Illahee Update 1/23/12 Culvert, Surveyors, Port Question, Response, Organization Support?,ICC Agenda Item?, Old Cougar Sighting

Illahee Creek Culvert. We have been thanked for monitoring the culvert that allows Illahee Creek to flow underneath Illahee Road.  The clear opening remains in the 22 to 23 inch range as of this past weekend.  A few years ago the measurements were around 30 inches, and before that it was around 36 inches, all of which shows the effects of the storm surges that bring down the sediment from upstream.

Illahee Road Surveyors. We talked with county personnel surveying along Illahee Road north of the Illahee Store.  Evidently when they resurface the road this year they will also install new storm water piping as the old piping has deteriorated.

Port of Illahee Question. We often get questions regarding the Updates that are put out on the website and distributed to residents.  A few weeks ago we received the following response and question:

If the Port considers funding this property are they overextending themselves?   With the purchase of the two houses and also looking at the old store, I can see a tax increase on the horizon.    I wonder if the majority of those living in the Port boundaries really care what happens to the TE property.  If taxes are raised you will then hear the outrage, just remember what happened to the  Port of  Bremerton with some of the things they did.
Our Response. We tried to answer these questions with enough detail to explain how we saw the situation, which turned out to be longer response than we wanted.  We eventually talked with the questioner who suggested it might be good to let others see it.  This was how we responded:
You raise some good questions which will take some time to answer.

There are times over the years that I have wondered what the Port sees as their mission – is it just the area around the dock or is it the greater Illahee community?

In the past it seems to have been simply confined to the dock structure.  When they realized the dock was being encroached upon by the excessive sediment coming from Illahee Creek (32 inches of mud under the innermost float), I think they expanded their thinking to the creek and the impacts upstream development was having on it.  It was around that same time they supported a salmon incubation project upstream in the creek that was ruined by excessive sedimentation, i.e. lots of mud.

And near term we are looking at the likely failure of the culvert and the washout of Illahee Road if we have another storm like the one that took out the Gilberton Creek culvert.  What we saw from the residents, when these issues were before them, was pretty much universal support.  And that isn’t even mentioning the fact that the community paid about $8,000 for a hydrologist to study Illahee Creek to determine what was happening to it, and found that development in the aquifer recharge area would be impacting the stream.  He also later found we are currently at water balance, meaning the rain water that gets infiltrated into the aquifers is what we are withdrawing, and around the creek the withdrawal is already decreasing the flows in the creek.  All of which means we are affecting the ability of the stream to support fish.

So we have some significant issues, and years ago we went to DCD and asked if there was anyone who was concerned.  We were basically told they were only concerned about big streams and they really didn’t care about our issues or the fact that Illahee Creek would be impacted, which is why the community decided to pay for a stream study and the hydrologist.

Also, Public Works, when we met with them, said they couldn’t do anything unless a watershed analysis was done, which is why the Port put in for a Department of Ecology grant.  The grant paid for a report that is a road map for all that needs to be done, and which should be part of what the Port is working on.  My concern is the report is just the beginning, and while it will be primarily up to the county to make most of the major changes, the Port and the community can help and still need to be involved.

But getting back to your question about whether residents really care?  What seems to get them most concerned is what is what impacts their pocket books, whether it be taxes, sewer hookup fees, etc.

Residents get anxious when they realize we are in the Urban Growth Area and are destined someday to be annexed by the City of Bremerton, especially when they find out what the Bremerton tax and utility rates are.  More recently when residents realized they would eventually need to hook up to the one mile sewer line Timbers Edge was/is going to put in through Illahee and the costs to hook up could be up to $30,000, plus monthly sewer bills, many of those residents got excited.  What these major expense items do is help put things into perspective for those affected.

What we and other communities have found out it is they need to be proactive and often spend some money upfront if they want to protect or preserve their community.  What happens to many communities is they realize too late that they needed to be involved in these kind of issues.  What I appreciate about the Illahee community is that so far they have been willing to step up to the plate and do the right thing.  I especially remember about 20 some years ago when fish pens were approved by the county for Illahee and the community contacted UW experts who said there was insufficient flushing action in Illahee so they then hired attorney John Merkel to fight the issue before the Shorelines Hearings Board, and they won.

So getting back to the question about whether the community would support the Port getting involved.  I think they would if they knew all the facts.

The facts as I see them are these.

1,  Illahee Creek is a troubled stream that is destined for disaster without intervention.  The problems are the results of upstream development when there were no requirements to control storm water.  The storm water surges are a major contributor to sediment pollution of Puget Sound as evidenced by the chocolate brown water seen out in the bay after every significant rain storm.  The sediment has already filled the culvert that was installed in 1999 and raised the lower flood plain by 18 inches.  The sediment is also responsible for filling the stream pools used by fish in the stream and the demise of salmonids in recent years.

2,  The aquifers surrounding the area are at water balance and are already impacting the base flows in Illahee Creek.  As an example of how development can affect the stream, without infiltration requirements for the Timbers Edge development the base flows of the stream were projected to be reduced by an additional 15-20%

3.  The issue for the Port and most in the community with the Timbers Edge development was the higher density and the sewers.  There wouldn’t have been any legal challenges if they would have gone to a lower density and septics.  In other words if now there was a way for this approved development and/or the properties to be purchased and later sold to a developer who would use low impact development techniques, most everyone would be satisfied.

4.  The community tried to contact land trusts and were unable to obtain their support.  Both of the land trusts recommended the Port as the agency that needed to be involved.

5.  The Port has shown in the recent past they are looking out for the entire community rather than just being concerned with the dock.  They supported many items including:  the Illahee Community Plan, the geotechnical study of the steep slopes of Illahee Creek, the challenge to the outfall at the dock, and they received the DOE watershed grant.

6.  The Port has shown that they are interested in improving community interaction and the area surrounding the dock structure by sponsoring Illahee Day, promoting the community website, purchasing the Ocean View property for a meeting space, purchasing the Dietch property for shoreline access, and are actively looking at the Illahee Store property.

7.  The Port Commissioners have been good about watching out for our tax payers dollars.  They are cautious and don’t do anything unless they have thoroughly investigated the issues.  They are unlikely to raise taxes unless there is a clear mandate from residents, and if they felt they had to raise them it would be the minimum amount required.  This should be reassuring for residents.

I don’t know whether the Port will take this issue on.  What I heard from one of the Commissioners at their monthly meeting on Wednesday (1/11/12) was that he thought the Port had enough issues before them with the dock and and the properties in the area.  In other words he didn’t think they should get involved.  My personal thought is that position is pretty short sighted.  I think the Port should investigate what they can do to help.  If they need to determine whether residents are supportive of their involvement, that can be done by the ICC with petitions.  When the Timbers Edge issue first came up it didn’t take long to get pages of signatures.  I don’t know how many signatures the Port would need for them to feel there was community support but I feel whatever they need, once the facts are known, the support will be there.  Hope this long response helps answer some of your concerns.
Support from Community Organization? We heard that the Timbers Edge issue was going to be discussed at the Illahee Preserve Stewardship monthly meeting and at a Thursday ICC Board meeting, both of which were cancelled because of the weather last week.  We feel it is important that both of these Illahee community non-profit organizations register their positions on what they would like to see happen.

Agenda Item for ICC Meeting? We also hope that the issue will be on the agenda for the ICC community meeting scheduled for 6:30 pm on January 31 at the Sylvan Way library where Eric Baker will be discussing remand options, another topic that can greatly affect the Illahee community.  This will likely be a similar presentation to what is being planned this week according to a front page article in the Kitsap Sun this morning, which is at this link: http://www.kitsapsun.com/news/2012/jan/22/county-plans-meetings-for-public-to-weigh-in-on/

Thoughts? We welcome your thoughts on these issues.

An Old Cougar Sighting Report. We periodically check to see if there are responses at our website (illaheecommunity.com) and found this one regarding an old cougar sighting.
Saw your article about Cougar sighting, I saw a cougar about 5 months ago between East Blvd and Illahee then by another neighbor in his front yard on East Blvd and McWilliams within two weeks of that sighting. Just heard about your site or I would have let you know sooner.
Jim Aho