Innovative Pilot Project Seeks to Grow a Forest More Resilient to Climate Change

An innovative pilot project will replant portions of logged land now owned by Seattle City Light to grow a new forest that could be more resilient to climate change.

Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust and its partners – City Light, Seattle Public Utilities and the Northwest Natural Resource Group — received a $140,000 grant to reforest portions of the Stossel Creek area in the Tolt watershed northeast of Carnation. The grant money is being provided by the Wildlife Conservation Society through its Climate Adaptation Fund, a program supported and established by a grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

“Stossel Creek presents a unique opportunity to test innovative, new habitat restoration methods designed to increase resiliency to climate change for Western Washington forests,” said Jon Hoekstra, executive director of the Greenway Trust.

A volunteer from Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust clearing invasive brush.

Trees on the 154-acre site were harvested by a private land company in 2012. Since then, the site has experienced new plant growth, but with few trees. Invasive species have taken hold in some areas. City Light purchased the land in 2015 as part of its Endangered Species Act Early Action Plan to conserve and enhance habitat for steelhead.

Crews and volunteers will reforest the site with native conifer species, such as Douglas Fir and Western redcedar. Instead of using only subvarieties that are native to Washington, this project also will include trees sourced from southwestern Oregon that are better adapted to warmer temperatures and drier summers.

“The climate of the Stossel Creek area is projected to be similar to southwest Oregon’s by the end of the 21st century,” explains Crystal Raymond, a climate adaptation specialist who helped secure the grant while she worked for City Light. “Therefore, the trees adapted to southwestern Oregon are expected to be better suited to the Stossel Creek site as the climate warms. By increasing the tree genetic and species diversity, the site’s resiliency to climate change will increase over time.”

Work to control invasive plant species and site preparation at Stossel Creek will begin this spring and planting new trees will begin in the fall. After planting, the team will have several opportunities to monitor success and share lessons learned from the project.

This pilot project will inform future climate-adapted restoration practices for lands owned by City Light, Seattle Public Utilities and other owners in the region. The long-term goal of the reforestation effort is to establish a diverse forest that will be adapted to the climate of the mid to late 21st century.

Recently, KING 5 visited the site to cover the project. Click here to watch the story featuring City Light’s Denise Krownbell.

Seattle City (spot)Light: Lee Simpkins

Lee Simpkins recently celebrated 36 years with Seattle City Light. He currently serves as the director of field operations, a position he’s held the past two years. “I oversee the day-to-day activity of the utility’s distribution and transmission operations,” Lee explained. “This includes overhead and underground crews; civil construction; streetlighting; scheduling and planning; and system operators. There are about 300 people in our division.”

Born and raised in Florida, Lee grew up near the Fort Lauderdale area. “I attended college on a basketball scholarship, but after a couple of years, I decided to join the Navy,” Lee said. “I had always wanted to see the world and I knew the service would provide me with invaluable experience.”

Lee lives in Shoreline with his wife Brenda, their two children and their niece and nephews. “Our family keeps pretty busy,” Lee shared. “Our kids play soccer and I also coach their basketball team. My wife and I do like to play a round of golf whenever we can, though!” In this week’s (spot)Light, Lee talks about his career at City Light and his time in the Navy.

Lee and Brenda vacationing in Florida

“I served as a radio technician in the Navy. We sent and received radio communications from ship to ship, shore to shore. My first duty station was near San Diego, but we traveled all over the world. Traveling was something I greatly enjoyed. We visited the Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania…so many different places. Australia was my favorite place. It’s just beautiful. I also played on the All Navy Basketball team and spent considerable time traveling to different ports to play games. ”

“After my tour in the Navy, I planned on sticking around Seattle for a couple months before heading back to Florida. I ended up falling in love with the area. I found a job at City Light and that’s how my career at the utility began. I started as a lineworker apprentice. Through the years, I moved through the ranks as a journeymen lineworker, crew chief, supervisor and manager. All those steps led to my current role. It’s been very rewarding. I had no idea how my career would progress, but I took advantage of the opportunities the utility offered. I’ve had many mentors and supporters who’ve encouraged me; that’s always been the City Light way. That aspect of the utility—that family-type atmosphere—is special. You get to know the people you work with; they’re not just co-workers, they’re life-long friends.”

“Going through the ranks at City Light provided me with the ability to see things from various perspectives. On any given day, I can be faced with a myriad of issues and challenges that come across my desk. One minute I could be addressing a customer complaint or employee issue and the next minute I could be deeply involved in a procedural matter or preparing for an impending storm. Each day is interesting and challenging.”

“My family is my inspiration, especially my wife who reminds me to always look for the best in people, to be positive and to try to put yourselves in the other person’s shoes. For the most part, I believe people oversee their own destiny and that they can achieve their heart’s desire, understanding that it comes with sacrifice. If you’re willing to make those sacrifices, you have a fighting chance.”

10 Ways to Prepare for This Week’s Stormy Conditions

In case you’ve missed it, the National Weather Service predicts stormy weather this week in the Puget Sound area. These stormy conditions are expected to begin Tuesday, Oct. 17, and have the potential to last until late in the evening of Thursday, Oct. 19. If your power goes out, please check City Light’s outage map to get regular updates on the outage status.

Image via National Weather Service

Now is the time to take action by creating a plan for you, your family and your property. Here is a short list of tips to be safe and prepared for this week’s storm:

1) Clear out your drains and gutters 

Leaves are still on trees at this point in the fall season. Rain and high winds may cause trees to lose their leaves, and the additional drag created by leaves makes broken branches far more likely.  if you can, prune the trees on your property; less broken branches lead to less outages.

2) Unplug electrical appliances

Be sure to turn off electrical appliances to prevent fires and equipment damage. Some electrical appliances to consider unplugging before a storm hits are computers and televisions; you don’t want to lose files or expensive equipment.

3) Stay away from downed power lines

Downed power lines are extremely dangerous. If you come across any downed lines, do not approach or touch anything in contact with the wire, as it could be energized. If you see a downed power line, call 911 or (206) 684-7400. You can also report downed power lines to City Light’s Twitter and Facebook accounts.

4) Be cautious with generators and grills

Use generators with care during a power outage and always use portable generators outside in well-ventilated areas. Never plug a generator into your home circuitry. Instead, plug in appliances directly into the outlets on the generator. Do not use your charcoal or propane grills indoors.

5) Have your emergency kit and a plan ready

Prepare an emergency kit if you haven’t already. Some ideas to include are a working flashlight, glow-in-the-dark stick lights, wind-up clock, portable radio, manual can opener and mylar blanket. During a major storm, have a plan for locating family members in case you are not with them.
(For more information about emergency kits and plans, please visit:

6) Keep your phone ready

Cordless phones will not work without electricity. Have a corded or cell phone available. If your cell phone is your primary phone, make sure it is charged and you have a phone charger ready. Now is a good time to charge up your external batteries, too.

7) Prepare your life-support systems

If you rely on electric life-support machines, make sure you have emergency power and know how to operate it. Make sure your system has an alarm to alert you if the power goes out.

8) Remember the rules of the road

In the event you encounter an intersection with a dark or flashing signal, treat the intersection as an all-way stop.

9) Close your refrigerator/freezer

Keep your fridge and freezer closed as much as possible. A full refrigerator will maintain safe temperatures for up to six to 10 hours; a full freezer up to two days. In most cases, food should be safe if refrigerators and freezers remain closed while the power is out. When in doubt, throw it out.

10) Remember Your Pets!

Household pets such as cats, dogs, fish and birds may require special care. Contact your veterinarian for more information.



If you experience an outage, please report it by calling (206) 684-3000.

Don’t forget to visit the Seattle City Light Outage Map to get updates on restoration work, as well as following us on  Twitter and Facebook.

For more information on how to prepare for this winter’s weather, visit