Monday, January 11, 2010

Do Broadmoor’s dredging plans pose a threat to Lake Washington wildlife?

I'm sure it comes as a surprise to many of us that Broadmoor Golf Club keeps its course green and lush during the summer with the help of water pumped from Lake Washington. Under grandfathered water rights which probably date back many decades, the Club gets Lake water from an intake pipe located at the foot of the 37th Avenue E. road end in the Canterbury section of Madison Park, just to the east of Broadmoor’s Union Bay shoreline (marked in red below):

Attention is now being focused on Broadmoor’s water-intake system as a result of the Golf Club’s request for a permit to dredge the Lake around the intake pipe. The purpose of the proposed dredging is to improve water flow to the golf course’s pump house. Some Canterbury residents are disturbed by the possibility that the habitat of wildlife in the area, particularly a small population of beavers and otters, may be negatively impacted by the dredging. They are seeking to, at minimum, delay permit approval in order to allow more study of Broadmoor’s plans.

A leader of the locals is Gene Brandzel, a Canterbury Shores resident and attorney who says that the “Biological Evaluation for Sensitive Fish and Wildlife Species” that Broadmoor submitted as part of its dredging application is inadequate. The study, which was prepared for Broadmoor by The Watershed Company, “doesn’t deal with any of the wildlife issues at the inlet,“ he says, “other than those related to salmon and certain other fish.”

Brandzel is upset that Watershed’s report “says nothing about the beavers other than to state there’s a beaver lodge in the area but that no beavers were observed.” The reason no beavers were observed, he notes, is that the report writers visited the site during the day. Beavers are only observable in the area at dawn and dusk, he says.

As proof that there is a lot of beaver activity, Madison Park resident Jana Wilkins visited the area on Sunday and provided these pictures of beavers frolicking during the early morning hours:

In this shot, looking north to the SR-520 Bridge, three beavers are visible (click to enlarge):

Brandzel, who visits the road end frequently, says that Broadmoor has not addressed most of the wildlife issues in its report. “What we want is a complete biological study of the wildlife--including the beavers, otters, herons, eagles, turtles, ducks and geese, and red-winged blackbirds--that inhabit the area where the dredging would be done.” Secondly, he notes, “we need time to work with Broadmoor to see if there‘s a way to give them the water supply they need without disruption to the natural habitat.” He notes that there are alternative water-pumping systems to the one Broadmoor currently employs which might be less costly, more effective, and not as potentially detrimental as dredging would be to the environment of the inlet. What the opponents have asked for, he says, is for the permit process to be delayed for 90 days in order to see if both objectives can be achieved during that period.

On my own visit to the site with Brandzel and his wife, Liz, we observed a heron standing in or near the area of the proposed dredge. And to the right of the dock at the road end there appeared to be several tunnels, which the Brandzels say are used by the beavers to access their lodge (beaver dam) which sits less than 100 feet to the north. It seems apparent that the beaver tunnels extend directly into the area that Broadmoor will be dredging. According to Brandzel, dredging--if approved--will occur within 15 feet of the beaver lodge (shown to the left in the photo below).

Alan Foltz, permit coordinator for Broadmoor’s dredging contractor, Waterfront Construction, tells me that regarding the beaver lodge “we are not going near it” during dredging. “It is not our intent to endanger the wildlife” in the area, he says. He adds that the beaver dam is an appropriate distance from the dredging operation. “We do dredging in a lot of areas of Lake Washington, and if the federal, state and local agencies all agree we are in compliance, then we're able to dredge. We never dredge unless we are in compliance.” He notes that Waterfront Construction has been in business for a good 30 years and in its history has always been very conscious of the environment. "Almost all of our work involves environmental enhancements," he notes.

According to Foltz, his company’s experience with beavers is that during the dredging period they tend to scatter but then return to the area as soon as dredging is completed. He acknowledges that Waterfront Construction is looking at ways to minimize the impact of the dredging on the area’s beaver population: "Mitigation is definitely under consideration.”

Under Broadmoor’s permit request, planned dredging would remove up to 1,000 cubic yards of silt and sediment in a 20-foot radius from the water intake pipe, which is housed in a wooden structure near the road-end dock. The dredging would also remove “invasive” plant species growing within the proposed dredge zone. The project is expected to be completed in a two to three week period and will be accomplished through the use of a barge-based crane and clam-shell dredge.

The last dredging which occurred in the area was reportedly in 1974, and the intent of this year’s dredging would be to return the water intake system to its 1974 level of “operational integrity and efficiency.”

Foltz notes that multiple permits are required for the project, some of which have been approved and some of which are still in process. The City of Seattle’s approval process is still underway, and the public-comment period has been extended until January 14, this Thursday. Anyone who would like to give their input is encouraged to do so by faxing their comments to project planner Craig Flamme at the City’s Department of Planning and Development: (206) 233-7901. He can also be emailed (

The Madison Park Community Council (MPCC) considered the Broadmoor water intake issue at its monthly meeting this month, informally agreeing to support efforts to find a solution to Broadmoor’s needs other than dredging. MPCC President Ken Myrabo says “it’s a very sensitive wetlands area and we’d like to work with them to find other options.” He notes that former MPCC board member Maurice Cooper, who is a Broadmoor resident, has been asked by Council members to meet with both sides and see if there’s a possible compromise. "I applaud what they’re doing,” he added.
More to follow.

[Upper photo courtesy of Broadmoor Golf Club. Aerial photo by the US Geological Survey. All other photos by Jana Wilkins. ]

1 comment:

  1. I'm a former Madison Park neighbor and somewhat familiar with the permitting associate with these types of projects. With all due respect to the Canterbury residents who voiced their concerns over the beavers, herons, otters, etc., the biological evaluation is a federally-required permit to address impacts specific to species listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act as well as their designated critical habitat. The species that were discussed in the article are not listed under the federal ESA and therefore the biological evaluation is not the appropriate place for that wildlife assessment to occur.

    I'm not saying this should not be assessed at some level, but Broadmoor and their consultant may have addressed this in a wetland delineation report or similar that would be required by the City under their Critical Areas Code. Either way, I thought I'd provide some context as to why the beavers, herons, etc. were not addressed in the report that was reviewed in defense of the Watershed Company.


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