GSI Summit Focuses on ‘Getting Growth Right’

The Office of Sustainability & Environment is pleased to again be sponsoring and serving on the host committee for our region’s 2nd annual day-long Green Infrastructure Summit, taking place on Thursday, February 16th at the Mountaineers Club.

The Summit, convened by Stewardship Partners, will bring together  thought leaders from government, academia, business, and the non-profit sector to share models for innovation and strategize on intersectional green solutions to stormwater pollution – solutions that improve neighborhoods, help us prepare for climate change, and further racial equity in our communities during this time of intense growth across the region.

This year, Summit organizers are thrilled to welcome MacArthur Genius award-winner, Majora Carter, as the event’s keynote speaker and Seattle Public Utilities’ new director, Mami Hara, as its closing speaker. There is still time to register!  Visit  www.12000raingardens.org/summit/  for additional information. We look forward to seeing you on the 16th!

Updated – Are YOU Prepared for Landslides?

–Wetter conditions expected this winter

Did you know that most landslides occur between the months of November and March? Or that Seattle just set a record for the most rainfall ever in the month of October? As rainfall continues to increase throughout the fall, the threat of landslides will continue to rise this winter.

Landslide season is upon us, so the City of Seattle is urging residents to take preventive measures to protect themselves and their property from possible landslides.

Most landslides are caused by water (e.g. rainfall, uncontrolled stormwater) or human activity that increases the weight at the top of the slope or reduces the stability at the bottom of the slope.

With 20,000 Seattle properties (mostly residential) in landslide-prone areas, the Seattle’s Department of Construction and Inspections (Seattle DCI) encourages property owners to take preventive measures to protect themselves from landslides by:

  • Checking downspouts; making sure they are functioning/routed to a safe location
  • Maintaining drainage systems by clearing away leaves and debris
  • Inspecting sloped areas for indications of soil movement and erosion
  • Shutting off irrigation systems and checking it out seasonally
  • Keeping fill and yard waste off slopes
  • Knowing when to seek professional help for hillside projects

Visit our website to understand if you’re at risk and how to be prepared. Helpful tools include:

  • Landslide tutorial
  • Interactive GIS Map
  • Landslide Prone Area Map
  • Do’s & Don’ts

If a landslide damages your property and you have an immediate concern for your safety, leave the premises and call 9-1-1. Seattle property owners with structures that may be affected or endangered by a landslide should also contact Seattle DCI at (206) 615-0808 so that a building inspector can respond and perform an initial assessment of the structure.

To view the current conditions of the USGS rainfall threshold for landslides, please visit: http://landslides.usgs.gov/monitoring/seattle/rtd/plot.php.

Are you Applying for Water Service from Seattle Public Utilities?

Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) is changing its Water Service Application requirements. They’re doing this to streamline interdepartmental coordination between SPU and Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT). This will help them to ensure all pavement related to water projects in the public right-of-way is properly restored.

Starting December 12, 2016, you must include the following when submitting your water service application to SPU’s Development Services Office (DSO):

  • An issued SDOT 51M (pavement restoration) permit, OR
  • A 60% complete Street Improvement Permit plan approved by SDOT showing the complete restoration of all water related work on the paving plans

For more information, please contact the DSO at (206) 684-333 or spu_dso@seattle.gov.

Green Infrastructure Can Help Save Our Salmon

 

Salmon are a cornerstone of our cultural identity in Seattle and the Pacific Northwest. Salmon are vital to our economy, our environment and our sense of place. The health of our native salmon runs has been identified as an indicator of the overall health of Puget Sound and local streams. Scientists have been researching the connection between declining salmon populations and urban stormwater pollution. These scientists have discovered a major threat to the health of our salmon but they have also discovered a simple solution that mitigates the impacts 100% of the time.

As our human population grows, so does the magnitude of pollutants released into our waterways. Large quantities of contaminants such as metals, petroleum-derived compounds like oil, grease, vehicle exhaust, and detergents accumulate on our roadways and parking lots where there is no absorption. Every time it rains, these containments are washed directly into storm drains and into our creeks, lakes, the Duwamish River, and Puget Sound. Researchers have now found a direct link between polluted urban stormwater runoff and salmon mortality.

A recent straightforward study exposed salmon to stormwater runoff from a local highway.  In every case, the salmon died within 4 to 6 hours. The conclusion was clear: stormwater pollution is lethal to salmon. However, the study also tested a potential solution. When researchers first filtered the highway runoff through a column filled with a soil mixture and then exposed the salmon to this cleansed water, they survived 100% of the time.
Filtering water through a living, plant-soil system is the basis for green stormwater infrastructure (GSI). The City of Seattle has listened to the science and determined this is a direct influence we can have on Puget Sound. By using GSI we can help to improve water quality and prevent more contaminants from reaching our waterways. For this reason, we have set an ambitious goal to accelerate the use of green infrastructure in our city and are also supporting regional green infrastructure efforts.

The Washington Nature conservancy created a great short video highlighting this research. You can find the video at http://www.washingtonnature.org/cities/solvingstormwater

For more information on the research: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0045653514014805

For more info on what the City of Seattle is doing with GSI visit our webpage: http://www.seattle.gov/environment/water/green-stormwater-infrastructure

 

Seattle’s equity and environment agenda aims to flip the script for social justice

Reposted from Resource Media

April 25, 2016

The Duwamish is Seattle’s only real river. It is also the city’s only Superfund site, and it’s a doozy, a complex mishmash of contaminated mud and sediment from years as Seattle’s main industrial artery. People live along the Duwamish, lots of people. 60 percent of these residents are people of color. According to a report by the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition:

“Duwamish Valley residents are more likely to live in poverty, be foreign born, have no health insurance or leisure time, and are more likely to be sick. Georgetown and South Park residents have up to a 13-year shorter life expectancy (at birth) than wealthier parts of Seattle.”

So when Seattle Mayor Ed Murray came to banks of the Duwamish on the morning of Earth Day to announce Seattle’s new equity and the environment agenda, he was standing on ground zero for the connection, or far too often, the disconnect between social justice and environmental protection. As 2014’s Green 2.0 report outlined in stark terms, mainstream environmental groups remain predominantly white, both nationally, and here in Seattle. Jose Vasquez, the Director of Programs for the Latino Community Fund and a resident of the Duwamish Valley put it this way. “We are the first to be impacted and the last to be included.”

Of course this troubling gap between impact and inclusion is sometimes explained away by the baseless claim that people of color don’t care as much about the environment as white people do. If the consistent polling that shows the exact opposite to be true isn’t enough to crater that myth, the array of dedicated activists standing behind the Mayor when he announced the agenda presented a penetrating image of the real face of environmental change. Jose Vasquez said, “Today, we are flipping the script.”

The people doing the script-flipping are people of color who lead by working in and advocating for their communities. Their organizations often struggle to get funding, especially when compared to mainstream environmental groups. That is one of the discrepancies the people standing behind the mayor have been wrestling with for the last 12 months.  They were part of a Community Partners Steering Committee that worked many hours to draft Mayor Murray’s ambitious agenda. At a high level, the agenda seeks to address inequities in the environmental health of the places people of color live, inequities in city-level decision making, inequities in the opportunities people of color have to participate in efforts to make their communities safer and more just. Running through all the agenda items is an idea that amounts to common sense. People bearing the brunt of a problem like poor water quality or inadequate open space or barriers to civic participation usually have some of the most insightful and specific solutions.

I saw that principle in action first hand when Resource Media participated in the latter part of the agenda development as a mainstream ally group. During one of the opening exercises, both the mainstream and people of color (POC) led groups were asked to list ideas for addressing environmental justice inequities in Seattle. The ideas from the POC led groups were specific and actionable. The ideas from the ally groups, including my own, were flaccid platitudes by comparison. It drove home a lesson for me that was very much on mind as I watched Mayor Murray on the banks of the Duwamish, flanked by the people who can actually make his agenda come to life if we give them the resources and support they need and deserve. As the Mayor himself said “We need to create environmental leaders who look like this city.” Based on my experience working with his steering committee, we already have them if we choose to listen.

Written By: Scott Miller, CEO of Resource Media