Environment Committee

 Environment Committee Members and Functions


KC DNRP has issued SEPA and Permit documents regarding its Backcountry Trails program for public review.  Comments must be submitted by June 28th.  See the King County Parks – Programmatic (Grading) Permit For Backcountry Trails section below for more details.

Washington Department of Ecology is commencing work on the renewal of an NPDES waste discharge permit for the John Henry Mine #1 surface coal mining operation near Black Diamond.  See the John Henry Mine #1 section below for more details and links.

The Washington Department of Natural Resources has compiled extensive maps of coal mining sites throughout the State.  Select this link to view the general Coal Mine Map Collection: WDNR – Coal Mine Map Collection . Select this link to access and view specific coal mine sites: Washington Geologic Information Portal – Coal Mines .

The State Board of Health is in the process of considering changes to the State Onsite Sewage Systems Regulations, WAC 246-272A.  This process provides the opportunity for public participation as either direct participants or interested individuals.  The DOH has published more detailed information regarding the regulation update process and the stakeholder workgroup’s schedule.  Please visit the below Onsite Sewage Systems section on this webpage for more details.  We will keep you updated as information on this activity progresses.

King County has commenced work on the 2018 Comprehensive Plan Update.  For detailed information, please click on the following link: 2018 KC Comprehensive Plan Update

PSRC has developed a regional plan to accelerate the conservation of open space now and into the future (PSRC Regional OSC Plan).  The final Plan was made available on July 2, 2018, and may be accessed at the following PSRC website: PSRC Regional Open Space Conservation Plan Website . Trails, parks, forests, farms and many other kinds of open space make the Puget Sound region a special place to live.  The Regional Open Space Conservation Plan is intended to knit together open space and related plans from counties, tribes, resource agencies, salmon recovery groups, and other organizations. The plan identifies and elevates these open space needs to attract funding and support.  The draft Regional Open Space Conservation Plan was reviewed by the GMVUAC, and our comments to the proposed plan may be read here:  PSRC ROSCP Comments_03 07 2018 .  Some highlights from our Comments on the Draft Plan include:

(1) Identification of conservation priorities to sustain our open spaces and ecological systems;
(2) Use of a “watershed” approach as critical to addressing key ecological factors;
(3) Recognition open spaces help directly and indirectly support our Rural Area economy;
(4) Concern for the loss of working farmland as development pressures continue to be exerted; and
(5) Coordinated planning among and within agencies and jurisdictions.

The GMVUAC has also submitted its comments regarding King County’s draft Comprehensive Solid Waste Management Plan Update.  Details of the draft Plan may be viewed and accessed from the following webpage:  KC Solid Waste Plan.   The GMVUAC’s comments to this Plan may be read here: KCSWMP–COMMENTS_03 07 2018.  Some highlights from our Comments include:

(1) Support for waste prevention and reuse as highest priorities;
(2) Use of educational methods to produce more informed consumers and producers of solid waste;
(3) No expansion of the Cedar Hills Landfill;
(4) Consumer and producer incentives to keep recyclable items out of the waste stream; and
(5) Support to explore viability of Waste-to-Energy or Waste Incineration methods.


Established:  March 2008


Chair: Rhys Sterling
Vice-Chair: Susan Harvey
Members: LarKen Buchanan, Luke Hansen, Hendrick Haynes, Warren Iverson, Marcia Knadle (non-GMVUAC member), Sue Neuner, Celia Parker, and Paul Schultz

Mission:  Study environment, regional parks, historic landmarks, natural habitats, water quality, flood control and surface water management, wastewater, and solid waste.

Major Activities: The Committee led the following Area Council efforts:  King County Noise Ordinance Comment Letter; John Henry Mine Permit Review; Urban-Serving Facilities and Retention Ponds; King County Code Amendments; Landsburg Mine Cleanup Plan.

Support Activities: The Committee supported the following Area Council efforts:  King County Comprehensive Plan Updates; King County Code Amendments; Reserve Silica Mine cleanup and site rehabilitation; Marijuana Growing and Processing Operations; Asphalt Plant and other development proposals in the Rural Area.

Issues: Committee research supported the following Area Council correspondence:  Reserve Silica “Demonstration Project”; Pacific Raceways Ordinance; Seattle Seawall; Surface Water Management Fees; Erickson Logging Objections; Maple Valley Farmers’ Market; Puget Sound Clean Air Agency; Ravensdale Park.

For more information on any of the foregoing matters, please visit our GMVUAC Correspondence section for copies of GMVUAC Articles and Letters relating to this Committee.


On June 14, 2018, the KC DNRP issued the following public notice regarding to its issuance of certain documents relating to its Programmatic Permit for Backcountry Trail Non-project Action:  “King County issued a Determination of Non-Significance (DNS) under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) for the Programmatic Permit for Backcountry Trail Non-project Action. Comments regarding this DNS will be accepted via email, writing, or telephone until 4:30pm on June 28, 2018. Please see the DNS for instructions on how to submit comments. SEPA DNSSEPA ChecklistFinal Draft of Programmatic (Grading) Permit .”  Contact: Kelly Heintz, Natural Resources Land Planner; King County Parks and Recreation Division; 201 South Jackson Street, Room 700; Seattle, WA 98104; 206-477-7372 (SEPA); KCParks.SEPA@kingcounty.gov . For email comments, please use the email address noted above and put “Programmatic Permit for Backcountry Trails” in the Subject line.

Although the GMVUAC did not submit comments, Michael and Donna Brathovde did submit very detailed comments to DNRP on June 27, 2018.  With the express permission of the Brathovdes and as a public information service of GMVUAC, please read their comments here:  Brathovde_2018-06-27_Programmatic Trails Permit_Comment Letter .


King County Parks has issued the Draft Black Diamond Area Stewardship Plan for public review and comment until May 24, 2018.  To read more about this program and to review the plan, please visit this website: Draft Black Diamond Area Stewardship Plan .  The GMVUAC previously reviewed and submitted comments on an earlier draft Plan on February 14, 2017 — read our comments here: BD Stewardship Plan – GMVUAC Comments .  DNRP has extended its deadline to June 11 for comments to be submitted by the GMVUAC — please view our comment letter here: Black Diamond Area Stewardship Plan – GMVUAC Comment Letter – 06 11 2018 .  KC DNRP responded to GMVUAC’s comments on June 27 — view the comments sent by Kelly Heintz, KC Open Space/Natural Lands Program, accompanied by the following statement: “Thank you so much for submitting a comment letter regarding the Draft Black Diamond Area Stewardship Plan. Please find attached a response to your comment letter. I appreciate your attention to conservation and management of open spaces in King County. We share your interest and are working hard to preserve and manage lands with high conservation value including farmlands, forest lands, natural areas and trails.”  DNRP_Response to GMVUAC BDAS Plan Comments_06 27 2018


King County River and Floodplain Management Section is hosting two public meetings on June 12 and 13 to discuss its large wood program in various rives and streams intended to reduce the risk of floods and to restore fish habitat. Click on this link to go to the King County website for more detailed information:  KC Watersheds – Large Wood Program Information and Public Meetings .

JOHN HENRY MINE #1 (Surface Coal Mine)

A general site map of the John Henry Mine #1 property (roughly 30700 Black Diamond – Ravensdale Road) is presented below and may be accessed here in jpg format: John Henry Mine #1 – Site Map


The GMVUAC has been tracking the proposed re-start of surface coal mining at the John Henry Mine located between Ravensdale and Black Diamond.  Relevant documents available include the federal Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact for this project.  The federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation & Enforcement (OSMRE) is the lead agency; however, the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and King County Department of Permitting and Environmental Review (DPER) have substantial interests in this proposal and have each submitted detailed comments to the federal OSMRE.  For an overview of what OSMRE is and what it does, please read the following summary: Federal OSMRE Regulatory Overview .  The Washington Department of Ecology (DOE) is in the process of preparing a new NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) waste discharge permit for the JHM #1. For more information from the DOE, please click on this link: DOE NPDES Permit Notice of Application .  The DOE Facility Summary website, including the permit renewal application, may be accessed here: DOE Pacific Coast Coal Company – Facility Summary .  To get on the DOE’s contact list regarding your opportunity to review and comment on its proposed NPDES permit, when available, please submit your request via the following email address: nwropccc@ecy.wa.gov (public notice will also be provided via local newspaper).  The Environmental Assessment, initial OSMRE comments, and the comments on this proposal submitted by the GMVUAC, DPER, and DNR may be viewed here: John Henry Mine Environmental Assessment ; 2014 OSMRE Application Review ; 2014 GMVUAC Comment Letter ; 2014 DPER Comment Letter ; 2017 DPER Comment Letter2017 DNR Comment Letter .

At our August 6 meeting the following individuals and agencies participated in a very well given and received series of presentations followed by a question and answer session during which Council members and public attendees asked many pointed questions and the participants gave professional and informative responses (when approved and posted, please read the detailed Minutes of this meeting for more specific details) — each of the following guests is welcome back to any future Council meetings and provide updates: Pacific Coast Coal Company (David J. Morris, P.E., President; Barry C. Kombol, Attorney at Law, Officer/Director); Puget Soundkeeper Alliance (Alyssa Barton); King County DPER (Jim Chan, P.E., Interim Director), and the State Department of Ecology (Monika Kannadaguli, P.E., Facility Manager for PCCC; Gerald Shervey, P.E., Water Quality – Industrial Unit Supervisor; Rachel McCrea, Water Quality – Section Manager).  Presentation materials may be accessed and viewed here: PCCC (3 MB pptx) – August 6_PCCC Presentation ; PUGET SOUNDKEEPER ALLIANCE (pdf) – August 6_PSKA Presentation_Barton John Henry Pres ; KC DPER (pdf) – August 6_KCDPER Presentation_GRDE15-0112 Location    August 6_KCDPER Presentation_Vicinity Map TIR Figure 1-1    August 6_KCDPER Presentation_Mine Plan    August 6_KCDPER Presentation_GRDE15-0112 ; DOE (pdf) – August 6_DOE Presentation_MK 20180806    August 6_DOE Presentation_John HenrySiteMap    August 6_DOE Presentation_GWmonitInfo    August 6_DOE Presentation_pcccgwres1986-87 (Note that the DOE 1986-87 historical ground water quality data illustrates how variable and heterogeneous ground water can be spatially and over time; and that manganese, iron, and arsenic all exceeded drinking water standards in some wells before the mine opened.  According to DOE, the permit uses triggering levels in relation to ground water monitoring rather than limits, and exceeding 95% of historical data two months in a row triggers some follow up investigation.  Per DOE, the triggering levels have apparently not been exceeded two months in a row since this condition was added to the permit in 1992).

The following general status update is contained in correspondence from the federal OSMRE dated on or about April 21, 2018, sent by Mychal Yellowman, P.E., Indian Lands & Washington Program Branch Manager, Western Region Program Support Division, 1999 Broadway Suite 3320, Denver, CO 80202-3050. For further information, please contact Mr Yellowman at myellowman@osmre.gov :

“Pacific Coast Coal Company (PCCC) (owner of the John Henry Mine), submitted a permit revision application to our office to resume mining operations. Specifically, PCCC plans to resume mining and remove an estimated 462,000 processed short tons over a 6-year period and disturb an additional 29.7 acres of surface within their current permit area. PCCC also submitted a permit renewal application, which OSMRE placed on administrative delay while it conducted its National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analysis of the revision to resume mining. OSMRE completed an Environmental Assessment (EA) and a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) was signed on April 16, 2018. Those documents can be found on our website at:  OSMRE – John Henry Mine .  The John Henry Mine reclamation plan is located in the John Henry Permit Application Package (PAP) which can be reviewed at our Olympia Field Office or here in our Denver Office. We will be converting the paper PAP into an electronic format so it can be placed on our website.  OSMRE approved the permit renewal application on April 17, 2018 and the permit revision on April 18, 2018. PCCC has other permits from other agencies that it needs prior to removing coal. Please contact me if you have any additional questions.”

Although OSMRE did not directly participate in our August 6 meeting, by email dated August 4th, Glenn Waugh, OSMRE Senior Regulatory Program Specialist, U.S. Department of the Interior, Manager – Olympia Area Office, provided the following responses to several questions posed by the Council:

“I have been given authority to provide a response to questions #1 and #3 as posed in your August 2nd email. Concerning question #2 [what are the permitting responsibilities of the State and King County going forward?], only the appropriate State of Washington agencies and King County can answer what, if any, permitting responsibilities they may place on the John Henry No. 1 Mine going forward. With regard to question #4 [what statutory discretion does the State possess under RCW 78.44.055 to assume primary responsibility for the permitting and oversight of surface coal mining?], should the State of Washington wish to assume exclusive jurisdiction over the regulation of surface coal mining and reclamation operations, it must submit to the Secretary of the Interior a program that demonstrates its capability of carrying out the provisions of Section 503 of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA). Additionally, the State must comply with the regulatory requirements at 30 CFR Part 731, regarding procedures for the preparation and submission of a state regulatory program to the Secretary of the Interior for review and approval.

Question #1: What role does the Federal OSMRE play in the potential renewal of coal mining operations?

Response #1: As you know, the U. S. Department of the Interior’s Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE), is the lead permitting agency for surface coal mining and reclamation operations within the State of Washington. 30 CFR Part 947 addresses the regulatory provisions governing the Washington Program. Specifically, 30 CFR Part 947.773 addresses requirements for permits and permit processing and 30 CFR Part 947.774 addresses procedures for revision, renewal, and transfer of  permits rights. The operator, Pacific Coast Coal Company (PCCC), submitted an application to OSMRE on July 29, 2016, seeking to renew the permit for the John Henry No. 1 Mine. After conducting an administrative review and a technical review, OSMRE informed other State, Local and Federal agencies of PCCC’s intent and requested that these agencies provide any comments they may have. Subsequently, PCCC initiated publication of notices in the Voice of the Valley newspaper of the availability of the permit renewal application for review and comment. After the comment period closed on September 22, 2017, with OSMRE not receiving any comments or requests for an informal conference, PCCC’s application to renew Permit WA-0007D was approved on April 17, 2018. The renewed permit, WA-0007E, is effective retroactively to December 7, 2016 and expires on December 7, 2019. PCCC has the legal right to seek renewal of this permit in accordance with 30 CFR Part 947. 774.

Question #3: What reclamation activities are required and planned?

Response #3: On April 18, 2011, PCCC submitted to OSMRE a permit revision application to reinitiate surface coal mining operations at the John Henry No. 1 Mine. As part of that application, PCCC, in Chapter III, titled, Operation and Reclamation Plan, identified it’s plans for reclamation at the mine at Section 3.5. Essentially, the reclamation plans are similar to the reclamation plans previously approved by OSMRE. There will be a final pit lake in its current location with a riparian zone sloping at 3-4h:1v down to 8 feet below the water level. Pit 2 will be back filled and graded to the approximate original topography with material from  Spoil Piles 2, 3 North and 3 South. The sedimentation ponds will be removed and reclaimed. Material from Spoil Pile 1 will be utilized to complete reclamation of Pit 1. The coal preparation plant and shale crushing facility, along with some of the other infrastructure components are to be removed with the main haul road scheduled for retention. The post-mining land use is forestry.”

Although no representative from the State Department of Natural Resources was able to attend and participate in our August 6 meeting, by email dated August 3, 2018, we received from Dave Norman, LG, LEG, LHG, State Geologist/Division Manager, Washington Geological Survey, DNR, the following important agency position information regarding the possibility of future State regulatory primacy pursuant to the discretionary authority legislatively granted DNR pursuant to RCW 78.44.055:

“[I]t is still possible for the Washington DNR to assume primacy for coal mine reclamation. However, with just 1 proposed or no coal mines in the state it is not economically feasible at this time. I have investigated this is [sic] in the past and it would take both significant money and time for training of staff before we could assume primacy. It was estimated to be about a 5 year process and with little to no coal mining in the state it did not seem practicable. OSM no longer has the staff or funds in place for the [sic] training the states to acquire primacy so Washington would need to pay. However, if there was a renewal of increased coal mining in Washington we would be interested in taking primacy, but each situation would have to be evaluated so that we could pay for the program.”

The GMVUAC will continue to post updates regarding this proposal as such become available.


The State Board of Health is in the process of considering changes to the State Onsite Sewage Systems Regulations, WAC 246-272A. This process provides the opportunity for public participation as either direct participants or interested individuals. CR-101 filing . The following overview was provided July 3, 2018, by the State Department of Health (DOH) — In January 2018, the State Board of Health directed the department to begin the process of revising the On-site Sewage System Rule, Chapter 246-272A WAC. The department has convened a diverse stakeholder workgroup to develop recommendations for revisions. The workgroup met on June 25th, 2018 in Kent for the process kickoff meeting. At the meeting, the workgroup approved a charter to guide and govern their work and reviewed issues to consider for revision. The department provided presentations reviewing the history of on-site sewage system regulations in Washington, the charter and process timeline, and the division of work among subcommittees. The materials from the meeting are available on the department’s on-site rule revision webpage, which may be accessed here: State DOH Onsite Rule Revision . The next committee meeting is scheduled for September 13th, 2018. The committee will begin work on developing recommendations for revisions related to issues identified during the department’s 2017 review of Chapter 246-272A WAC. As the process continues the department will solicit new issues to consider for revision from the committee as well as input from the public. For more information regarding this rule revision contact Mike Dexel, Rule Project Manager, or Jeremy Simmons, Wastewater Program Manager.

OSS BILL HB 2420 IS DEAD FOR NOW — 2018 LEGISLATIVE SESSION CLOSED MARCH 2 WITHOUT FINAL ACTION TAKEN.  Keep an eye on the future for HB 2420 regarding onsite sewage systems as it works its way through the 2019 and/or subsequent sessions of the State Legislature.  For detailed information and status on this Bill, including any future hearings, please visit the following legislative website (for now, but subject to change):  HB 2420 Legislative History .  CAPR (Citizens’ Alliance For Property Rights) has produced and published on YouTube ™ a video presentation of onsite sewage systems, how they function, and their environmental impact (or lack thereof).  With the express written permission of CAPR (by and through its Secretary, Jeff Wright) given to the GMVUAC on January 16, 2018, you may view CAPR’s production at the following website: The Truth About Septic Systems .  Please visit our Citizen Surveys webpage to view the results of our 2017 Survey, and especially the responses to our questions regarding sewage systems.  See Questions 29 – 33.


With an effective date of January 19, 2018, the Washington State Legislature enacted, and signed into law by Governor Inslee, 2018 Laws of Washington, Chapter 1 (ESSB 6091), that sets forth the legislative fix to the Washington Supreme Court’s Hirst decision.  The Hirst decision may be viewed here: Whatcom County v Hirst and the Legislature’s fix may be viewed here: Ch 1_Laws of 2018_ESSB 6091 .  In brief, the effect of the Hirst decision was to, in addressing what constitutes compliance by the applicant for a building permit with the requirements of RCW 19.27.097 (set forth in full hereinbelow) to provide ‘evidence of an adequate water supply for the intended use of the building’, impose on the applicant for a building/development permit the requirement to prove that, although water was legally available and exempt from groundwater withdrawal permit requirements pursuant to RCW 90.44.050 (set forth in full hereinbelow, but generally exempts domestic/agricultural groundwater withdrawals not exceeding 5,000 gpd and 1/2 acre of irrigation), water was also factually available and its proposed withdrawal of otherwise exempt quantities would not adversely affect other water sources, including surface water bodies.  What the legislative fix provides in brief is, subject to a number of regulatory studies and requirements and deadlines and depending within which designated Water Resource Inventory Area (WRIA) the well is located, groundwater withdrawals not exceeding an annual average of 950 – 3,000 gpd for domestic use, and otherwise exempt from permit requirements pursuant to RCW 90.44.050, are exempt from the Hirst decision’s requirement of proof in fact of no adverse affect.  See Laws of 2018, Ch. 1, Sections 202(1) and 202(5)(f)(ii).  However, an applicant will be required to pay a ‘fee’ of $500 to the permitting authority in order to receive the benefit of this exception.  Section 202(5)(f)(i).  Jill Dvorkin, attorney and legal consultant to the Municipal Research and Services Center (MRSC), has authored a very good summary of the new law and its WRIA-dependent requirements and limitations.  Read Ms Dvorkin’s article here: Legislature Addresses Whatcom County v. Hirst (c) ; view the WRIA statewide map here: WRIA_Dept of Ecology_State Map ; and the Lake Washington-Cedar River Watershed map here: Lake Washington_Cedar River_WRIA 8 Map .  The current GMVUAC service area falls within WRIA 8 (otherwise exempt wells subject to $500 fee and 950 gpd limit).  It will take some time to see how the legislative fix to the Hirst decision actually works in the real and practical world — the GMVUAC will do our best to keep the public apprised of regulatory progress on this matter.  Please visit our Citizen Surveys webpage to view the results of our 2017 Survey, and especially the public sentiments regarding the Hirst decision and the right to use water.  See Questions 14, 21 – 24.

RCW 19.27.097   Building permit application—Evidence of adequate water supply—Applicability—Exemption.  (1) Each applicant for a building permit of a building necessitating potable water shall provide evidence of an adequate water supply for the intended use of the building. Evidence may be in the form of a water right permit from the department of ecology, a letter from an approved water purveyor stating the ability to provide water, or another form sufficient to verify the existence of an adequate water supply. In addition to other authorities, the county or city may impose conditions on building permits requiring connection to an existing public water system where the existing system is willing and able to provide safe and reliable potable water to the applicant with reasonable economy and efficiency. An application for a water right shall not be sufficient proof of an adequate water supply.  (2) Within counties not required or not choosing to plan pursuant to RCW 36.70A.040, the county and the state may mutually determine those areas in the county in which the requirements of subsection (1) of this section shall not apply. The departments of health and ecology shall coordinate on the implementation of this section. Should the county and the state fail to mutually determine those areas to be designated pursuant to this subsection, the county may petition the department of enterprise services to mediate or, if necessary, make the determination.  (3) Buildings that do not need potable water facilities are exempt from the provisions of this section. The department of ecology, after consultation with local governments, may adopt rules to implement this section, which may recognize differences between high-growth and low-growth counties.  [ 2015 c 225 § 17; 2010 c 271 § 302; 1995 c 399 § 9; 1991 sp.s. c 32 § 28; 1990 1st ex.s. c 17 § 63.]

RCW 90.44.050     Permit to withdraw.   After June 6, 1945, no withdrawal of public groundwaters of the state shall be begun, nor shall any well or other works for such withdrawal be constructed, unless an application to appropriate such waters has been made to the department and a permit has been granted by it as herein provided: EXCEPT, HOWEVER, That any withdrawal of public groundwaters for stock-watering purposes, or for the watering of a lawn or of a noncommercial garden not exceeding one-half acre in area, or for single or group domestic uses in an amount not exceeding five thousand gallons a day, or as provided in RCW 90.44.052, or for an industrial purpose in an amount not exceeding five thousand gallons a day, is and shall be exempt from the provisions of this section, but, to the extent that it is regularly used beneficially, shall be entitled to a right equal to that established by a permit issued under the provisions of this chapter: PROVIDED, HOWEVER, That the department from time to time may require the person or agency making any such small withdrawal to furnish information as to the means for and the quantity of that withdrawal: PROVIDED, FURTHER, That at the option of the party making withdrawals of groundwaters of the state not exceeding five thousand gallons per day, applications under this section or declarations under RCW 90.44.090 may be filed and permits and certificates obtained in the same manner and under the same requirements as is in this chapter provided in the case of withdrawals in excess of five thousand gallons a day.  [ 2003 c 307 § 1; 1987 c 109 § 108; 1947 c 122 § 1; 1945 c 263 § 5; Rem. Supp. 1947 § 7400-5.]

Visit our Current Issues section to learn more about those specific projects the GMVUAC through its Environment Committee is currently working on with and for our rural area residents:

Asphalt Plant         Asphalt Facility

Reserve Silica        Reserve Silica

Maple Valley

We serve those that live in the Tahoma School District, but not in the city limits of Maple Valley (below is a map of the GMVUAC Service Area and the four Community Areas):

Service Area Stats

Established: 1977
Population: 16,100 (2010 Census)
Area: 116 sq mi