June 17, 2011
King County removes logjam, but segment of Cedar River remains closed to recreation
River-spanning logs are relocated out of harm’s way, but site still must be evaluated for additional hazards
King County has removed and relocated a river-spanning logjam on the Cedar River near the Cavanaugh Pond Natural Area, but the removal project does not mean the closed river section about five miles east of Renton will reopen to recreational use right away.
Extensive flooding in January 2011 formed a mass of logs across the river and changed the river channel at the Ricardi Reach, also known as Cedar Rapids. After determining the logjam and other hazards in the reach posed safety issues for river users, the King County Sheriff’s Office in March closed a four-mile section of the river to recreation. The closure was later reduced to a one-mile segment from the Union 76 Station on State Route 169 to the Cavanaugh Pond Natural Area.
King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks (DNRP) Director Christie True sought to clear the logjam after it was assessed by staff and the Sheriff’s Office, and after hearing from concerned citizens. King County received the final permits it needed from Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and King County Department of Development and Environmental Services on Wednesday, and the bulk of the work is now complete.
“Rivers are dynamic systems that are always very dangerous, particularly after major flood events that can alter river channels and reorient wood,” said True. “Public safety is our priority; we will continue to investigate river hazards and deal with them when appropriate. But there is also no substitute for personal responsibility on the river. Short of using a professional, trained river guide service, always wear a life vest when on the river.”
The King County Council is currently considering a public safety measure to require use of life vests when floating or swimming in King County’s major rivers, including the Cedar, due to dangerous conditions.
Sgt. John Urquhart, spokesman for the King County Sheriff’s Office, said the Cedar Rapids site still must be evaluated before the Sheriff’s Office will consider reopening the one-mile section to recreation. The river is still experiencing high flows and the river course significantly changed over the last year.
“That stretch will remain closed until the Sheriff's Office can assess what impact the removal of the logs has in relation to safety for users of that portion of the river,” said Sgt. Urquhart. “In addition to the ‘strainer’ caused by the logs, other hazards remain that must be evaluated.”
The WDFW permit requires that the wood be relocated to a stable location elsewhere in the river. Early next week County crews will place the wood into a side channel on the site and out of harm’s way. King County will also construct two engineered logjams at a future date as a mitigation requirement for the permit.
The County also repositioned some large boulders it placed over the winter to protect homes threatened by the new course of the river.
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