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Patrick O'Brien and Elizabeth Mooney at Log Boom Park. (KUOW Photo/Amy Radil)

Patrick O'Brien and Elizabeth Mooney at Log Boom Park. (KUOW Photo/Amy Radil)


Kenmore Residents Say 520 Construction Harms Their Shoreline

Amy Radil

Kenmore, on the northern shore of Lake Washington, is home to one of the last industrial sites on the lake. Contractors with the state's transportation department are building pieces of the new 520 floating bridge there. But some residents say they want a shoreline that's focused on wildlife and recreation, and they're worried about new tests showing contamination along the shore.

A public meeting will be held in Kenmore July 18 to help address those concerns.


Kenmore is buzzing with activity related to the new 520 floating bridge. That's where the state's contractors, Kiewit/General/Manson, are building anchors and pre–cast concrete decking and columns. Their construction site is the Kenmore Industrial Park, a former landfill.

John White is Washington State Department of Transportation's (WSDOT) project director for the 520 replacement. He says the location is a good fit for the project.

White: "The area around that navigation channel is very industrialized in general, it's a huge kind of industrial park. Cal Portland, the concrete plant is there."

This industrial sector is striking to anyone who's ever traveled the Burke–Gilman Trail through Kenmore. The trail passes through Log Boom Park with its dock and playground, then continues past cement and asphalt plants. The adjoining 520 construction site sticks out into Lake Washington.

Mooney: "There's an eagle! Bald eagle up there — "

But some Kenmore residents say they're ready to move on from their city's industrial past. They say the 520 construction, which has filled their part of the lake with barges and cranes, is holding them back.

Mooney: "We don't want to be the armpit of Lake Washington and taken advantage of by the wealthier side of Lake Washington."

Elizabeth Mooney heads the group People for an Environmentally Responsible Kenmore. Standing on the dock at Log Boom Park, she points out bald eagles and blue herons. Mooney wants this park to be a place where people can swim and kayak. And she worries about the salmon coming down the Sammamish River into this part of Lake Washington.

Mooney: "The barges have come in and stirred up sediment that is near the shore, and the near–shore habitat is utilized by the threatened Chinook salmon smolts."

There have been complaints from local businesses, too. In April, Todd Banks, the president of Kenmore Air, told the Kenmore City Council that the size and scope of the 520 construction there was "severely underrepresented" to him. The construction was stirring up sediment on the bottom of the lake and covering his airplanes with silt. All the barges were making his takeoffs and landings difficult.

WSDOT's John White says he worked with the contractors to address the construction impacts to Kenmore Air and local marinas. He says he knows not everyone in Kenmore wants heavy industry. The owner of the construction site had actually hoped to build a luxurious waterfront development there, until the economy crashed.

But White says for now, the Kenmore Industrial Park remains a brownfield, and 520 construction is an appropriate use for it.

White: "And so we're caught in the middle of it, I think that's the bottom line. We're doing something that fits within the zoning and purpose of the space as it is today, but people want that dream of the future use to come together."

The heart of citizen concerns, White says, has centered on dealing with existing contamination in that part of the lake, and not making it worse. Last year the Army Corps of Engineers found high levels of cancer–causing dioxins at a marina near the construction site. They don't yet know the source.

Residents asked for more testing for dioxins and PCBs, over a broader area. Patrick O'Brien is another member of the local environmental group.

O'Brien: "And it would be nice to have a baseline study, publicly known, of what is here and what the risks are."

Now that seems poised to happen. The city of Kenmore plans to test the sediment in its navigation channel and the surrounding area including the Kenmore Industrial Park. Larry Althose is a spokesman for the state Department of Ecology.

Althose: "So that will be happening later this summer, and this will be good information that will give us a better snapshot as to what the situation is."

Althose says one of the highest priorities is to test the soil at Log Boom Park.

Althose: "The swimming beach will be an area of high interest, we'll want to see what those sediments look like to see if health experts have any recommendations following up on that."

Althose says the Department of Health is writing a report on any risks for swimming and recreation. Meanwhile 520 bridge construction is expected to continue in Kenmore at least through 2014.

I'm Amy Radil, KUOW News.

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