Paine Field settles environmental lawsuit

A settlement agreement is awaiting a judge's signature forcing Paine Field to fix environmental damage.

Backhoes at work near Paine Field on Wednesday slowly removed a project that activists rallied to stop before it was too late.

"You can see there are 100 foot tall trees behind me, all of those trees would’ve been cut down and turned into a large bathtub for a stormwater detention pond," said Bill Lider, a board member with the Sno-King Watershed Council.

Last year, the council learned about Paine Field's plans to expand. Part of that included turning a protected wetland into a retention pond and using an adjacent property as a parking lot.

"It harms fish habitat," Lider said. "We're losing salmon because of projects like this that would've gone through had we not appealed it."

The issue is increased stormwater run-off, flooding, water quality and the county project violating its own code.

"Those small projects add up," explained Mukilteo Mayor Jennifer Gregerson.

Gregerson called Paine Field one of the city's most important neighbors. That means trusting them on small projects while bigger plans for a new terminal are in the works.

"Adding that terminal and adding commercial air service is a big project and big proposal, one that we're concerned about," she said.

The settlement requires Snohomish County, which owns Paine Field, to remove rock and erosion control measures.

Snohomish County must:

  • Pay $125,000 to be used to construct residential rain gardens in the Swamp Creek basin to reduce stormwater flow
  • Pay $35,000 in plaintiff legal fees
  • Rescind all permits for their Wetland ERR stormwater detention project
  • Establish a Conservation Easement to protect Wetland ERR into the future and not convert the wetland into a detention pond
  • Remove the crushed rock surface from parking lots constructed without permits, till the soil, topsoil, and hydroseed to restore their pre-developed pervious condition.

The initial work, the cleanup work, and the legal work all come with a massive cost. For Lider, the real cost is ensuring the county sets a precedent that values following environmental code.

"Well, it's a death by a thousand cuts, the loss of wetlands we have to protect," he said. "The airport and the county need to set the standard for all other developers to look to."

Copyright 2016 KING


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