Friday, June 19, 2009

Thornton Creek breathes again at Northgate

A new channel south of Northgate Mall in Seattle will filter sediment and clean the water of Thornton Creek. A parking lot used to cover this 2.7-acre creek channel.

Covered for decades by pavement, Thornton Creek is again exposed in a new development at Northgate. Holding ponds, foreground, filter stormwater runoff. In this view northeast, the creek flows under Fifth Avenue Northeast and into the trees in the distance.

By Michelle Ma, Seattle Times staff reporter

Dragonflies alight and swoop delicately from plant to plant. For biologists and project managers alike, the presence of these insects, which are sensitive to pollution, indicates a healthy ecosystem.

That wasn't always so across the stark, paved grounds of Northgate Mall. Polluted runoff from the parking lots and neighborhood streets had nowhere to go except directly into Thornton Creek, a stream that weaves through Shoreline and North Seattle and empties into Lake Washington at Matthews Beach Park.

But with enough community pressure and compromise, change can happen.

A large, paved lot once devoted to overflow mall traffic and RV parking has been replaced with a landscaped, open space that allows the beginnings of Thornton Creek to flow above ground for the first time in decades. Before, a large underground pipe diverted the water to an outfall several blocks away.

This project now lets water in the creek's south fork flow as it should above ground and nourish its new stream bed before exiting under Fifth Avenue Northeast into the existing creek.

"If you look at it 10 years from now, it will be the defining development that helped transform the whole neighborhood into a different place," said John Lombard, a Northgate resident with Thornton Creek Alliance. …

Thornton Creek breathes again at Northgate

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