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Frequently asked questions about large wood related to the draft public rule

Was the proposed rule developed by King County or by a Stakeholder Committee?
The rule was developed by the King County Department of Natural Resources. The Large Wood Stakeholder Committee Report completed in October 2009 provided excellent recommendations that were integrated into the proposed rule. King County developed the proposed rule to be consistent with the Committee’s intent and with the language of the County Council Ordinance. The proposed rule however has not been reviewed by or endorsed by the Stakeholder Committee.

Why is large wood placed in rivers?
There are three main reasons.

  1. Wood is often an integral part of levee repair and other flood protection projects. The wood helps to slow the water, which dissipates and redirects the energy of the river. Over time, this helps to move the main current away from the vulnerable bank.
  2. Large wood is a critical element of river habitat for salmon and other species.
  3. Federal, state and local permit requirements often require wood placement as mitigation at the site of in-water construction, such as levee repair.

Why is large wood placement sometimes done on the outside bend of a river?
The outside bend of a river is where we typically see eroding banks. Thus, this is where flood protection facilities are commonly located in order to prevent erosion and damage to land and infrastructure. Log structures can be constructed on outside bends to redirect the river away from eroding banks and to increase habitat for fish and wildlife.

Does this rule address naturally-fallen wood?
No. The proposed rule pertains only to wood that is intentionally placed for bank stabilization, habitat restoration, or mitigation.

How many projects that include large wood does King County construct each year?
The number of projects and amount of wood placed in each project varies. Over the last few years, King County installed logs at 15-25 project sites annually on its major rivers and streams.

Is the wood in our rivers mostly placed wood or is it natural wood?
It is a normal and natural part of northwest ecosystems for rivers to have large amounts of wood in them. The vast majority of wood in King County rivers is natural, having entered the river through bank erosion, wind-throw and other natural phenomena. Placed wood is a small fraction of the wood in our rivers.

Is this an entirely new program? How has King County considered recreational safety in the past?
This is not an entirely new program. King County has worked directly with the recreational river-user community since the mid 1990s to ensure the safety of river projects. The proposed rule establishes additional procedures that the Department of Natural Resources and Parks must follow and formalizes existing practices.

Has anyone died as a result of encountering placed large wood in King County rivers?
There have been no known deaths as a result of wood placed by King County. There were on average three river drowning deaths annually (compared to 11 annually in lakes), according to data from the King County Medical Examiner and Public Health -- Seattle & King County regarding preventable deaths by drowning from 1996-2006. None pf the deaths were attributed to large wood during this 10-year period. According to the same document, most cases of drowning could have been prevented through the use of a personal floatation device (PFD), child supervision, avoiding alcohol consumption near bodies of water, and other safety measures.

Are inner tubers and other boaters required to wear PFDs on rivers in King County?
No. Children age 12 and younger must wear a PFD on any vessel less than 19 feet in length when under way on the waters of the State of Washington (with limited exceptions). However, inner tubes and small rafts are not defined as vessels under state law. Also, under Washington State law, licensed whitewater outfitters must provide PFDs to passengers in hired vessels.

While a temporary King County ordinance was passed in June 2011 requiring the use of a U.S. Coast Guard approved personal flotation device (PFD) on all major King County rivers, the ordinance expired October of that same year. The ordinance was proposed because river flows were unusually high, cold, and swift that year as a result of large snowpack melting off the mountains late into the season.

Does this rule apply to private citizens or nonprofit organizations that may undertake large wood placement in King County?
No. The Council ordinance and proposed rule apply only to projects constructed by the King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks.

Are there examples of other local governments with similar rules regarding large wood placement?
No. A consultant study concluded that King County is the only government entity in the region to explicitly consider recreational safety when placing large wood. No other agency in the Northwest or beyond contacted through the study had judged similar procedures to be necessary.

For questions about this draft public rule, please contact Janne Kaje, project/program manager, Rural and Regional Services Section.