Seattle Press
Family Sues Shoreline to Save Salmon

Patty Crawford

red-haired woman in front of construction site
Patty Crawford at the Aegis construction site.
A Shoreline family has gone to court to try to stop damage to the buffer zone along Thornton Creek--a designated salmon stream--caused by construction of a nursing home.

"My neighborhood is living the reason why the salmon are in danger," says Patty Crawford, a resident of the Twin Ponds area.

"While so much time, money and effort is spent trying to restore salmon populations, the City of Shoreline has granted massive exemptions to out-of-state developers to build in the buffer of Thornton Creek," Crawford says.

The developer is Aegis/Assisted Living of Sonoma County, California, and the project site is 14900 and 15200 First Avenue NE in Shoreline. Thornton Creek passes through Jim and Patty Crawford's back yard just a half-mile upstream from the construction site.

A previous owner of their house built a backyard pond and weirs to let storm water pass through. Ducks, fish and frogs inhabit the pond; trout, salmon and otters can be seen in the stream. A colony of beavers lives nearby in Twin Ponds. The Crawfords have lived alongside the creek for 10 years, and have filed a suit to appeal the building permits, due to be heard in Superior Court on April 9.

Not only are the Crawfords are leading the fight to preserve the creek, they're financing it. They have had to hire an attorney at a cost of $4,000 per month to bring their appeal to Superior Court.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has charged Aegis and Shoreline with violating state regulations, but the agency has no enforcement powers. The WDFW has also asked the city of Shoreline to halt construction and stabilize the site to prevent further erosion.

"Over 900 feet of stream buffer has been destroyed," Patty Crawford says, "and a large part of the site has been cleared and graded. Large conifer trees have been pulled out by the roots, and thousands of yards of ancient peat soil has been dug and sold off-site."

Douglas Hennick, an Area Habitat Biologist, notes that while a 100-foot buffer is required by law on salmonid streams, Shoreline has permitted the developer to clear and grade within 10 feet of the pond.

In a letter to Shoreline Mayor Scott Jepsen, Hennick remarked, "The city erroneously classified the aquatic features on the site. City staff recognized the Thornton Creek is a salmonid stream as it enters Peverly Pond and as it leaves Peverly Pond, but [said] that the creek does not exist where it flows through Peverly Pond."

Steve McCullagh, an Aegis spokesperson, says, "We are going forward. We've had several government agencies out to inspect the site, including the State Department of Ecology, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of Fish and Wildlife. They all approved our work."

McCullagh acknowledges that a corner of one building and part of a driveway are within the buffer zone.

Shoreline city officials refused to comment on the situation.