Recent Seahurst Slide May Put City of Burien on Slippery Slope

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This drain at the top of Eagle Landing Park is causing concern for residents of Seahurst.

Story & Photos by Scott Schaefer

A recent series of slides – and claims that the City of Burien is knowingly draining run-off water into an earthquake-sensitive slope – has many Seahurst area residents overflowing with anger.

Water is flowing from a city-managed drain directly into the ground above the parking lot of Eagle Landing Park at 25th Ave SW and SW 149th (see video below), causing – according to resident John White – dangerous slide conditions in the park as well as surrounding properties.

White says it’s causing areas below to slide, putting an historic 164-foot fir tree – which has been labelled as an ‘Eagle Perch’ – in danger, along with the bottom portion of the 290-step staircase of the park.

White – whose piledriving company installed anchors for the Hood Canal Bridge, drove the foundations for the Big Wheel on the Seattle waterfront, and is currently driving the piles for the new 520 bridge – has worked with geotechnical soil reports for more than 35 years, so he probably knows a thing or two about slides.

Here’s a video White recorded on a recent day showing water flowing from the city drain, at a rate he says is around “1,310 gallons per minute” – equal to around 78,600 gallons per hour:

“The runoff water is flowing straight into the ground, right into the slope,” White told The B-Town Blog during a recent tour of the area. “At the bottom of this hill there’s a slide area that’s threatening a 164-foot fir tree. There’s even a small creek flowing out from the bottom of the slide area at the bottom.”

White adds the city has rejected many years of citizen complaints regarding the drainage at Eagle Landing Park, maintaining that the slope has natural springs that saturate the hill year-round and that “slides are normal.” He says that while this is true, it calls for a “common sense” solution.

“If the city knows the earthquake-sensitive slope is saturated even in the summer months, then directing thousands of gallons of storm water into this slope is a recipe for a slide disaster,” he said.

He says he understands this is a process as he works with the city manager and public works.

“The locals predicted the slides and now they have appeared, eroding property owned by 400 citizens who are part of the Seahurst Community Beach. In addition, the Eagle Landing stairs concrete platform bulkhead foundation has been waged out and it’s pin piles exposed.”

White has contacted the city’s Public Works Department about this issue, and he’s not happy with their response.

“The city is denying that they’re doing anything wrong here,” White said. “But it’s common sense not to pump water into a critical slope. Water has to go somewhere, and the city’s been pouring it directly into this slope. There’s no doubt in my mind that that’s what’s causing all the slide damage below.”

According to the U.S. Geological Survey’s website:

“Slope saturation by water is a primary cause of landslides…”

White adds:

“I’m not about raising or citing issues without proposing solutions. I’m ready to fund construction of a pipeline down to the water.”

The only problem? The city and he both agree that the “Herbie” – or bottleneck – is the amount of regulations and permits that the City of Burien will have to apply for to get a pipeline.

We reached out to City Manager Mike Martin, along with the city’s Parks as well as Public Works Department, all of whom chose not to respond to our request for comment.

White showed us the slide areas in question, and here are some photos showing the damage (click images to see larger versions):


John White points to the bottom bulkhead of the Eagle Landing Park stairs, which he says is “on the verge of collapse” due to slides caused by the city’s drainage.


Closeup of the bottom of the stairs shows just how precarious it is.


John White points to a 164-foot ‘Eagle Perch’ tree which he says is also on the verge of falling due to the city’s draining water into Eagle Landing Park.


White claims that erosion shown in this photo of the city’s maintenance trail ironically came directly from the city’s drain above.

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13 Responses to “Recent Seahurst Slide May Put City of Burien on Slippery Slope”
  1. davyd says:

    weird. I think I was there haha that day he was taking those photos! didn’t know it was this story. too funny. davy

  2. Tom says:

    It is arrogant for a small town city manager to refuse to comment on an issue involving public works and parks.

  3. Chris says:

    Hmm, I agree the drainage needs to be addressed, however the stairs near the beach are damaged mostly due to high tides.

  4. L. Mascarello says:

    I totally agree that it is not acceptable to not take a stand and comment about something as important as this. The homeowners have every right to have this taken care of and the many users of the stairs. To ignore this is really sad and unprofessional. Should have been dealt with long ago.

  5. Lee Moyer says:

    This park is an unstable slope that naturally erodes and slides once in a while. Slides and damage are not the same thing. The culvert seems to be a storm drain outlet that runs along the road. It is not pumped but it is concentrated and gets higher than natural peak flows due to the development above it. Letting it run onto the surface and percolate through the soil, as other runoff in the area is doing naturally, is the cleanest way to get it to the sound. A pipe would conduct the pollutants from the impervious surfaces above directly into the sound.
    Every time I visit the park I am impressed with the effort that went into building the stairs. I appreciate them and they seem to have been well made, but the whole area is unstable and they will need to be redone at some point.
    This type of erosion is a major source of fine aggregate for the quality beaches like Seahurst Park. Compare that with the beach in the Indian Trail area where all of the shoreline is bulkheaded so there is no renewal of aggregate, the beach has eroded to coarse cobble and the bulkheads themselves are being undercut as the beach level lowers.
    The area below the culvert should be left as natural as possible. Above the road the situation could be improved by the city putting in a retention pond (probably not feasible) or the land owners putting in rain gardens (very feasible), This would increase biofiltration and reduce peak flows through the culvert.
    None of this is news to the city (I hope). Too bad they can’t take the time to explain to the citizens.

  6. Eagle Landing Park was set aside for community access to a beautiful woodland; to preserve this centuries-old slope and wetland ecosystem; and to protect at least a portion of the natural “littoral drift” that continually renews the shores of Puget Sound, as sand and gravel from feeder bluffs like this erodes into the water, then drifts slowly south. A decision whether to redirect water flow from above should bear in mind these basic reasons for Eagle Landing Park’s existence, and for why humans today value it.

    As far as the threat to the Eagle Landing stairway, the pin piles (two-inch steel pipes) on which the stairway rests penetrate a minimum of three feet into the hard bearing layer, which is encountered at depths from 5-14 feet below the surface. These pin piles extend from the concrete footings visible under the stairs; the footings themselves rest just above the surface. My understanding is that the surface soils can continue to flow around the pin piles and underneath the footings, leaving the stairs themselves undisturbed. If you look closely, you can see that the steel girders supporting the steps are bolted to the footings in such a way that a bit of movement is allowed there as well.

    No matter what your point of view, Eagle Landing Park is a wonderful place, built in a spirit of preservation and enjoyment for everyone.

  7. Anna Tourinsky says:

    It’s noteworthy that John White recently purchased the Branson house next to Eagle Landing Park and he has been very busy removing numerous trees and underlying flora all the way down the slope from his house. It appears he has own agenda.

    • Burienite says:

      Are you kidding me?!?! If that is indeed true, this whole story and his “concern” for the issues he raised about drainage, errosion and the park as a whole is invalidated.

      • John White says:

        Dear Anna,

        I sincerely hope your comments were just a simple misunderstanding. The work you see on the slope is part of a habitat restoration project, it was done under City of Burien permit and performed by Earth Corps. The same consultants the city uses. They were hired to remove all invasive plant species on the slope and planted hundreds of slope stabilizing shrubs and trees to help prevent future slides.

        On another note, I walk the trail everyday and have not seen Sasquatch.

        Best Wishes,


        PS: If you would like, I would be happy to show you the ongoing work Earth Corps is doing at Forest Ledge. Just give me a call at 206-498-9400

        • Anna Tourinsky says:

          I appreciate your clarifying the situation as it was of a concern because the entire slope looks so open and vulnerable. I didn’t get the “Sasquatch” reference.

          • John White says:

            Sasquatch – someone claimed (on the blog) to have spotted a Sasquatch in the park and offered a $100 reward to anyone that sees one. –


  8. Loren says:

    Ah, the plot thickens…….

  9. Ingrid Hansen says:

    For many years I have enjoyed paddling along this beach. It is beautiful and a great wildlife habitat as well. Natural infiltration is best, but artificially collecting and channeling several blocks of road runoff in the the slope, now party mine, is unfair. The city drainage pipes shouldn’t bring water from as far away 146th and 24th to add to an already saturated hillside. I’ve been pleased to see the effort by EarthCorps to remove invasives and plant over 800 shrubs and trees, generously funded by Mr. White.


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