Posts in the category "Uncategorized"

Additional 80 acres of habitat conserved in I-90

View from Keechelus Ridge including Mount Rainier. Photo credit: Charlie Raines

This week, local land conservation organization Forterra announced a deal to secure 80 forested acres along Keechelus Ridge, just east of Snoqualmie Pass.

They report while modest in size, this parcel punches above its weight class in terms of ecological importance because it connects to a larger string of secured keystone lands that provide critical wildlife habitat in the cascades, including for endangered species like the northern spotted owl.

Keechelus 6 (so-named because it’s their sixth project along the ridge) is near the wildlife bridges in the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project. The new bridges allow grizzly bear, grey wolf, bull trout and other species to safely cross the freeway that otherwise severs the wildlife corridor that runs north and south.

“Our partners at Forterra continue to conserve lands near I-90, protecting important habitat in this critical wildlife corridor. This property is just a mile from the wildlife overpass being constructed near Keechelus Dam,” said Charlie Raines, I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition director.

This land was secured with federal dollars from the Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund.

 

Revised I-90 Wildlife Watch website shows the crossing structures are working

Two deer in the Gold Creek underpass within the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project. Photo credit: WSDOT

Today, public and private partners re-launched an updated wildlife-monitoring website aimed at getting feedback from motorists traveling on Interstate 90 over Snoqualmie Pass.

The site, I-90 Wildlife Watch, invites information from the 28,000 motorists that drive over Snoqualmie Pass each day. The information motorists provide will allow public agencies and conservation groups data about the movement of wildlife within the I-90 corridor. The area features newly completed and under-construction wildlife crossings, part of a major highway improvement effort, the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project, by the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT).

Our I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition originally launched the site in partnership with Western Transportation Institute in November 2010, and its revision is an evolution of how the partnerships and project have grown since then.

“We are proud to re-launch this website to expand opportunities for locals, visitors and other motorists to engage directly with wildlife conservation, monitoring, and education in the Snoqualmie Pass region,” said Jen Watkins, lead project coordinator for I-90 Wildlife Watch with Conservation Northwest.

“We are now both hearing from motorists on what they see from Interstate 90, and giving them a glimpse of how fish and wildlife are responding to the historic private and public conservation investments in this landscape, most notably new animal crossings under and over the interstate,” said Watkins.

Interstate 90 crosses the Cascades at Snoqualmie Pass, where traffic volumes average 28,000 vehicles per day and are increasing by approximately 2 percent per year. While I-90 is a vital east-west transportation corridor in the state, it also bisects a critical north-south wildlife corridor for wildlife moving throughout the Cascade Mountains and from the Alpine Lakes Wilderness and Mount Rainier National Park.

As part of the I-90 improvement project, WSDOT plans to build 24 wildlife crossing structures between Hyak and Easton to provide a safe roadway for both motorists and wildlife.

These structures range in size from enlarged culverts passing under the interstate to 150-foot vegetated bridges over the roadway. Construction on these crossings are underway. WSDOT has already completed two undercrossings near Hyak and is in the process of building the Keechelus Lake Wildlife Overcrossing, scheduled to be complete in 2019, over the roadway near Price Creek.

The wildlife crossing projects were long championed for inclusion in WSDOT’s project by local conservation, recreation and business organizations as a win-win for animals, motorists and the freight industry, including by our coalition.

“Each new phase of the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project brings us closer to our goal of minimizing the impact of the highway on the landscape. The project would not be possible without the support of the public and our partners,” stated Mark Norman, WSDOT biologist. The website provides a great opportunity to make connections with those groups. Together we will make I-90 safer for wildlife and motorists for generations to come.”

The revised I-90 Wildlife Watch website will continue seeking reports from motorists on the live and dead wildlife they see as they drive I-90 from North Bend to Easton.  The site is now sharing results of wildlife monitoring throughout the I-90 corridor. These results included successful, safe passage of wildlife, from families of ducks to herds of deer, through the completed wildlife undercrossings.

Take a look and keep re-visiting the website at www.i90wildlifewatch.org!

Wall Street Journal article recognizes value of wildlife crossings and I-90 project

In an article this week “Wildlife Crossings Get a Whole New Look”, the Wall Street Journal lays out the rise of creating safer passage for people and wildlife on highways across the country.  “Something of a novelty in the U.S. a decade ago, wildlife crossings are proliferating all across North America and are increasingly being built into the design of new highway projects where vehicle and wildlife crashes are a major threat….Safety—for both animals and humans—is the main driver in crossings growth in the U.S. Collisions between wildlife and vehicles have risen 50% in the past 15 years, and such accidents now cost Americans $8 billion annually in damages and cleanup costs.”

The article highlights how effective completed structures have been in reducing animal-vehicle collisions, and where new construction is occurring – specifically the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project in Washington.

Read the full article at https://www.wsj.com/articles/wildlife-crossings-get-a-whole-new-look-1497967411

 

Construction begins on first wildlife overpass on I-90

I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition staff, Charlie Raines and Jen Watkins, standing in front of the Lake Keechelus Wildlife Overpass as it is constructed.

I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition staff, Charlie Raines and Jen Watkins, standing in front of the Lake Keechelus Wildlife Overpass as it is constructed.

This week the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and its contractors installed the first of two archways that will span six lanes of traffic on both directions of the interstate. It’s a significant milestone in the construction of I-90’s first “wildlife bridge” entitled the Keechelus Lake Wildlife Overcrossing.

The site where dozens of 40,000 pound concrete pieces were being lifted into place to form the archway is located east of Snoqualmie Pass past Keechelus Lake near Price Creek.   A wide range species from the Pacific tree frog to elk to wolves are anticipated to use the wildlife overpass once it is complete.  They may walk, hop, or inch their way safely over I-90 on this new crossing structure – some taking longer then others. See a more complete list of species here.

Traffic should begin driving under these new arches over I-90 later this fall, while construction of the remainder of the wildlife overpass will continue through 2018.  This is a huge milestone in making the roadway safer for people and wildlife for this 15-mile project.

See coverage by the Seattle Times and NWCN on this important moment.

Watch preview trailer for new film under development on I-90

Cascade Crossroads: Film preview trailer (click to view)

Cascade Crossroads: Film preview trailer (click to view)

In an effort to share the amazing story that is unfolding on Interstate 90 just east of Snoqualmie Pass, our coalition is developing a film for release in 2017. Cascade Crossroads will chronicle the human and ecological narratives that intersected in a singular project within a special landscape – making it safer for both wildlife and drivers. Besides documenting the history of this groundbreaking project, we hope this film will inspire similar solutions elsewhere.

Watch the trailer, and “like” our project page on Facebook to stay tuned to news on the development and release of the full documentary.

Learn more about the film and how to become a sponsor by visiting the project page.

Comment by January 31st to remove development proposal on state lands adjacent to I-90 project

Image showing proximity of Crystal Springs property to crossing structures to be constructed in the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project. Credit: Image cropped from a WSDOT project map.

Image showing proximity of Crystal Springs property to crossing structures to be constructed in the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project. Credit: Image cropped from a WSDOT project map.

Washington State Parks has proposed various forms of privately financed development on 11 sites of State Parks land known as Candidate Sites for Recreation Business Activities, which they are accepting comment on through January 31st.  One of the sites that they propose significant development on is immediately south of several crossing structures in the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project.

Specifically the Crystal Springs proposal, which is part of the Iron Horse State Park in Kittitas County, suggests a lodge with up to 20 rooms, up to 100 cabins, an RV facility, retail shops, equipment rental and year-round recreation facilities.  This development proposal on public lands contradicts the historic public and private conservation investments made to date and underway in the I-90 corridor, while undermining the effectiveness of the crossing structures planned in the I-90 project.

There are ample opportunities at Snoqualmie Pass and farther east in Kittitas County for vacation rentals and recreation equipment sales and rentals, but the Crystal Springs property is in a location where there are limited options for fish and wildlife.  This proposal should be removed from the list due to its impacts on wildlife and the inconsistency of the proposed actions with the land management focus and conservation investments of the landscape of which this park is a part.

Read the letter submitted by the I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition on this proposal, and submit comments of your own via an action alert from coalition member Conservation Northwest’s action page or through Washington State Park’s online comment form or by emailing planning@parks.wa.gov

New transportation bill fully funds I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project

I-90SPE_map

I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East project area map.

On Friday as the extended Washington legislative session came to a close, Governor Inslee signed a new transportation package that includes $426 million over 10 years to fully fund the completion of the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project.

“Broad support for the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East project has again won support from the legislature. With significant benefits to safety of drivers and wildlife, the project now has the funding for the full 15 miles,” said Charlie Raines, I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition director.  “This includes multiple underpasses for animals, and an additional overpass for wildlife across Easton Ridge connecting heavily use habitat . Our coalition looks forward to working with WSDOT to complete this unique transportation facility.”

The I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project, stretching 15-miles from Hyak to Easton, is divided into several phases for construction.  In 2009, construction began on the first 5 miles (Phase 1) that included two wildlife underpasses at Gold Creek and one at Rocky Run.  With cost savings from this first phase, a contract was signed this spring to kick-off construction on a 2.5 mile continuation (Phase 2A) that includes the first wildlife overpass. Both of these phases will be complete by fall 2019.

“The new transportation plan is exciting news for the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East project. We will now be able to continue improvements along I-90 all the way to Easton. These improvements include rebuilding I-90 to six lanes, addressing safety and wildlife connectivity along this critical freight and recreational corridor,” said Brian White of Washington Department of Transportation.

This summer, thousands of travelers will drive Interstate 90 over Snoqualmie Pass through the project area crossing safely over the wildlife bridges near Keechelus Lake from Phase 1 while animals go under.  Now, we can also celebrate that our state legislators and Governor Inslee have invested in completing all phases of the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project from Hyak to Easton addressing our state’s most important east-west transportation corridor and one of our region’s most important north-south wildlife corridors.  We want to thank the legislators and Governor Inslee, who made this a priority for our state.

Links to additional information

Washington State new transportation bill – 2015

I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project webpage

 

Greenway National Heritage Area legislation is introduced

Bipartisan legislation was introduced today to designate the Mountains to Sound Greenway (which includes the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East project area) as a National Heritage Area. Senate legislation was introduced by Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, and House legislation was introduced by Congressmen Dave Reichert and Adam Smith.

The Mountains to Sound Greenway encompasses 1.5 million acres of public and private land from Seattle to Central Washington. The scenic beauty of the Greenway is the backdrop for the daily lives of millions of residents, while the landscape provides vital habitat for fish and wildlife in our Cascade mountains.

This legislation will promote local economic growth from tourism and outdoor recreation, so it attracts the support of business leaders and community members alike. As a non-regulatory framework, designation will not affect private property rights or mandate federal oversight of public land.  It will help shine a light on efforts like the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East project that are displaying innovative ways to connect ecological and social communities in our state.

Visit the Mountains to Sound Greenway webpage for more information on this news.

WSDOT breaks ground on next 2 miles of I-90 project east of Snoqualmie Pass including construction of wildlife overcrossing

State, federal, non-profit, and individual partners in the I-90 corridor stand in front of a graphic rendition of the wildlife overpass now being constructed on I-90 at the groundbreaking event.

State, federal, non-profit, and individual partners in the I-90 corridor stand in front of a graphic rendition of the wildlife overpass now being constructed on I-90 at the groundbreaking event.

Today, the I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition and many partners attending the groundbreaking event for Phase 2A of the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project.  A 2-mile section of the project that includes a wildlife overcrossing structure to make the roadway safer for people and wildlife.  Winners from our 2015 Bridging Futures contest co-hosted with the Washington Department of Transportation were announced and recognized at the event.  See the Washington Department of Transportation’s press release below, as well as this comment from our Coalition Director.

“The wildlife overpass at Price Creek is a milestone in both transportation and wildlife policy. It will be an icon that continually reminds us that we are all part of an ecosystem- and what we can accomplish on behalf of ourselves and the species which share the planet. This structure will ensure safe passage for animal and human travelers,” said Charlie Raines, I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition Director.  “This is also an incredible demonstration of partnerships – and how they can be effective at meeting critical goals of our state. Washington Dept of Transportation, land and wildlife management agencies, transportation and environmental advocates and land conservation organizations – all have contributed essential blocks to this habitat corridor- the land, the structure, and its wise use. We are proud to have been a part of that collaboration.”

WSDOT breaks ground on next 2 miles of I-90 project east of Snoqualmie Pass
Date: Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Contact: Meagan Lott, WSDOT communications, 509-654-0697
Summer Derrey, WSDOT communications, 509-494-3948

HYAK – Six new lanes, one wildlife overcrossing, new bridges and culverts, and safety improvements are coming to a 2-mile stretch of Interstate 90 beginning this summer.

Local officials, business leaders and transportation advocates joined the Washington State Department of Transportation Tuesday, June 9, to break ground on the next major phase to widen I-90 from four to six lanes and improve reliability and safety for drivers east of Snoqualmie Pass.

“This project is a shining example of WSDOT’s future direction. It embraces our values, goals and strategies for a safe transportation system that improves mobility and supports economic growth,” said Cam Gilmour, deputy secretary of transportation.

This phase of the project builds a new six lane highway, stabilizes rock slopes, constructs new bridges and culverts, and builds a wildlife overcrossing, the first of its kind in the project corridor. Construction is scheduled to be complete in 2019.

The groundbreaking signals increased construction-related delays on Snoqualmie Pass this summer. Drivers will experience minor, periodic delays caused by single-lane closures and rolling slowdowns through October.

The start of this 2-mile section is an extension of the $551 million project funded by the 2005 gas tax to improve 5 miles of I-90 from Hyak to Keechelus Dam, scheduled for completion in 2018. The Legislature allocated funding in the 2013 transportation budget to continue expanding I-90 to the Stampede Pass interchange.

Creative art from Washington students win awards and put a face to the wildlife waiting to use the wildlife over crossing now under construction on Interstate 90

Winning artwork for best mammal or bird category by Jeffrey Henion of Tolt Middle School.

Winning artwork for best mammal or bird category by Jeffrey Henion of Tolt Middle School.

In a social media art contest hosted by Washington Department of Transportation and I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition, entitled Bridging Futures 2015: #iHearti90Wildlife, creative individual and group submissions from Berkeley, California to Yakima, Washington animated the diverse suite of wildlife living in Washington’s Cascade mountains that will benefit from the wildlife overpass being constructed over Interstate 90 just east of Snoqualmie Pass. Utilizing markers, paint, beans, and other art materials students and teachers represented the small crawling amphibians to the fast moving large mammals. Winners of the contest were announced and recognized in five categories at today’s groundbreaking ceremony for Phase 2A of the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project, which includes the construction of the wildlife overpass. The winners are:

“The judges were taken aback by the passion and thought that went into every single entry,” said Jeff Burnside, investigative reporter with KOMO 4 and contest judge. “These artists will never know the number of wildlife their art work saved by raising awareness of this important project.”

The winning classroom was awarded $500 and custom made t-shirts celebrating habitat connections for wildlife over Interstate 90, while individual winners were awarded a package to support their next wild adventure including a GoPro, REI gift card, endangered species chocolate, and the custom made t-shirt. Prizes are sponsored by the I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition, a collection of non-profits engaging the public on the need for safer passage for people and wildlife on Interstate 90 just east of Snoqualmie Pass including Conservation Northwest, Sierra Club, Alpine Lakes Protection Society, and more.  Coalition Director Charlie Raines shared, “It is heartening to see the next generation’s understanding and support for the needs of wildlife and how we can incorporate that in our transportation facilities.  These artworks are both thoughtful and creative.”

“The 2015 Bridging Futures: #iheartI90wildlife art contest was a joy to be a part of, said Roger Levesque of the Seattle Sounders FC. “For these young artists to celebrate wildlife and the construction of the new I-90 overpass is inspiring. All the artwork is worthy of being recognized and each artist is a winner in my book!”

All entries are available for viewing on the contest Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ihearti90wildlife