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Tuesday night, employees of Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) met with local residents to discuss the status of the Knickerbocker Floodplain Restoration Project at the site location (the walkway at 20th Ave NE and NE 100th Street). They outlined the funding, construction timeline, work, and goals of the project.
Contrary to what Sound Transit officials said last month, funding for the project is coming from a Capital Improvement Project grant of SPU that will be voted on in November 2012. Sound Transit’s interest is to increase the wetlands area as mitigation for the work at the Northgate Link Light Rail station, but the Knickerbocker project is not dependent on that money.
Construction would need to be done between July 1, 2013 and August 31st, 2013 due to impact to fish migration. During the work, Thornton Creek would be diverted into pipes via pumps (possibly generating some noise, although the possibility of using quieter electric pumps was mentioned). As can be seen in the map above, the channel of the creek would be moved slightly north with a much wider floodplain added to collect runoff during storms.The pedestrian bridge that is part of the 20th Ave NE walkway would be replaced by a larger prefabricated bridge 80 feet long and five feet wide just west of where the current one is located. The existing bridge at the west end of NE 100th Street would be replaced with a rock crossing similar to the one on the 17th Ave NE trail.
The main objectives of the project are flooding and fish (less of the former, more of the latter). The project is of scientific interest as well and will be studied to see if the Hyporheic Zone (an aquatic environment that exists within the stream bed sediment) can be improved in an urban area. The test wells that were sunk last month were the first part of that study.
Invasive plants within the project zone (the dotted line on the map) such as ivy and blackberries would be removed and replaced by native plants and trees. When completed, only two parking spots will be at the location. SPU was worried garbage trucks might lose their turn-around area but were reassured that those vehicles always back down the many dead-end streets of Victory Heights so they can easily access bins and then drive straight out.
Residents seemed mostly positive about the project, the only hesitation was about the name. Apparently “Knickerbocker” was a woman who owned part of the property for only a year, never built on it, and then sold to the city. SPU seemed amenable to a name change although there was no consensus on a better one. (For my money, I say keep it unique. If you do a search online or call up SPU and say “Knickerbocker” they instantly know what you are talking about; a more generic name runs the risk of obscurity. Feel free to discuss this in the comments section.)
Curiously, nobody at SPU has the least idea what was going on near the Les Schwab on Lake City Way on Tuesday as dozens of trees were removed on the south side of Thornton Creek by a large crane (a small bulldozer was also spotted on the north side across from Summa).
Further public meetings will be scheduled in the autumn to discuss the final design stages of the Knickerbocker Project. Stay tuned for announcements when it happens.