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Originally published Monday, November 15, 2010 at 3:38 PM

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The Maury Island opportunity purchase

King County is locking up a valuable mineral resource for a county park, but the opportunity to secure Puget Sound waterfront for the public is a worthy trade off.

WILLING seller, eager buyer and available, dedicated funds to make it happen. That is the dynamic behind King County's plans to buy, preserve and protect 235 acres and a mile of Puget Sound shoreline on Maury Island.

Simple as that, give or take a dozen years of unrequited environmental desire, and negotiations involving the property owner, county, state and federal lawmakers and conservation groups. Even the slumping economy had a role.

Down the road, the absence of a nearby supply of sand and gravel for a robust Puget Sound economy might have its own long-haul environmental consequences, but securing undeveloped shoreline space is a triumph.

The Metropolitan King County Council was given the proposal on Monday and must approve the purchase, and should. Owner CalPortland Company, brought around in part by the downturn, wants the sale closed by the end of the year. That timing, along with the $36 million sale price, made it work.

Lots of credit to spread around for this achievement. King County Executive Dow Constantine chased this goal for years. State Rep. Sharon Nelson, an island resident, secured $14.5 million in ASARCO pollution settlement funds. The King County Conservation Futures Fund, for just such purchases, is paying $19.1 million. Another $2.4 million is a credit the owners accepted in exchange for extension of an existing mining lease on the island.

Cascade Land Conservancy, People for Puget Sound and others have agreed to raise $2 million to reimburse the county's conservative futures fund. Cascade Land Conservancy was a key negotiator in the multiparty discussions.

The county executive's office emphasizes that use of county conservation dollars does not shortchange or comprise Eastside trail plans in the old Burlington Northern Santa Fe freight corridor.

This rich addition to the county park system is intended for passive use, so there is minimal overhead going forward. Modest improvements would link the trail network to Maury Island Marine Park, north of the new property.

A valuable mineral resource will not be available, but taken in the aggregate, this is an extraordinary opportunity.

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