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March 2015: Lawn Transformations in Puget Creek Watershed

King County Wastewater Treatment Division is funding “lawn transformations” to reduce air pollution from lawn mowing. 5% of our nation’s air pollution comes from lawn mowing, pollution that taints rainwater and bio-accumulates in salmon, orcas, and us.  We have 8 Puget Ridge homes participating in the program, including Seattle Public Schools at Sanislo. Lawns are removed, then mulched and planted with native evergreens that help intercept winter stormwater, the number one polluter of Puget Sound. Thank you to all concerned!

September 2014: Sanislo Wetland Restoration Grant completed

Thank you (!) King County Wastewater Treatment Division for three years of funding to run workparties at Sanislo School Wetland. Much has been accomplished: blackberry controlled, ivy mostly out, and native plants established.  Some of our evergreen trees are already 6 feet tall!  Thank you to Seattle Public Schools and Sanislo administrators, and to hundreds of volunteers!

February 2012 News:  Workparty a Success!

Our February 25 workparty at Sanislo was a wonderful success – 25 people – parents, children, and neighbors showed up and grubbed out blackberry, planted native plants, and mulched bare soil.   We planted: 10 cedars, 50 Tall Oregon Grape, 6 Evergreen Huckleberry, 3 Pacific Rhodies, 25 Slough Sedge, 15 Vine Maple, 5 Twinberry, 3 Hooker’s Willow, 1 Oceanspray and some salal.  It was a neighborly outing with lots of chatting, work, and fun!

January 2012 News:  Sanislo Wetland Restoration:  Planting a Community

King County Wastewater Treatment Division has awarded a $25,000 grant to Puget Creek Watershed Alliance for the native plant restoration of Puget Creek’s headwaters at the Sanislo Elementary School wetland.  The community effort intends to improve wildlife habitat and the natural sponge needed to filter the #1 polluter of Puget Sound – stormwater.  The PCWAlliance and local restoration company, Garden Cycles, will hold monthly workparties (fourth Saturdays, starting Feb 25, 10am-1pm) to remove invasive blackberry and ivy, plant native trees, shrubs, and groundcovers, and spread woodchip mulch.  Volunteer coordinator Kimberly Leeper ((206.419.1836; will work with teachers and the school’s environmental education curriculum to engage students in planting and watering native plants.  See Volunteer Events page for information.

 May 2011 News:  Judith Noble of Seattle Public Utilities and Esther Handy, representative of City Councilmember Mike O’Brien graciously met with Steve Richmond on April 14 about the feasibility of moving forward with our goals for Puget Creek.  They expressed their personal support of our efforts, but explained the distinct limits of what the City of Seattle could do regarding federal matters (treaty obligations/recognition). There were many different subjects:

1)  Seattle Public Utilities has awarded a restoration contract for 8 acres of Puget Creek Natural Area (on SW Brandon & 19th SW) to a civil engineering firm, Ceccanti, Inc. from Tacoma.  This work is mitigation for wetland damage done at MLK Way/Norfolk Drainage Improvements and will start  in May 2011 with invasive removal; additional removal in September; and planting in November.

2)  I was asked about the progress from the National Park Service grant of “technical assistance” that PCWA was awarded in 2010, because it is from this platform that other grants can be leveraged.  My answer was that I was reluctant to follow through on NPS technical advice to organize a visioning project because it would be a cruel joke to the Duwamish Tribe if there was no money or support to pursue community and Tribal goals, but I nonetheless at NPS’ insistence finally approached the Tribal Council about the visioning process, and they politely did not respond.  A member later explained that the Duwamish Tribe has been through many such visioning processes over the decades and considered such efforts a “black hole” (waste of time), considering their efforts to daylight Puget Creek and the 30-yr struggle to establish a Longhouse in T-107 Park.  I also suggested that the Duwamish River Clean-up Coalition (the Duwamish Tribe is a member of the coalition) already has a Visioning document (it sits on a shelf) that is closely aligned with our goals.  I failed to mention that the Tribe’s vision can be found on their website (  This question clarified PCWA’s mission, that is, our intention is not to quietly solicit grants and professionally accomplish the work, but it is rather to lobby for a mechanism to create an opportunity for all citizens to “give back” to our environment, to personally make a contribution to address social justice through environmental reparations.  Other PCWA members are welcome to write grant applications, but I’m 1 for 7 in grant writing and remain skeptical of their payback .

3)  I asked about expanding the RainWise reimbursement program to the Puget Creek Watershed.  This program pays private property owners in Ballard (a priority basin/watershed) $4/sf of roof surface to mitigate their stormwater through a Rain Garden, up to $4000 per property if strict guidelines/paperwork are followed.  It is intended to address stormwater infrastructure at its source plus offer habitat/aesthetic benefits, rather than install expensive underground vaults to store stormwater to avoid its discharge (along with raw sewage) during heavy rain events.   SPU hopes the program will eventually be city-wide (in perhaps 10 years), but the next priority basin will be near Lake Washington.

4)  I asked about simplifying the City’s Environmental Critical Area permitting process for voluntary restoration, because less than 10% of residents are willing to file a plan or go through expensive SEPA reviews, so doing good work in ECA’s in effect criminalizes restoration.  There are good reasons to work cautiously to avoid erosion and landslide risks, but my point is that doing nothing due to bureaucracy is worse than overzealous restoration because the neglect of invasives will guarantee an increase in  landslides and reduction in tree cover.  The answer was that DPD (Department of Planning and Development) would need to change codes, but is receptive to looking into it further.

5)   I asked that the City’s Pesticide Reduction Policy be revisited to base “best practices” on scientific assessments of specific herbicide toxicity, rather than on public fear of all “pesticides,” because the continued loss of trees to ivy and blackberry will exacerbate polluted runoff during storm events that will be far worse than certain herbicides.  They suggested that I advocate for the use of the safest herbicide, which would likely be glyphosate without surfactants (oil/detergents that help the herbicide penetrate leaves – such surfactants, not glyphosate, are what’s toxic to fish/amphibians - it is similar to washing your car near a salmon stream).  Citizens, of course, are always welcome to address invasives manually, but please consider the gasoline/oil that gets burned/leaked in many volunteer efforts – FAR more toxic than glyphosate.

6)  I asked that the City consider lobbying the EPA to focus Duwamish SuperFund Cleanup money on restoration of the best habitat remaining in the Lower Duwamish Waterway (Puget Creek Watershed near the Longhouse, Kellogg Island, T-107 & Herring’s House Park), rather than waste money for cleanup that hasn’t address upstream sources of recontamination.  The answer was that the concentration of PCB’s are so persistent and carcinogenic that it made sense to get the bulk of it out, even if reduced concentrations are re-deposited from upstream sources.

7)  I asked about restoring Puget Creek’s headwaters at Sanislo playground elementary, and I was informed there was indeed grant potential through King County Conservation District to restore wetlands and enhance environmental curriculum.

8).  I asked about providing incentives to homeowners who install raingardens to manage roof runoff, and I was told of SPU’s Stormwater Facilities Credit for properties greater than 1/2 acre.

9)  I brought up daylighting Puget Creek across West Marginal Way SW (the Duwamish Tribe’s effort), and they suggested it may be possible to get the creek to the height needed to thread under the railroad tracks and over the wastewater pipes if the creek were to meander through T-107 Park, but this alternative was halted due to concerns about this being an archeological site.

10)  I ask about establishing local drop-off stations for oil pads (for leaky cars in the watershed) and Judith contacted SPU’s Hazardous Waste Division who answered:

a.      ” Wring out the pads as best as possible—the oil thus retrieved can be taken to the Household Hazardous waste sites.    b.       The pads should then be laid out to dry on a non-combustible surface.     c.       When dry, they can be disposed of in regular garbage.”       My thought is – it’s too complex, and requires a polluting trip to the Hazardous Waste site that is often closed.  We need mobile vans to pick up hazardous waste in our neighborhoods.

11)  I  asked about SPU joining the effort to save our urban forests as a stormwater strategy.  The sent me a link ( that explains evergreen trees absorb twice the rainfall as deciduous trees, and that the Office of Sustainability has directed $50,000 to SPU’s Green Stormwater Infrastructure Program - perhaps the cost of one staff position.  My response, hopefully not too critical, was:

“Thank you for your response and for the information.     Candidly, I was hoping that SPU would use its rate-raising capacity to partner/bolster Parks’ Urban Forestry efforts that are not keeping up with the rate of invasive re-infestation. Along with continued canopy decline, we are losing topsoil after ivy control – also important for stormwater absorption.  I think ratepayers will appreciate the clear and present need to save green stormwater infrastructure knowing invasives will be cheaper to address now rather than later.      $50K isn’t much in light of the property values, health of Puget Sound, and quality of life that will plummet if we don’t ramp up to turn around this decline.  If street trees are the best SPU can do, can we at least make some of them evergreen?  As your data suggests, evergreen trees absorb twice the rainfall and are more effective during winter when we need them most.      Let me know how I can help you address this challenge.  Sincere thanks for your efforts, and best wishes.”


Other News – April 2011:  After hundreds of hours of planning and design, neighbors are waiting to hear about the purchae of 2/3 acres for Puget Ridge Edible Park (PREP), a  neighborhood effort that applied for and was granted Opportunity Fund monies to establish a “permaculture” garden including native and edible plants designed with raingardens to filter road runoff before going into Puget Creek (on the westen edge of the proposed park).  A provision of the grant application offers a portion of the park for growing indigenous staples to be available to Duwamish Tribal members. As of November 2011, the purchase remains at an impasse due to the disparity between taxable assessed value and market value.  With markets values low, the city cannot pay what the owners are asking – the equivalent of the assessed value on which they pay property taxes.  PREP is looking for ways to raise the difference and move forward.