Tree mitigation ordinances passed by Des Moines Council Thursday night


By Jack Mayne

The Des Moines City Council approved on Thursday evening (Dec. 7) two ordinances that will establish a framework for handling mitigation for trees removed and replaced around the construction of the Federal Way Link Sound Transit extension, a project expected to take at least the next two years.

During the Council’s comment period, Pacific Ridge resident Elena Rogers suggested her area was being damaged by the increasing lack of trees and other vegetation due to construction of the new FAA headquarters and other airport-related developments in the northern area of the city.

Trees in danger
“Pacific Ridge and Des Moines, as a whole, is literally surrounded by major pollution sources, both noise and air,” she said, adding that noise pollution has be shown to affect health of both adults, and especially the mental and physical development of children. Studies, Rogers said, showed kids with more vegetation in their area have “better attention spans than those with less vegetation in their environment.”

She said she believes that Des Moines is “overburdened with pollution risks” and that vegetation will continue to be reduced as the area is further developed and transportation corridors added.

“I hope we seek ways to increase and not decrease vegetation around the city,” Rogers said.

Later in the meeting, while considering ordinances that would provide a framework to create ways to handle mitigation in the Federal Way construction area, Council was shown photos of many trees with problems. Staff suggested more financial help could help ameliorate these problems, along with using city workers or volunteers to help restore the trees or remove them.

The ordinance passed 6 to 0, with Councilmember Luisa Bangs’ absence excused. The ordinance establishes an off-site mitigation, along with fees paid in lieu program and establishing an associated urban forestry fund.

The city Council also had directed staff to prepare an ordinance that would both minimize the impact of the acquisition of private property for the Federal Way Link Extension while helping to facilitate the project, engage and protect the Pacific Ridge to the FWLE as designed fully mitigates noise from the SR 509 extension and I-5 traffic.

It also passed 6-0.

Under these ordinances, the city could ask the airport to pay for removal of trees they deem harm the aviation flight pay or even provide in-lieu payments the city can later use to support replacement or refurbishment of the tree canopy.

The city will work with Sound Transit over the next eight months to prepare a franchise agreement for construction, operation and maintenance of right of way through Des Moines. Councilmember Dave Kaplan praised the staff for its work on the issue that could help control problems mentioned by Rogers, earlier in the session.

Kaplan noted the processes adopted in the ordinance applied only to light rail extension issue and not to other potential issues of development in the future.

Airport lobbyist sought
Resident JC Harris told the Council the city needed a full time person to be an “advocate and a lobbyist to work full time … for the city’s interest, the community’s interests with regard to the airport.” He said that person would replace City Manager Michael Matthias on the airport committee, but would report to the manager.

“It is clear to me that you need somebody in this pivotal year who can devote all of their time with a singular focus toward these airport issues,” he said, noting the Port is building out the facility to create more cargo capacity and “we’ve got to act now.” He said Matthias has done “great things” on developing the city and should not be divided between economic projects and aviation problems.

The Council also accepted a $34,800 grant from the Washington Traffic Safety Commission to allow formation of a driving under the influence or DUI court in Des Moines.


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