East Ballard Street Rain Garden Potential Sites Identified

As we mentioned in our March 2 post , The Russell Family Foundation recently awarded Antioch University Seattle with funding to site, design and build demonstration roadside rain gardens in the East Ballard neighborhood, while engaging citizens about the environmental effects of polluted runoff on human health and wildlife.  The roadside rain gardens will be designed to capture, filter, and slow rain storm events, and keep untreated polluted runoff from reaching Salmon Bay.

The following is the latest update from Cari Simpson, the project lead from Antioch:

We are so pleased with the response to this project! Over 60 individuals contacted us initially to learn more about rain gardens in their roadside planting strips. From that group we found six clusters of multiple neighbors around the area, and met with them to learn about their block, parking, and drainage concerns along their street. We then brought our engineers to the interested blocks and looked closely at the County and City Utility maps and drainage data. Without the funding to do a comprehensive drainage and geologic study, we have to go with their recommendations for feasible sites after walking the streets in the rain and looking at the roadway conditions.

At this point we have located four potential sites along 11th Ave NW between NW 58th and NW 56th, and will be working with these homeowners and our engineers and landscape designers to create attractive and functional roadside rain gardens that can be planted this Fall through an SDOT Street Use Permit process.  This location dovetails well with the proposed SDOT Ballard Greenway along NW 58th and the ongoing planning for the 14th Ave NW Park. We will keep everyone updated on the process, and we welcome anyone from the neighborhood to be part of our project Working Group to monitor the permit process with the City.

How the engineers helped us narrow down the choices
One thing we didn’t know until we talked with the engineers was that the storm drains on the East/West streets in this area of Ballard are connected to the sanitary sewer lines, and all this wastewater goes to the West Point wastewater treatment plant (or during heavy rains this wastewater does sometimes discharge into Salmon Bay from the 28th Ave NW Combined Sewer Outfall). The N/S streets such as 11th Avenue NW are not tied to this combined system, and the runoff goes into the catch basins and eventually flows untreated into Salmon Bay at the streetend of 11th Ave NW. From an engineering perspective, choosing a rain garden site on 11th Ave NW will reduce stormwater flows to Salmon Bay.

The goals of the grant are specifically focused on reducing flows of polluted runoff to Salmon Bay. In the near future, King County Wastewater Treatment Division (WWTD) will be investigating how best to reduce the Combined Sewer Overflows in the 11th Avenue basins and they will welcome your input.

McKee's Correct Road Map 1894 1895 topo

“Uncovering” a hidden creek
We also learned from residents that an historic creek used to run parallel to 11th Avenue NW, from where Ballard High School football field is now to Salmon Bay next to where the Fred Meyer store is located. There are anecdotal stories about catching large salmon in the creek in the early 1900s. The pics above are crops of 1894 and 1895 road maps that clearly show the creek entering Salmon Bay just east of the Ballard Railroad Bridge (what is now 14th Avenue NW). We are working with the University of Washington Department of Earth and Space Sciences to uncover additional details about the historic creek. If you know someone in the neighborhood who might remember the creek and the process of moving it underground into a pipe, please contact us.

We are excited about “uncovering” the hidden creek that runs under 11th Ave NW through public education and the eventual design of interpretive signs for the neighborhood. The history of the creek can guide our rain garden design process, so that we bring back plants native to the area pre-development, to improve the local environment for people and wildlife.

What’s Next?
The next steps are to get together with the City of Seattle Street Use staff and plan our permit process with our engineering liaisons at SvR Design. After that we will host a meeting with neighbors along the selected blocks. The engineers and I will ferry the permit through the city, but we will keep you updated on the progress, and get your feedback on how to make the process more accessible. Over the next few months we’ll work on the permit and the landscape design, and then once the permit is approved we can build them – with your help!

Resources about home rain gardens and cisterns
Kristi Gansworth, the Antioch University Seattle Graduate Assistant working on the project, and I will develop a packet of resources (online and as a PDF) about rain garden construction, cisterns, plants, soils, etc. for any homeowners who’d like to build a project in their own yard or in the planting strip (without cutting the curb).

A great place to start is here: http://www.12000raingardens.org/index.phtml

Your rain gardens can count toward the 12,000 rain gardens that Stewardship Partners and its research partners at Washington State University want to build by 2016.

You are invited!
Earth Day 2013
“Celebrating Puget Sound: Strategies for Clean Water”
Monday, April 22 from 4-9pm
Antioch University Seattle: 2326 6th Avenue, Seattle 98121

Join us for “Celebrating Puget Sound: Strategies for Clean Water.” Beginning at 4pm, interact with local organizations working for clean water at a resource fair; At 5pm Tracy Rector, a local documentary filmmaker of the upcoming “Clear Water” will talk about the Suquamish Tribe’s efforts to improve the health of Puget Sound; The keynote will be followed by a panel of local water quality advocates, and opportunities for attendees to learn more and get involved. Learn more about this free event  here, or connect with the project on Facebook. For more information, contact Kristi Gansworth at 206-268-4000 Ext. 5146.

We are pleased to have funding support for this event from the Russell Family Foundation and the Surfrider Foundation.