These hillside alders have been topped; county officials will determine if there was wrong-doing involved. (Susan Riemer/Staff Photo)

These hillside alders have been topped; county officials will determine if there was wrong-doing involved. (Susan Riemer/Staff Photo)

County officials to investigate tree cutting

County officials from the sheriff’s office and the permitting department are investigating the topping of several alder trees on Van Olinda Road to determine if a crime was committed or an ordinance violated

The owner of a portion of the property, David Kappler, lives in Issaquah and said he had no knowledge that it had occurred until an islander tracked him down two weeks ago and alerted him. When he came out initially to take a look, he said it was nearly dark and he did not see the full scope of the cutting, which he estimates included at least 50 trees on half of his 1-acre property. Last week, he came out during the day and was disturbed by the damage he found.

“This was very deliberate; this was not an accident,” he said. “The property boundaries are known. It was blatant.”

Kappler purchased the property in 1990 and intended to garden there, but later decided not to do so. Instead, he said, he left it undisturbed for animal activity. A longtime conservationist, he said the cutting of the trees will damage them, causing rot to set in.

‘You do not top alder trees,” he added.

He noted also that many of the trees had grown up in the site of a former landslide.

Once he viewed the trees, many of which had about 60 percent of their tops removed, he alerted the King County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) and filed a complaint with the Department of Permitting and Environmental Review (DPER). He also contacted King County Roads.

KCSO spokesman, Sgt. Ryan Abbot said that the incident report states that a deputy followed up with a neighbor, who said that Puget Sound Energy previously indicated they wanted to cut some of the trees back, but they did not get to it, so he told them he would follow up to reduce power outages and enhance the view.

Abbot said the report indicates that he arranged for “pollarding” of the trees, which is the removal of the upper branches of a tree to keep them smaller than normal. It promotes growth of foliage and branches.

Abbot indicated that the case is being turned over to detectives for further review and follow-up.

At DPER, Sheryl Lux said last week that a code enforcement officer, in conjunction with DPER critical areas staff, will investigate the situation and determine if a clearing permit will be required, what critical areas may be involved and what corrective measures may be necessary.

That investigation was expected to begin this week, she said, and is expected to take a couple weeks. Upon completion, she said DPER will send the property owner and any identified violator a letter of violation and corrections needed if a violation is found.

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