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Natural Resources and Parks

King County, Washington

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Aug. 8, 2012

King County continues work to restore habitat along Snoqualmie, Tolt rivers

Floodplain habitat improvements benefitting a wide range of fish and wildlife species are coming to the banks of the Snoqualmie and Tolt rivers on land managed by the King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks (DNRP).

“This work will help protect Snoqualmie Valley residents from flooding, and bring ailing salmon runs closer to health,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine.

The project sites along the Snoqualmie River are at the McElhoe-Pearson levee north of Carnation; at the County’s Chinook Bend Natural Area, also north of Carnation; and at the County’s Tolt-MacDonald Park.

Each project includes removing portions of levees and restoring vital habitat, while preserving current flood protection levels.

“This is a great example of the ongoing partnerships between the King County Flood Control District and many other local agencies and organizations,” said King County Councilmember and Flood Control District Supervisor Kathy Lambert. 

“These projects address important habitat improvements while also providing continued flood protection in the Carnation area. In addition, this work implements further improvements to recreation connections and opportunities at our regional Tolt MacDonald Park.”

The McElhoe-Pearson site is a new salmon habitat restoration project, while work at the Tolt and Chinook Bend sites maintains previously implemented projects.

Public use of the Snoqualmie and Tolt rivers will not be restricted, however the Chinook Bend and McElhoe levee project sites will be closed during construction. Public access to the Tolt River at the Tolt-MacDonald project site will also be restricted, but public use of the Tolt and Snoqualmie rivers will remain available elsewhere at Tolt-MacDonald Park, which is located at the confluence of the two rivers.

Starting the week of Aug. 13, crews will be at the McElhoe-Pearson restoration project site north of Carnation and begin reconnecting the Snoqualmie River channel to about 500 feet of high-quality wetland habitat behind the levee. The floodplain area will provide juvenile fish access to a high quality wetland area that has been cut off by the levee for 50 years.

The project will not diminish flood protection behind this levee. Construction is scheduled to last approximately four weeks and crews will be working between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m.

According to the Snohomish River Basin Salmon Conservation Plan, the lack of off-channel rearing habitat is the primary limiting habitat condition in what is considered the highest priority reach of the Snoqualmie River for salmon recovery.

This project is funded by the King County Flood Control District, King Conservation District, Washington State Salmon Recovery Funding Board, through a mitigation agreement with the Washington State Department of Transportation, the Snoqualmie Tribe through a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency, and the King County Surface Water Management Fee.

Tolt-MacDonald Park
In 2008-09, King County partnered with the City of Seattle to complete the Lower Tolt River Floodplain Reconnection Project, including setting back nearly half a mile of levee along the Tolt, and restoring natural floodplain processes to about 50 acres of floodplain habitat.

The project improved salmon habitat while maintaining flood protection. New recreational amenities to the site included a paved levee trail connecting the City of Carnation to the park, plus additional parking, a family picnic area and interpretive signage.

Beginning the week of Aug. 20, King County will remove remnants of the old levee that have been exposed from recent flood events. The work is expected to last approximately one week, and Tolt MacDonald Park will remain open. However access to the project site, both on land and in the river, will be restricted. Expect heavy truck traffic in the area between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. each day. Funding for this work is provided through the King County Surface Water Management Fee.

Chinook Bend
Similar to the Tolt-MacDonald makeover, Chinook Bend has been transformed over the past decade, and it is now more inviting to both people and salmon. Work this summer includes removing a portion of an old levee that has been exposed by recent flooding. Funding for this work is provided through the King County Surface Water Management Fee.

The 59-acre natural area will be closed to all public access during construction for two weeks beginning the week of Aug. 27. Trucks will be leaving and entering the site between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m.

In the last several years, King County has removed 1,700 feet of levee and bank armoring, plus an additional 1,300 feet of rock structure. This work has allowed the river to access its floodplain at much lower flows than it had previously been able to do.

The site has been planted with more than 15,000 trees and shrubs – mainly by volunteers – and Chinook Bend now features a new, wheelchair-accessible trail, plus interpretive signage, public art, a public parking lot and restroom.

More information about these projects is available by contacting Mary Maier, at 206-296-1914;, or at

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The King County Flood Control District is a special purpose government created to provide funding and policy oversight for flood protection projects and programs in King County.  The Flood Control District’s Board is composed of the members of the King County Council. The Water and Land Resources Division of the King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks develops and implements the approved flood protection projects and programs. Information is available at