Conservation Future funds to be directed toward creation of largest public holding of protected marine shoreline in all of Puget Sound
StoryThe Metropolitan King County Council today gave its approval to a financing package that will allow the County to purchase 250 acres of land on Maury Island from the Northwest Aggregates Company (NWA). The purchase of the site—which NWA intended to use to mine gravel—protects the location from development.
“Today we take another step toward our promise to restore the health of Puget Sound for future generations,” said Councilmember Joe McDermott, the prime sponsor of the legislation and whose district includes Maury Island. “I commend the Council, Executive Constantine, State Senator Sharon Nelson, the Legislature and community advocates for working together to protect Puget Sound.”
“I want to congratulate Executive Constantine, who successfully negotiated the purchase with the current owner, Northwest Aggregates,” said Council Chair Bob Ferguson. “The Council’s timely review and adoption of the agreement prior to the December 30 deadline assures the protection of this undeveloped acreage and shoreline.”
“This purchase fulfills King County and the State’s ongoing commitment to protecting our delicate Puget Sound ecosystem,” said Council Vice Chair Jane Hague. “Maury Island is a good investment into our region’s future.”
The agreement between the County and NWA calls for the site to be sold to the County for $36 million. The County will cover $19.1 million of the cost through the use of King County Conservation Futures Funds, which by state law can only be used to purchase open space or resource lands. The County expects $2 million to be put back into the fund through private fundraising. The rest of purchase price will come through money set aside in the state budget from the ASARCO settlement, because the property lies within the plume from the old copper smelter in Ruston, and from extending NWA’s existing mining lease on another part of the island, royalty-free, from 2011 to 2030.
“Protecting this critical nearshore habitat on Maury Island will preserve a pristine, unaltered stretch of Puget Sound shoreline, protecting the health of the sound and its ecosystem including orcas and Chinook salmon,” said Councilmember Larry Phillips, co-sponsor of the legislation. “I was pleased to help secure Maury Island Marine Park in 1995, and protecting this adjacent property now is the culmination of decades of work to preserve remaining high quality Puget Sound shoreline habitat.”
“As the world’s leaders meet now in Cancun, Mexico deliberating policies dealing with the world’s environment and climate change, we in King County have taken an important step in protecting our immediate environment including the waters of Puget Sound, preserving Maury Island and the surrounding ecosystem for future generations to enjoy,” said Councilmember Larry Gossett.
NWA had proposed construction of an industrial barge-loading facility/dock in the Maury Island Aquatic Reserve to support a proposed mining project. Citizens, led by the group Preserve Our Islands (POI), objected to the construction due to environmental and habitat concerns and had gone to court to block the project. Today’s agreement means the site will remain free from development.
“Not only will this acquisition protect our clean drinking water and a mile long stretch of highly valuable Puget Sound nearshore habitat, it will also create a regional marine park, establishing a legacy of open space for generations to come,” said Amy Carey, Executive Director of Preserve Our Island.
Purchase of the site will protect a large stand of Madrone forest and nearly a mile of marine shoreline with nearshore habitat for listed Chinook salmon. Along with King County’s 320-acre Maury Island Marine Park just north of the NWA property and its mile of shoreline, the two sites will represent the largest public holding of protected marine shoreline in all of Puget Sound. King County Parks would manage the site as protected open space and for passive recreation, much as it now manages Maury Island Marine Park.
The site contains almost five miles of trails that connect to Dockton Forest’s three miles of trails. The County will explore expanding access to Maury Island Marine Park’s trail network, providing an opportunity to create a 13-mile network of soft surface trails on more than 700 acres of public lands that will connect Puget Sound on the east to Quartermaster Harbor on the west.
“This is an historic opportunity to protect the longest remaining stretch of undeveloped shoreline in King County,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “I thank the council and all of the parties who came together for this quick action before the December 30 deadline, and I congratulate Councilmember Joe McDermott on his first major piece of legislation.”