We had some prominent visitors in our recent Stewards of Wood Creek Everett (SWCE) Zoom meeting on the 17th. Deputy Mayor Nick Harper and Council Member Paul Roberts provided an update on the City Administration's Wood Creek efforts. Council Member Paul Roberts also attended in his role as the City Council's lead on this effort. SWCE Team Member Jeff Mallahan pitched to both guests our strategy to investigate the idea of designating the Wood Creek forest as a mitigation land bank. The feedback that we heard from them was generally encouraging.

Deputy Mayor Nick Harper stated that the City of Everett has owned the Wood Creek property for nearly a hundred years. During the last 80 years, the property has been unproductive as it no longer served its purpose as Everett's original water source. The City had asked its staff to list all the surplus properties not being used for the purposes for which they had originally been acquired. After hearing the community's negative response to this proposal and realizing the important ecological nature of this site, the Mayor quickly retracted the proposal and shelved it for further review. With the benefit of hindsight, it was clear that Wood Creek should not have been treated the same, for surplus-decision purposes, as a small parcel in the middle of town.

Currently, the main goal for the City of Everett is to study the property in order to 'capture its value' to inform any future decision. Deputy Mayor Harper reiterated that the 'value' of the property can have numerous meanings: its value as a buffer for a protected stream corridor, its value in relation to stability of the critical slopes, its value for carbon sequestration, and air quality improvement. Informed by a broader understanding of value, the city could work in partnership with an ecological group, such as Forterra, to preserve the forest. Deputy Mayor Harper stated he had spoken to Snohomish County Council Member Dunn several times and in principle there is interest in a city-county partnership, though both entities are experiencing the same financial challenges, so it is unclear how that partnership would influence any final decision. He also conceded that a possible outcome could be that the Wood Creek could ultimately be left as is.

Probably most importantly, the Deputy Mayor reiterated the city is not going to make this decision 'privately'; they want this process to be transparent and as inclusive as possible.

The next step in the process supporting a decision on Wood Creek is a geo-technical analysis to be performed on behalf of the City of Everett. This significant analysis would include investigation of the soils, rock, and water conditions, slope stability, and seismic considerations among other assessments. Deputy Mayor Harper said this in-depth analysis would be used to better inform future discussions and the ultimate decision. The target timeframe for conducting this geotechnical analysis is the first quarter (Jan – Mar) of 2021, but the Deputy Mayor added there is no rush, deadline, or timeline for the overall decision. Council Member Roberts reiterated that there is no hard deadline for this study, and the City would be very transparent with the decision to bring geotechnical consultants on board. Council Member Roberts and Deputy Mayor Harper will have a future meeting(s) toward identifying credible firms to provide this intensive analysis and research.

The Everett City administration plans to be transparent and work the community to try to prevent any future surprise. Of note, Deputy Mayor Harper said in attempting to be transparent with the community, it is particularly challenging to answer every specific question posed by individuals given all the other demands facing the City. Having the ability to communicate consistently with an organized group like Stewards of Wood Creek Everett has been helpful. [This is why we welcome your participation in SWCE!]

Jeff Mallahan, a Senior Wetland Ecologist at Wetland Resources, Inc in Everett, is a former Eastmont resident where his parents continue to reside. He pitched his idea of creating a mitigation land bank to preserve Wood Creek. He was raised on the banks of Wood Creek and his ventures into the creek had inspired his career of the past 15 years.

Jeff and his company are working pro-bono for SWCE to determine the viability of consolidating Wood Creek with several other wetlands in Everett to create a larger mitigation land bank. This land bank would be used to preserve the forest and to restore wetland areas by offsetting other development sites. For example, a developer would be given permission to develop a smaller wetland or ecological site if they purchase credits to maintain and preserve the Wood Creek land bank which has more ecological importance. The City of Everett could potentially manage these identified 'service areas', many of which drain into Puget Sound. This mitigation land bank would theoretically both preserve Wood Creek and generate income for the city. Already familiar with mitigation banking, Council Member Paul Roberts thinks that this model should be on the table. However, Mr. Roberts stated that the City still needs to fund the geotechnical survey to better understand 'what we have' in Wood Creek.

Additionally, Deputy Mayor Harper stated that he had worked with the City of Mukilteo to preserve Japanese Gulch previously in his career when he was employed by Forterra (when it was known as the Cascade Land Conservancy). Council Member Mr. Roberts proposed future discussions with Deputy Harper and Jeff Mallahan on the mitigation bank option. Having Jeff Mallahan work closely with the city council as an advocate of Wood Creek is an encouraging possibility. While it must be acknowledged the study may conclude that a small portion of the site could be developed, Council Member Roberts highlighted there is a distinction between technically feasible and cost-effective.

Near the end of the meeting, SWCE Team Member Michael Mallahan emphasized to the Deputy Mayor and Council Member that we do not presume to represent all the varied views of the Valley View community. Council Member Roberts similarly stated that while he is the City Council's lead on the Wood Creek issue that he also was not speaking for all his colleagues at this meeting. SWCE Team Member Gregory Alexander stated our group is trying to be inclusive and as transparent as possible with the Valley View neighborhood and beyond, making sure that all of the SWCE meetings are announced. Finally, both Messrs. Roberts and Harper stated that they welcomed the opportunity to speak with the SWCE group and would make themselves available for future meetings.

Note: we have made a few corrections and additions to the original post.