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It all started one day when Joanna Buehler noticed surveyors while strolling through Timberlake Park. At the time it was a forested area down the shoreline from her home on Lake Sammamish. She asked, and learned that they were surveying for a pipeline, but they refused to give further details. Several phone calls later Joanna realized the proposed pipe could discharge polluted storm water into the lake. Naively, she thought that she could just let those making the decision know the harm the pipeline would cause, and they would do the right thing.

She soon learned it would take more than that. Save Lake Sammamish was co-founded in 1989 by Joanna Buehler and others concerned with the deteriorating lake conditions. Twenty four years later, Save Lake Sammamish is still hard at work educating, advocating and if necessary, litigating for Lake Sammamish.

Lake Aerial Photo

Lake Sammamish looking north. Aerial photo taken by Jerry Klein.

A relatively shallow, lowland lake in central King County, WA, Lake Sammamish has a surface area of approximately 8 square miles. Entirely surrounded by land zoned for high-density urban growth, it is continually threatened for survival as a healthy recreational resource and as salmonid habitat.

Kokanee Fry

Kokanee fry in Ebright Creek, photo by Roger Tabor USFWS

Adult Kokanee

Adult pair of Kokanee returning to spawn, photo by Roger Tabor USFWS

The 98 square mile Lake Sammamish watershed stretches from Redmond through Bellevue, and Issaquah to Preston and Hobart, and empties into the lake through numerous small streams and rivulets. The largest of these, Issaquah Creek, provides about 70% of the inflow to the lake. This water system is in continuity with groundwater in the Issaquah aquifer. Historically, the large volume of rain in this watershed (nearly twice the 35 inches a year that falls on Seattle) has been absorbed by the surrounding forests and, like a well-regulated reservoir, loose, sponge-like forest soils retained and then slowly released stored rainwater into the aquifer and surface streams. Such a natural system prevents flooding in winter but continues to supply clean, cold water to streams and aquifer in the dry months.

Where forests have been replaced by impervious surfaces–roofs, roads, parking lots–the loss of rain storage capacity as well as a more rapid rate of runoff, can lead to flooding. The increased frequency of “100-year floods” over the years despite the absence of “100-year storms” is an identifiable consequence of land conversion from forest to subdivision.

A lake reflects its watershed. Conversion of the watershed from forests to cities causes deterioration of water quality. That means the problem is all of us, everyone who lives in the watershed or even drives through it! Clearly we all have to be part of the solution. As the area urbanizes, the community must decide what to do with Lake Sammamish. Shall we continue to pollute until it is no longer an inviting recreational resource; a place to swim, sail, water ski, and fish? Shall we continue to pollute until it is uninhabitable by salmon and eagles? Shall we continue to pollute until Sammamish goes “Green Lake?” Or can we rise to the challenges of protecting Sammamish as an invaluable amenity in our community life?

Copyright 2013 • Save Lake Sammamish • Site Design by Adrian Tiliacos