Southbound SR 529 Snohomish River Bridge near Everett closed nightly Sept. 16-19

EVERETT – Drivers who use southbound State Route 529 to travel between Marysville and Everett should plan for nightly closures of the highway this week.

The southbound lanes of the SR 529 Snohomish River Bridge will be closed as contractor crews working for the Washington State Department of Transportation continue replacing the heavy pieces of machinery that operate the southbound drawspan.

The bridge will be closed nightly from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. Monday, Sept. 16, through the morning of Friday, Sept. 20. Southbound drivers will be detoured to I-5 in Marysville.

Crews are replacing four steel axles, wheels and dozens of counterweight cables on the southbound lift span. The lift mechanisms are showing signs of wear and fatigue after years of raising and lowering 250 tons of counterweight with each drawspan opening.

More information about the bridge repair work is available at Video of the bridge opening and closing is available on the WSDOT YouTube channel. Photos are also available on Flickr.

MLK’s ‘I Have a Dream’ legacy celebrated in shared memories

MLK's 'I Have a Dream' legacy celebrated in shared memories
MLK’s ‘I Have a Dream’ legacy celebrated in shared memories

Julie Muhlstein, The Herald

EVERETT — In poetry and song, proclamations, speeches and shared memories, the essence of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech was celebrated Wednesday night in Snohomish County.

An overflow crowd packed the Jackson Center at Everett Community College to hear leaders, young people and those who remember the struggles of the Civil Rights Movement reflect on King’s words, spoken in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 28, 1963.

County Executive John Lovick, noting that King’s birthplace of Atlanta has adopted the slogan “a city too busy to hate,” suggested a positive variation: “Snohomish County — a county that is not too busy to love.”

Two presenters were given standing ovations, one representing a new generation, the other an Everett elder, former City Councilman Carl Gipson Sr.

Gipson, first elected to the City Council in 1970, recalled harsh realities of his youth in Arkansas, when he wasn’t allowed into restrooms or restaurants. In Everett, he knocked on doors for a job, finally talking his way into one at a car dealership.

Gipson’s expressed gratitude to Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson for his efforts in naming the city’s senior center in his honor.

Many expressed a common theme, that King’s dream is not yet fully realized.

As they did for Gipson, the audience stood to applaud at the end of a poem recited by Rahwa Beyan, a 17-year-old leader of the youth chapter of Snohomish County’s NAACP organization. Her powerful recitation centered on the shooting death of black Florida teenager Trayvon Martin.

Lynnwood Mayor Don Gough spoke about a new “Let Freedom Ring” event earlier Wednesday in his city. Bells rang, and members of the public were given a minute each to say what King’s speech meant to them. Gough said social justice and civil rights “must meld with labor and worker rights.”

Shirley Sutton, of Lynnwood, read proclamations from her city, from Everett and Snohomish County officially recognizing the 50th anniversary of the march on Washington.

Tulalip Tribal Chairman Mel Sheldon offered a brief history lesson about his people.

It was 1924, he said, before American Indians were granted the right to vote. Sheldon praised current leaders of local government for forging strong relationships with the Tulalip Tribes.

There were speakers representing “Yesterday’s Wisdom,” “Today’s Focus” and “Tomorrow’s Dreams.”

Angelina Karke, a student at Discovery Elementary School in the Mukilteo district, shared an ambitious dream of her own:

“My dream is to be accepted into Harvard Law School. I will get my law degree and become president of the United States,” the girl said

See dazzling dahlias at Everett show

Sean Ryan / The HeraldBernie Wilson of Snohomish won the Stanley Johnson Medal, a national award, for his dahlia called Lakeview Glow.
Sean Ryan / The Herald
Bernie Wilson of Snohomish won the Stanley Johnson Medal, a national award, for his dahlia called Lakeview Glow.

Andrea Brown, The Herald

If fireworks were flowers they’d be dahlias.

The big bursts of color light up a garden like a July 4th celebration.

And they stay lit until the first frost.

Dahlias are colossal flowers. Some are the size of pumpkins

Growers will show off their blooms at this weekend’s Snohomish County Dahlia Show in Everett. It is the club’s 104th consecutive year to have a show.

“We’ve had as many as 2,200 or 2,300 blooms,” said Hills Collins, show spokesman.

The judging is done before the doors open to the public.

“We have a head table with all the different winners,” Collins said. “The head table is judged to pick the best flower in the show. All different types are judged against each other, and one bloom is picked.”

Club members will be on hand to answer questions and talk about their blooms.

Longtime member Bernie Wilson, 68, a retired Snohomish firefighter, won the prestigious national Stanley Johnson Medal in 2012 for Lakeview Glow, an incurved cactus dahlia he originated.

The lake part is named after Blackmans Lake that is the backdrop to his 5-acre Snohomish property.

“The ‘glow’ came from if you stand up there by the house and look over the garden down it kind of glows up from all the rest of them,” he said.

His yard is aglow with about 100 varieties of dahlias.

“It’s just a fun hobby. It’s a challenge to show them. I enjoy being outside and in the garden, so it kind of comes natural,” he said.

He started growing dahlias in the 1970s after a neighbor gave him a tuber. Dahlia plants grow from tubers planted in the ground like potatoes.

From the ugly duckling roots come gorgeous blooms.

On show days, Wilson takes the best blooms he cuts to competitions and leaves the rest out for his neighbors to fill their vases. “Saturday morning they’re on the carport. And anybody who wants them can come get them,” he said.

Allison Richards also likes to spread the dahlia love around, in various forms.

“I give people at my work a bunch of tubers, and they just go nuts,” said Richards, 42, IT and general services manager at Maple Systems.

She started out growing a few dahlias and now has about 60 to 70 varieties and 200 plants.

“I threw myself into it; let’s put it that way,” she said. “I tie it in with my photography hobby. I put together a dahlia calendar for family and friends. The colors are so vibrant. There are so many different varieties and shapes and sizes.”

Dahlias are her tonic.

“I work with computers. Things break. Things don’t always go the way they should,” she said.

“I go home and go out there and there’re pretty flowers.”


See the show

The Snohomish County Dahlia Show is from 1 to 6 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, at Floral Hall at Forest Park, 802 Mukilteo Blvd., Everett.

Cost: Free.

For more information, visit or call 360-659-8687.

Snohomish County Dahlia Society meetings are 7 p.m. on the second Thursday of the month at Legion Park Hall, 145 Alverson Blvd., in Everett. The club has a tuber sale in April.


Caring for dahlias


In summer:

  • Remove old or spent flowers.
  • Water deeply every four or five days during the summer heat.
  • As the blooms develop, fertilize with a low or no nitrogen fertilizer, such as one labeled 0-20-20, to encourage flower and tuber development.
  • Control for slugs, snails and other pests.
  • Remove two side buds at each budding tip to encourage better blooms.

Digging dahlias:

  • Enjoy the flowers until the first frost kills the foliage.
  • If you have good drainage, leave the tubers in the ground, cut off any dead foliage, and cover with 3 to 4 inches of mulch. Clumps should be divided every third year for bigger, better flowers and stronger stems.
  • If you choose to dig the tubers, cut off the stalks to 3 or 4 inches above the ground and leave in the ground for a week or two to allow eyes to set before digging. Begin cutting down and digging by November even if no killing frost has taken place.
  • Dig around each tuber clump with a shovel or garden fork and lift gently. Hose off the dirt from the tuber, clip off the feeder roots with garden scissors and let dry overnight.

Dividing and storing:

  • Divide clumps in half by splitting with pruning shears.
  • Cut off tubers using hand pruners, garden scissors and a sharp knife. Wear protective gloves. Each tuber should have an eye you can see. The tuber eyes are located at the swell of the crown near the stem.
  • Soak tubers in a solution of 1 cup of bleach and 3 gallons of water for 15 or 20 minutes to kill bacteria. Allow tubers to dry several days on newspaper in a cool, dark place.
  • Label the tubers before storing with a permanent marker or no-blot pencil. If you don’t know the name, just list the flower color.
  • Store cut tubers in plastic bags with a few handfuls of vermiculite, wood shavings or potting soil. Another method is rolling tubers in a long strip of plastic wrap, making sure each tuber isn’t touching the others.
  • Keep tubers in a dark, cool place that does not freeze. A crawl space, root cellar or old refrigerator are good locations.

Source: The Snohomish County Dahlia Society

Schack honors Tulalip artist

James MadisonSource: The Herald

Tulalip artist James Madison is known for putting contemporary twists on traditional Salish and Tlingit Northwest Native Art.

For instance, Madison will create an aluminum sculpture depicting salmon in a fish ladder that represents the life of the Snohomish people, one of the Tulalip tribes.

Madison puts that modern twist on tradition in his upcoming exhibit, “Generations,” at the Schack.

That exhibit will show Madison’s commitment to sharing traditional native art using a contemporary approach and it also honors Madison as the Schack’s pick for 2013 Artist of the Year.

In a prepared statement, Madison said that he strives to “create art with an open mind in the sense that I am always thinking of new ways to add a modern twist to a traditional piece. This allows for me to help keep my culture alive. As we move into the future, so does the teachings of my ancestors.”

Madison was surrounded by art and the culture of the Tulalip Tribes as a child. At the age of 8, Madison learned how to carve at his grandfather’s kitchen table. Madison’s father, an abstract painter, encouraged Madison to try sculpting. And his uncle, a teacher, shared stories of American Indian culture.

Madison said these influences led to his intense interest in art and his native heritage.

Madison’s work can be seen beyond the Schack.

He is best known for large-scale pieces, including a 24-foot story pole, at the Tulalip Resort and Casino. He has pieces displayed at many of Washington’s state parks, as well as museums and galleries in New York, Alaska and Canada.

“Generations” opens with a catered reception from 5 to 8 p.m. Aug. 15 and is on view through Sept. 21 at Schack Art Center Main Gallery, 2921 Hoyt Ave., Everett. For more information, go to or call 425-259-5050.

Free boating seminars teach the basics

Source: The Herald

Before you row, row, row your boat, start your engine or set sail, sign up for these free seminars by the Everett Sail and Power Squadron at Breakwater Marine Everett, 8407 Broadway.

The classes are held from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturdays, as follows:

July 13, knots, bends and hitches: Learn how to tie essential knots.

July 27, how to use a chart: Learn how to read charts and know your way around the waters.

Aug. 10, mastering the rules of the road: Learn rights of way, responsibilities, signals and more.

Aug. 24, boating on rivers and lakes: Learn special navigation rules, how to read currents, use locks systems, and communicate with lock masters and bridge tenders.

For more information or to register, email Jim West at or see the squadron’s website, go to

The power squadron also offers a series of six basic boating classes, America’s Boating Course, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Mondays beginning July 15 at Cabela’s, 9810 Quil Ceda Blvd., Tulalip.

The classes are required to get a Washington State Boaters’ Education Card.

The series is $50 for the first family member and $17 for each additional person in the same household sharing materials.

Go to for information about the classes and who is required to have the card.

Firms partner to push broad use of solar panels

M.L. Dehm / For The Herald Business JournalFrom left: Susan Mattison of Silicon Energy, John Westerfield of CrystaLite and Silicon Energy President Gary Shaver examine translucent solar panels that are part of the roof of a new picnic shelter across from CrystaLite's Everett plant. The two Snohomish County-based companies recently formed a partnership to manufacture solar panel patio coverings, picnic shelters and electric-vehicle charging stations for homes and businesses.
M.L. Dehm / For The Herald Business Journal
From left: Susan Mattison of Silicon Energy, John Westerfield of CrystaLite and Silicon Energy President Gary Shaver examine translucent solar panels that are part of the roof of a new picnic shelter across from CrystaLite’s Everett plant. The two Snohomish County-based companies recently formed a partnership to manufacture solar panel patio coverings, picnic shelters and electric-vehicle charging stations for homes and businesses.

By M.L. Dehm, The Herald Business Journal

Solar power is about to become more accessible for home and businesses owners. Two Snohomish County-based companies, Silicon Energy in Marysville and CrystaLite in Everett, have teamed up to create pre-engineered, customizable solar panel patio coverings, picnic shelters and electric-vehicle charging stations.

What makes these green energy structures unique is that the transparent solar photovoltaic panels actually serve as the roof. The attractive multiuse structures offer the ability to charge electric vehicles, run outdoor lighting or use other electric and communication systems in an off-the-grid capacity.

They also can increase property values in a time when energy costs are uncertain and the number of electric cars is on the rise.

“What we have been able to do by working together is to combine two outstanding products to give greater value to the consumer,” said Silicon Energy President Gary Shaver. “They have the expertise in the substructure and we have the expertise in the PV modules.”

This is a part of the solar market that is under-served, Shaver said. Most people don’t think beyond putting solar panels on the roof of their home or business. This concept expands the number of places where solar panels can be installed and expands the possibilities for the use of the power that is generated.

Home owners, businesses and municipalities looking for shade structures or shelters of any kind can now get a better return on their investment by making those structures work for them to generate electricity.

For electric-vehicle owners, there is the added benefit of knowing that even if the cost of electricity increases, the cost of the fuel to power that vehicle will not.

“When you put an EV charging station in, you’re literally creating your own e-gas for your electric cars,” Shaver said.

The energy can also be diverted for use inside the home or business. This can reduce or even eliminate electricity bills depending on the size of the PV system. In some circumstances, a home or business can put the excess power they produce onto the grid.

PV systems reduce demand on grid resources, which benefits the community as a whole. You could view it as supporting national energy security, Shaver said. The more people who are able to produce their own energy, the more robust the grid as a whole becomes without any additional upgrades. It’s also a green renewable energy source.

Currently there are state and federal financial incentives for adding solar energy to your property, which makes installation of integrated PV structures even more feasible. They also come with an added aesthetic benefit.

“What really makes these different and exciting is that it is an attractive product,” said Susan Mattison, national sales and marketing specialist for Silicon Energy. Silicon Energy’s tempered-glass solar panels are transparent. The PV modules blend in to allow the eye to focus on CrystaLite’s sleek railing system. The structure can be customized to complement the existing architecture on the home or business.

The glass-like PV panels are also suitable for diverting rain water for collection. The panel’s double glass construction is durable and the panels come with a 30-year warranty.

The idea of combining solar panels with carports, covered patios and picnic shelters is not new. It’s something that customers had been requesting of both companies’ installers for some time.

“There was a driving force for a partnership after we had done a handful of these jobs,” said John Westerfield of CrystaLite. In fact, talk of a partnership to develop this product line has been going on for about three years but it was only officially announced at the Seattle Living Future unConference in May.

Response has been positive. Since the announcement, both companies have been swamped with inquiries.

“It took off way faster than we thought,” Westerfield said. “They’re off and running.”

Both companies are also pleased that their partnership will benefit other local firms. Since the two businesses don’t sell directly to the public, Westerfield said, other firms will get work by doing the installation so the money stays local.

Both firms are also strong believers in using as much locally sourced materials as possible. The companies do all their manufacturing in the U.S. and source almost all materials from the U.S.

Interested customers can see photos of a number of existing projects at Silicon Energy’s website,, which also lists a contact page for installers.

But for an up-close view of a practical project installation, look no further than the picnic shelter across from the CrystaLite plant at 3320 Pine St. in Everett.

More from The Herald Business Journal:

Where to celebrate Fourth of July

Annie Mulligan / For the heraldA red-white-and-blue-decorated truck carries people in the same colors down Fifth Avenue in Edmonds during the city's Fourth of July parade in 2012.
Annie Mulligan / For the herald
A red-white-and-blue-decorated truck carries people in the same colors down Fifth Avenue in Edmonds during the city’s Fourth of July parade in 2012.

Source: The Herald

From Edmonds to Arlington, Fourth of July festivities will flourish throughout Snohomish County with parades, fireworks, live music, barbecues and family activities.

In Everett, the Colors of Freedom celebration has many free events, such as the downtown parade, which starts at 11 a.m. on Colby and Wetmore avenues, between Wall and 26th streets, and includes marching bands, clowns, and dance and drill teams.

The Colors of Freedom Festival runs from 1 to 11 p.m. at Legion Memorial Park, 145 Alverson Blvd.; there will be live music, a food fair and kids’ activities. There is no parking at Legion Park, so ride free on Everett Transit shuttles and buses.

Other events in Everett:

Thunder on the Bay Fireworks: 10:20 p.m. Best viewing locations are Grand Avenue Park, 1800 Grand Ave., and Legion Memorial Park, 145 Alverson Blvd.

Everett, Fun in the Sun Street Fair: noon to 3 p.m, live music, car show, pony rides and other children’s entertainment at First Baptist Church, 1616 Pacific Ave.; free; 425-259-9166;

Everett AquaSox baseball: 7:05 p.m., Everett Memorial Stadium, 3900 Broadway; opponent is the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes; post-game fireworks planned; tickets at

Comcast Community Ice Rink, Fire on Ice: 8:15 a.m. to 4:45 p.m., 2000 Hewitt Ave.; $4 admission includes skate rental; barbecue outside arena; 425-322-2600;

Star-Spangled celebration: Imagine Children’s Museum, 1502 Wall St., open noon to 4 p.m. Regular admission is $9 for everyone older than 1; free admission for active military families; patriotic hatmaking and other activities; 425-258-1006;

Yankee Doodle Dash: 1 mile, 5K and 10K races on July 4 at Everett Family YMCA, 2720 Rockefeller Ave.; register at your local branch or online at; day of registration opens at 7 a.m. July 4. YMCA members get a price break.
Race start times: 10K 8:30 a.m.; 5K, 8:45 a.m.; 1 mile, 8:55 a.m.

Naval Station Everett has cancelled events this year.

For more information on Everett events, call 425-257-8700 or go to

Other July Fourth celebrations throughout the county:

Arlington: Frontier Days Fourth of July at Haller Park, 1100 West Ave., unless noted below; 360-403-3448;

7 to 10 a.m. pancake breakfast.

8 to 9 a.m. registration, 10 a.m. start for Pedal, Paddle, Puff Triathalon.

8:30 and 10 a.m. silent auctions, noon live auction.

Noon to 4:30 p.m., carnival games, Legion Park.

1 to 3 p.m., Lions Club apple pie social.

4:30 p.m. kid parade, registration at 3:30 p.m. at PUD, 210 Division St.

5 p.m. grand parade, Olympic Avenue.

7:30 p.m. Rotary Duck Dash.

9 p.m. fireworks, seating at Boys & Girls Club, 18513 59th Ave. NE.

Bothell: Grand parade starts at noon; routes proceed west on Main Street and then north on Bothell-Everett Highway to NE 188th Street.

Children’s parade for up to age 12 starts at 11:15 a.m. Parents must accompany children or arrange to meet them at the end. Start area for children and grand parades is at 104th Avenue and Main Street.

Pancake breakfast: 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. at Bothell Downtown Firehouse, 10726 Beardslee Blvd; 425-486-7430;

Camano Island: Terry’s Corner, 3 p.m., at Sunrise Boulevard and Highway 532 (East Camano Drive); live music, Korean War remembrance by veterans; children’s play area; free; 360-629-0132.

Darrington: Hometown Parade: noon lineup at the community center for 1 p.m. start. Proceed down Darrington Street toward Mountain Loop Highway and end at Old School Park on Alvord Street. Family activities and live entertainment to follow; fireworks at dusk; free; 360-436-1131,

An Edmonds Kind of Fourth: All events free;

  • Fun run 10 a.m.
  • Children’s parade 11:30 a.m. at Fifth Avenue and Walnut.
  • Grand parade noon, starting at Sixth and Main streets.
  • Edmonds firefighters waterball competition, 2:30 p.m., Third Avenue S. and Pine.
  • Evening entertainment and food vendors at 7:30 p.m. at Civic Stadium, Sixth and Bell.
  • Fireworks at 10 p.m. at Civic Stadium.

Mountlake Terrace: The city is hosting a Family Fourth of July event featuring a professional fireworks show thanks to the financial support of the community. The event begins with musical entertainment at 8 p.m. at Evergreen Playfield, followed by the fireworks show shortly after 10 p.m. Guests are welcome to arrive as early as 6:30 p.m. to get a good spot and bring a picnic dinner to enjoy while they wait for the entertainment to begin.

Evergreen Playfield No. 6 is located just south of 224th Street SW and 56th Ave. W. Parking is available on the street, at Evergreen Playfield, 22205 56th Ave. W and the Recreation Pavilion, 5303 228th St. SW; pets and personal fireworks are not allowed at this event. For more information, call recreation manager Jeff Betz at 425-640-3101.

WSU lands $10 million toward Everett growth

By Jerry Cornfield, The Herald

OLYMPIA — Washington State University has snagged $10 million in state aid to help cement its presence in Everett.

Those dollars will be used to design and construct a building near Everett Community College where WSU and other universities expect to be conducting classes by next decade.

The money is included in the two-year, $3.6 billion state construction budget signed Monday by Gov. Jay Inslee.

WSU and its partners at the University Center of the North Puget Sound predict the number of full-time students they serve will rise from 465 this school year to 1,179 by the spring of 2021.

WSU is a newcomer to the University Center but will be playing a very big role very soon.

It began offering a mechanical engineering degree in 2012 and is looking to launch three additional degree programs in 2014. Moreover, WSU is on track to inherit command of the University Center from EvCC next year.

As part of the transition, WSU delivered a report to lawmakers in December on the center’s expected long-term growth. That analysis concluded the center will “outgrow currently available facilities on the EvCC campus and will need significantly more physical capacity.”

There is no specific project tied to the money. In March, officials of the city of Everett, WSU and EvCC talked about constructing a 95,000-square-foot building on the parking lot of the former College Plaza shopping center which is owned by the community college.

They also said the next steps hinged on securing state funds. Several area lawmakers in the House and Senate lobbied for the money on behalf of the community college and Pullman-based university.

The capital budget provided funds for other Snohomish County projects as well including $2.6 million to Senior Services of Snohomish County to provide housing for homeless veterans; $1 million to the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Department toward a substation in south county; $750,000 for drainage improvements on Prairie Creek in Arlington and $1 million toward preservation of Japanese Gulch in Mukilteo.

Biologists want island for salmon habitat; farmers worry about livelihoods

Dan Bates / The HeraldA bald eagle prepares to leave its perch on Smith Island near I-5 and the Snohomish River in January.
Dan Bates / The Herald
A bald eagle prepares to leave its perch on Smith Island near I-5 and the Snohomish River in January.

Noah Haglund, The Herald

EVERETT — Biologists see Snohomish County’s Smith Island project as their best chance to revive threatened chinook salmon in the Puget Sound basin.

Others consider it a threat to their livelihood.

The project is a massive undertaking to breach an old 1930s dike along Union Slough north of Everett and build new dikes farther from the water. By flooding more than 300 acres, the county hopes to bring back some of the salmon habitat converted to farmland after settlers arrived here in the 1800s.

“The Snohomish River basin is the most important chinook-producing river in the Puget Sound area, second only to the Skagit River system,” County Councilman Dave Somers said. “Rebuilding the Snohomish River is a very top priority for the entire Puget Sound.”

By sheer size, the Smith Island proposal is the second largest estuary-restoration project in the region after the 750-acre Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge in the south Puget Sound.

It will come at a price: $18 million, most of it from grants. The total includes $2 million from the city of Everett.

That’s an awful lot to pay, some argue, for a project estimated to restore 900 or so spawning adult chinook per year to the Snohomish River and its tributaries.

There’s more to the cost than what the county will pay. A neighboring lumber mill and tree farm worry that resulting changes to the estuary could put them out of business. At a minimum, they want to see the county conduct more thorough studies.

There’s also a vocal contingent of farmers dead-set against what they view as needless destruction of what is now agricultural land. State law, they correctly point out, requires the county to protect farmland, even as federal law often spells out conflicting steps to protect salmon.

You can expect to hear more about Smith Island in the coming months — and beyond. After years of study, the county on June 10 issued a final environmental impact statement. That’s a precursor to seeking permits.

Balancing the competing needs of farmers and fish is one of the trickiest feats governments in Western Washington are asked to perform. It’s why Snohomish County convened the nonpartisan Sustainable Lands Strategy three years ago to seek equilibrium.

In Snohomish County government, it’s easy to find leaders on both sides of the fish-farmer teeter-totter.

Somers, who worked as a fisheries biologist for the Tulalip tribes before joining the County Council, said there’s solid science behind the Smith Island project and its benefits for salmon.

The county arrived at this point after more than a decade of study, he said. Nobody was forced from the land.

“We bought the land from a willing seller,” he said. “We have not condemned any land.”

Councilman John Koster, a former dairy farmer, is staunchly opposed because once saltwater floods the ground, it will become unfarmable.

“The bottom line for me is it’s taking out in excess of 300 acres of farm ground when we have people looking to farm and (it flies) in the face of our mandate to conserve farm ground,” he said.

While opposed to the project, Koster can’t see any way for the county to back out. To sell the land, the county would have to repay grants used for the purchase years ago.

“This is a freight train running down the track and I don’t know that it’s even possible to stop it,” Koster said.

The fate of the Smith Island project, from here on, won’t necessarily rest with the County Council.

With a final environmental impact statement issued, people can ask Snohomish County to consider any unanswered concerns.

The county must submit a shoreline development permit, among others, before breaching dikes or any construction. That permit can be appealed after it’s issued, likely late this year. The appeal would go to a state hearings board.

Smith Island sits between Union Slough to the east and the main stem of the Snohomish River to the west.

The county project involves the part of the island east of I-5 and north of Everett’s sewage treatment plant.

Buse Timber, on the west side of I-5, is one of the businesses that could be affected. Originally founded in 1946, Buse has about 70 workers and is now employee-owned.

“We’re not opposed to the project, we just need some assurance,” said Mark Hecker, Buse’s recently retired president and a former commissioner with the local diking district.

The company has two concerns: being protected from floodwaters and being able to use Union Slough to float logs to the mill.

“We’ve never had any flooding as long as those dikes have been there,” Hecker said. “So they’re pretty strong.”

Buse wants the county to make commitments about dredging the slough if the new dike system causes it to silt up.

“That channel is pretty critical for us,” Hecker said. “If that were shut off, it would seriously impact whether we could run or not.”

Another nearby business facing potential effects is Hima Nursery, an 80-acre organic farm on the east side of I-5. Owner Naeem Iqbal worries that tampering with the dikes would prevent his land from draining properly and allow saltwater to seep in, potentially wiping out his nursery.

On Friday, Diking District 5, which is comprised of local landowners, voted to appeal the county’s final environmental impact statement. They’re asking the county for further examination the issues business owners have raised.

“Negotiations with the county have been going on for two and a half years and some of those issues aren’t resolved yet,” attorney Peter Ojala said.

If not for the fish-habitat plans on Smith Island, some farmers would like to grow crops there.

Ken Goehrs, of Everett, represents a Mount Vernon farmer who’s had trouble finding good cropland in the Snohomish Valley.

As Goehrs sees it, the county is looking to spend millions to destroy ag land. If farmed, that same land could provide jobs for dozens of agricultural workers.

“There is not enough farmland here to start with,” he said. “It’s going to destroy farmland. It’s going to take jobs out of the valley and it’s going to take taxes out of their (the county’s) coffers.”

The Smith Island project was spawned by the 1999 Endangered Species Act listing of the chinook salmon.

To address the problem, the federal government in 2007 adopted an overall Puget Sound recovery plan, part of which addresses the Snohomish River basin.

The Smith Island property, by 2001, already had been identified the best of a dozen places in Snohomish County for re-creating salmon habitat, according to a report from the county’s Public Works Department. The other sites would have carried similar costs for realigning dikes.

Federal studies have identified two distinct populations of naturally spawning chinook salmon in the Snohomish estuary: Skykomish chinook and Snoqualmie chinook. Several environmental factors, including habitat loss, have driven those populations to about 3 to 6 percent of historical levels, respectively.

The Puget Sound Partnership, which consists of government agencies, businesses and the public, said the spot near the mouth of the Snohomish River has importance beyond those two groups of salmon.

“This project potentially benefits all 22 populations of chinook in Puget Sound, including Nisqually fish leaving Puget Sound that may use the Snohomish estuary as well,” spokeswoman Alicia Lawver said.

If completed, the Smith Island project would satisfy about a quarter of the goals for restoring salmon habitat in the Snohomish River basin.

Section of busy Broadway will be closed for up to year

Everett-bridgeNoah Haglund, The Herald

EVERETT — As they puzzled over how to go about replacing the Broadway bridge, city engineers initially thought they would keep lanes open during construction.

Then they considered a complete shutdown.

Turns out, the city stands to save $1 million and a full year of construction time by closing a block on one of the main drags through Everett until the work is done.

Drivers can expect to find a massive roadblock there about six months from now, when the $9 million project is expected to begin.

“It’s the pain calculus,” Everett city engineer Ryan Sass said. “Do you want 100 percent pain for one year or 90 percent pain for two years? When you look at it that way, it’s an easy choice.”

The planned closure will prevent people from driving Broadway between Hewitt Avenue and California Street for up to a year. The city has planned extensive detours and intends to warn drivers well in advance, through signs along I-5 and Highway 529. A city public awareness campaign is in the works for later this year.

Drivers can be forgiven for not noticing the 101-year-old bridge, which looks like a hump in the road.

The bridge carries traffic over the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad tracks, with about 30,000 vehicles traveling it every day. The only major renovation occurred in 1931.

The city for years as listed the bridge replacement among its top infrastructure needs.

In the meantime, city engineers took precautions. Load restrictions were placed on the span in 2008. Parking isn’t allowed on the bridge either. The structure is weaker toward the edges than in the middle, so trucks are asked to stay in the middle lanes.

The current schedule is to put the work out to bid in October. Prep work is expected to begin late this year and demolition in early 2014.

Construction should be complete by fall of next year, leaving only cleanup before it reopens.

The finished product will look similar, but not identical, to the arched Pacific Avenue bridge near Everett Station, Sass said.

“I hope we get another 100 years out of this one,” he said.

Construction should have no impact on rail operations, BNSF spokesman Gus Melonas said. The railroad expects to expand freight operations with the approximate foot or so of extra clearance city engineers have said the new bridge would provide.

About $8 million of the cost is being paid for with a federal grant. The remaining $1 million will be split between Everett and BNSF.