focused on the Federal Army Corps of Engineers recommendations to enhance the levees by increasing their width. This would be done as a multi-jurisdiction (federal-state-county-city project), using public funds. There seemed to be nothing in the Kent SMP requiring that existing serviceable bulkheads be removed for work being done in the upland areas of waterfront property (away from the shoreline.) If possible, I would like staff to comment on whether I understand this correctly.
On the issue Marcie brought up about the impact the SMP might have on our waterfront parks, I have similar questions as Marcie.
For example, if we wanted to add over 1000 square feet of additional parking lot, pathways, or sports courts at any of our parks we would consult the table on page 192 of the SMP (under section F-1 –partial compliance for non-single family development), and find we have a “Moderate Alteration”. The table says we would need to (among other things) replace any solid decking on all our piers and docks with light-penetrating surfacing materials. Such a change at Coulon Park could cost millions of dollars, and would require many additional permits for over-water work. (We could also face this same issue at Kennydale Beach Park.) Furthermore, we might find that adding the new light-penetrating surface to the docks is not sensible without simultaneously updating the support structure of the docks (i.e. we don’t want to put a new surface over a support system that only has 10 or 15 years of life left.) This could further complicate our ability to install a simple parking or other improvement.
As a second example, if we were trying to update the restrooms at Kennydale Park, they would likely need a 25% expansion due to ADA rules. The same table in the SMP would identify this as a “Major Alteration” and require that we replace the dock surfaces with light-transmitting materials AND evaluate removal of the shoreline stabilization. ( It probably would be feasible from an engineering standpoint to remove the bulkhead at Kennydale Beach Park, and it may be a good idea sometime in the future, but it does not make sense to me that we would have to require it upon a restroom reconstruction.) This could likely make a restroom upgrade cost-prohibitive and impede gradual improvement of our parks facilities.
I would like to see our Community Services Department analyze this concern so that council knows what the impacts will be if we approve the SMP as written.
Renton City Council