See Kingfisher’s Wildlife In Action

The Kingfisher Natural Area (aka Thornton Creek as it runs through Victory Heights) is a place teaming with wildlife. Owls are frequently spotted (no pun intended) and last year we had a family of coyotes. Here are some videos recently uploaded by the Thornton Creek Alliance of various indigenous creatures:

You can see all their YouTube videos here.

Live Near Thornton Creek? Get Free Improvement Grants

The Adopt A Stream Foundation is in the second year of a three-year grant to do improvements around Thornton Creek. If you are a homeowner who has any part of their property within 35 feet of the creek you are eligible for a free assessment of your property and if you want, they will help pay for improvements such as erosion abatement, evasive species control, lawn replacement with native species, or even a rain garden (one is already going in at the end of Elshin Place under the 15th Avenue NE bridge).

Read the complete minutes of this month’s Victory Heights Community Council meeting.

Working from funding from the Washington State Department of Ecology, Adopt A Stream is joining with the Thornton Creek Alliance to identify eligible properties and contact homeowners about this terrific program. To learn more, contact Les Meade, an ecologist at Adopt A Stream: lesm@streamkeeper.org.

In other business from last night’s meeting of the Community Council, there are plans to make the annual neighborhood block party a separate event from August’s Neighborhood Night Out, and concern about pedestrian safety crossing 15th Avenue NE just north of the bridge.

Next month’s meeting on February 16th will feature a return of the Parks Department with designs for new park improvements coming in 2016. Don’t miss it!

“Temporary” Fencing Going In At Knickerbocker Site

fenceSeattle Public Utilities (SPU) began erecting “temporary” fencing around the Knickerbocker Thornton Creek site today in order to keep out “people and dogs” to allow the young vegetation a chance to grow. When construction was completed in October for the floodplain project and the construction fencing was removed it was assumed the site would remain open with clear sight lines to the newly restored creek. Alas, worries about foot traffic (both human and canine) around the sensitive new tree plantings on either side of the creek has altered plans, and new fencing will be erected around the entire site except for a gap to allow access to the pedestrian bridge. The fencing will probably remain through the winter and possibly be replaced by trees or some other type of wood barrier eventually.

UPDATE Dec. 10th: John Crawford-Gallagher, SPU’s Community Outreach Specialist, responds:

  1. The fencing will be around portions of the site, rather than the whole thing. There will be fence along NE 100th and a small section of fence on the south side of the creek.
  2. When we remove the fence will depend on how quickly the plants become established. It may be at the end of winter, but it may be longer.
  3. We don’t plan to replace the temporary fencing with trees or another type of wood barrier.

Fences Gone At Kingfisher Site

Pa230724After months of work, construction of the Kingfisher Natural Area on Thornton Creek (NE 100th Street and 20th Avenue NE) has been completed and the fences removed. Thornton Creek is now wider and more shallow in order to slow it down during periods of heavy rain such as we have experienced this week (see below):

Water level on a typical dry day (Oct. 24, 2014)

Water level on a typical dry day (Oct. 24, 2014)

Water level during heavy rain (October 21, 2014)

Water level during heavy rain (October 21, 2014)

 

Three different stages of progress at Kingfisher: May 29, 2014, June 26, 2014, and October 24, 2014.

Three different stages of progress at Kingfisher: May 29, 2014, June 26, 2014, and October 24, 2014.

The walkway is now open at all times to allow access between Victory Heights at Maple Leaf at 98th Avenue NE.

Thornton Creek Contaminated By Fuel Spill Accident

Yesterday’s semi-truck accidents on I-5 near Northgate Way that backed up traffic for miles on the southbound commute also released 40 gallons of spilled diesel fuel oil into the storm drain and the south fork of Thornton Creek. Though nobody was injured in the accidents, Thornton Creek, however, has been injured, and in the next few weeks and months we should get some idea of the extent of the damage.

Sound Transit contractors, JCM ULink, noticed the diesel smell at 5:45am and had the necessary emergency gear and training to put down booms and take other steps to control the spill at the culvert outflow on the east side of the freeway (1st Ave. NE and NE 100th).  Because of their actions authorities were able to send the Hazmat team to Beaver Pond Natural Area first.

Workers "vacuum and sweep" Thornton Creek to remove contaminates

Workers “vacuum and sweep” Thornton Creek to remove contaminates

Booms and ‘diapers’, or ‘sweeps’, are strewn across the creek at ten sites.  These materials both slow the flow and soak up contaminants.  Additionally a vacuum truck hosed up the brown slick in the separator basins and the creek.  The crew seemed to be doing the best job possible under the circumstances.

Sweeps and booms have been placed as far downstream as Kingfisher Natural Area at the site of the complex and expensive Knickerbocker Project where diesel fumes were detected (approximately 19th NE-21st NE and NE 98th –NE 100th).

Closer to the spill Beaver Pond Natural Area reeks of oil in some places, and there is a sheen all the way up to the beaver dam at NE 106th.  To some degree this is what will happen every time there is a punctured fuel tank on I-5 just north of Northgate because the separator basins can’t cope with more than the daily load.

The hazmat company, NRC, will continue to monitor the creek for 1-2 weeks.

There are two culverts serving each side of the freeway, and they combine both creek water and run-off.  They each have their own pair of separators in between the freeway and 1st Ave.  NE.  The culverts run parallel underground until they merge and flow into the Thornton Creek Water Quality Channel and then resurface at Beaver Pond NA.

Silver lining:  The weir that controls the water that runs from the I-5 drain to the Water Quality Channel was incorrectly turned off when the contractor completed the clean out this summer.  Turning on the waterfall – which happened after a vigilant Thornton Creek Alliance member contacted them – was only water runoff from Northgate, not I-5.  That water was drained into a pipe and diverted under 5th Ave. NE to the Beaver Pond NA project.

The Seattle Public Utilities’ Spill Response Team and the Washington Dept. of Ecology assisted with the containment and monitoring of the situation.  SPU environmentalist Nathan Hart was on the scene at Beaver Pond NA in the very early hours of the morning where Seattle Parks just last week completed a $500K restoration project.  He estimated that of the 40 gallons of fuel that spilled, perhaps 10 gallons ended up in the creek.

As a result of this event this Thursday’s Thornton Creek Alliance meeting will include a SPU representative who will give us an update and answer questions.

October 23, 2014; 7:15pm

Meadowbrook Community Center

10517 35th Ave NE
Seattle, WA

Ruth Williams and other members from the Thornton Creek Alliance contributed to this article.

New Bridge Over Creek Open; Students A No Show

P9020659The new pedestrian bridge over Thornton Creek at the Knickerbocker Natural Area (20th Avenue NE) was open for business this morning but no students heading towards Sacajawea Elementary School turned up. As construction crews paused for an hour for the scheduled 8 AM – 9 AM opening, with a flagger standing by, the first people to use the new 85 foot bridge instead were three dog walkers.

The bridge will reopen this afternoon between 2:45 and 3:30 PM when school lets out. Even if you aren’t a student, this is an excellent chance to get a close-up view of the work that continues to be done to the creek.

Last night’s huge rainstorm left standing water around the construction area which was still cleaning up after Monday’s storm. But things were expected to get back on schedule within a day.

The bridge will continue to be open weekday mornings between 8 – 9 AM and again in the afternoons 2:45 – 3:30 PM until the project is completed sometime in October.

Pedestrian Bridge Building Over Thornton Creek

P8260653The Knickerbocker Floodplain Project at Thornton Creek continues with the building of a new pedestrian bridge this week to link 20th Avenue NE with Maple Leaf. The old bridge was demolished in July as part of moving and widening the creek and creating a floodplain.

Previous: Kickerbocker Floodplain Work Begins July 1st

Work has been delayed at the site by the large rainstorms, adding several weeks to the project. Originally it was to be completed by the end of August in time for the fish runs, as well as school beginning (many students cross here to reach Sacajawea Elementary school). The plan now is the have the bridge open by September 3rd although construction around the area will continue into October. Safety measures will be added which include:
-Fenced walkways on both ends of the bridge to keep students separate from construction work.
-A flagger at each end of the bridge to alert crews when students are present and guide students safely through the pedestrian path.
-Large equipment will pause when students are present.

The bridge will be open only during school commute times:
-Morning: 8:00-9:00 a.m.
-Afternoon: 2:45-3:30 p.m.

The bridge is scheduled to reopen to all pedestrians when construction is complete at the end of October.

Knickerbocker Project Brings More Truck Traffic

The Knickerbocker Floodplains Project off NE 100th Street will be bringing more truck traffic to the neighborhood in the next few weeks. Construction began last week on the project which so far has cleared the land in preparation for the relocation of Thornton Creek (see photo comparing the site over the past four weeks):
Knickerbocker02

In an e-mail to residents Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) said,

We’ve heard concerns about truck traffic in the neighborhood. Because of the nature of the neighborhood streets, our contractor carefully considered pedestrian and traffic safety when they chose a route for trucks to enter and exit the site. All delivery trucks larger than a pickup will follow the directions below.

-Exit I-5 Northgate Way and travel East on NE Northgate Way
-Turn right going South on 23rd Ave NE.
-Turn right going West on NE 102nd St.
-Turn left going South on 21st Ave NE
-Turn left [sic] going East on NE 100th St.
-Back down into site.

We have implemented the following safety procedures for all truck deliveries:
• All deliveries are required to call Project Superintendent 10-15 minutes before entering the neighborhood.
• The contractor will provide flaggers throughout the route for all semi-tractor trailer trucks.
• The contractor will place “No Parking” signs 24 hours in advance for semi-tractor trailer truck deliveries.
• Flaggers and drivers will not allow truck staging or idling on 21st Ave NE.

Why they don’t just go down Lake City Way and then straight up NE 100th Street from Summa is a mystery. It would be a much shorter and direct route rather than through the entire neighborhood. I guess that’s “carefully considered” for you (or a cheap-ass Google Maps route search).

As for the project itself:

Anticipated work during the week ahead
The contractor will:
• Prepare equipment that will divert the creek through flexible pipes while they construct the new creek bed and floodplain.
• Remove the steel frame of the current pedestrian bridge.
• Begin work in the creek July 1 and continue through the fish window.

If you would like to receive e-mail updates about the project from SPU, subscribe to this listserve.

Knickerbocker Floodplain Work Begins July 1st

The Knickerbocker Natural Area as seen in May 2014. In three months time, it will look much different.

The Knickerbocker Natural Area as seen in May 2014. In three months time, it will look much different.

Construction work on the long-planned Knickerbocker Floodplain Restoration Project will begin in July on Thornton Creek. Last night at the Knickerbocker Natural Area (NE 100th Street and 20th Avenue NE), staff at Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) and the Parks Department met with neighbors to update them on the work. The project will relocate about 600 feet of Thornton Creek, create a 1.5 acre vegetated floodplain, and upgrade the pedestrian bridge over the creek. The new floodplain will store more water, wood, and sediment during storms and provide benefits to properties further down the creek (e.g. less flooding). It will also improve the habitat for fish and wildlife in the creek.

Related: Knickerbocker Restoration Would Be First In the NationKnickerbockerPlans

Some construction work will begin in June, while work in the creek will take place during July 1st and August 31st in an effort to protect fish populations. During that time, the creek will be diverted into two 12″ pipes, and the pedestrian path across the area will be closed for those two months. Once the new 80 foot bridge is installed, access will be reopened in time for the school year to begin.

The two and half million dollar project is a joint effort between the two Seattle departments (SPU & Parks) that have purchased parcels over the past several years. Some of the wetlands creation is being paid by Sound Transit as mitigation for construction at Northgate of the Link Light Rail station. After the contractors finish their work this summer, both departments will be responsible for maintaining the floodplain.

Just a mile east of Knickerbocker, another section of Thornton Creek is being updated when 35th Avenue NE is closed at Meadowbrook beginning Monday to install a larger bridge over the creek. The Seattle Times describes the project.

Visit the SPU website about the Knickerbocker project.