Development Muddies Waters Of Canyon Lake -- Sammamish Plateau Owner Laments

SAMMAMISH PLATEAU - For years, Monte Lindsley warned that Canyon Lake and the wetlands around it would suffer if suburban subdivisions were built in the surrounding woods.

Now he has the dubious satisfaction of saying he was right.

For the first time since his family moved into the woods beside the lake 38 years ago, its waters have turned a muddy brown.

"It was something unique, and now it's just a mudhole," said Lindsley, whose small lakeside home is filled with corkscrew willow furniture and art for which he's known.

Lindsley, who owns the lake, and King County officials attribute the lake's temporary color to silt washed off nearby developments during construction.

On Nov. 2, the county Department of Development and Environmental Services ordered Pacific Properties to stop work at the 491-acre Trossachs development until all erosion-control work was complete. County inspector Joe Barto said an inspection Friday showed some work remained to be done, but he expected the order to be lifted today.

Mike Miller, president of Pacific Properties, said the company had completed erosion-control work before the rains that turned Canyon Lake brown. And he said a survey by a consulting biologist showed there was not a "significant amount" of silt running off the development.

Barto, however, said the company had failed to accomplish all necessary erosion control in time. But he praised the company's track record, saying, "I believe them to be on the top of the list in terms of doing exceptional erosion control."

Barto said a larger quantity of mud may have entered Canyon Lake and an upstream wetland from other sources, particularly bare dirt on five lots in the High Country development. A code-compliance officer had been asked to visit the lots, three of which are under construction and two of which are occupied.

Barto said owners of the occupied homes, including one who had complained about mud in the wetland, may have violated the law by grading their yards and failing to cover the soil in order to prevent erosion.

Water flows from 4-acre Canyon Lake into Canyon Creek, a tributary of Patterson Creek, when rain raises the lake level. The lake has risen but hasn't yet flowed into the creeks this fall.

When it does, "it's going to affect an excellent salmon-spawning stream, Canyon Creek," said Larry Fisher, area habitat biologist for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Canyon Lake, surrounded by Douglas fir, maple and willow trees, looks much as it did in 1960, when Lindsley's parents bought 8 acres, including the lake. His parents have died, but Lindsley and two of his three brothers remain on the land.

The lake is artificial, and its channel catfish were brought in years ago from Missouri. And in addition to foraging eagles and great blue herons, two ospreys brought their three offspring to the lake last year to fish.

Lindsley doubts wildlife will keep coming back as the water quality deteriorates. And, as he told the Metropolitan King County Council before it approved higher-density development, the water is going to get dirtier.

Silt may be a passing phenomenon, but Lindsley figures his new neighbors will put enough fertilizer on their lawns to cause lake-killing algae blooms.

"I think I'm a throwaway, I really do," he said. "It's easier to get rid of us because we're just one family on a small lake. . . .

"Our parents, fortunately, are dead, so they won't have to see this."