Drainage issues in roadside raingardens

To help reduce the amount of storm water that flows into the sewers, Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) is building roadside raingardens along 28th Ave NW.

The future raingardens are still under construction and some of them are filling up with water during major storms like we had last weekend, and aren’t draining. “The swales have been filling up during the heavy rains and the water has been sitting in them for days without draining,” Nancy, one of the neighbors emailed us. “A few days ago there was a group of folks with clipboards and cameras having a meeting on the sidewalk and looking at the full swales.”

“The drainage capability of the rain gardens will improve when the all of the weirs are installed and the landscaping is planted, mulched and growing,” Christine Woelfel, SPU Project Manager Supervisor tells us. “At present, some of the bio-engineered soil isn’t draining as anticipated and we’ll replace it before the plants and mulch go in.”

Woelfel tells us that the inlets for many of the raingardens are plugged with sandbags to keep the water out during construction, and they’ve discovered that the seal isn’t tight enough. “All this rain is complicating the construction and we’ve needed to pump out the rain gardens to dry them out quickly so the contractor can get back to work as soon as possible to complete the project,” Woelfel says.

“Additionally, the water depth in some of the unfinished rain gardens was deeper than 6-inches,” Woelfel says. “Since 28th Ave NW is a main path for school children, we wanted to be cautious and not allow deeper water, even on a temporary basis, so we pumped them out. Once the construction is done the raingardens will drain normally and pumping will be unnecessary.” (Thanks Nancy for the email and photo of the city pumping the raingarden.)

29 comments on “Drainage issues in roadside raingardens”

  1. this is not the problem. try driving down the new *modified* street. someone in planning screwed that one up!

  2. Thanks for the story. Interesting stuff! I have been wondering what was going on over there.

  3. Swales and weirs? Never thought I’d have to google terms associated with puddles.

    Hope this project turns around for the city. Sounded like a good idea on paper.

  4. Have a look at the new ‘no parking’ and other signage they installed in these quiet residential neighborhoods. really charming, the new industrial look.

  5. pretty exciting project – lets get more progressive projects in our neighborhood.

  6. I think you are a bit biased. Turns out it is too late to plant and have plants take hold this late in the season. But contractor was told to plant anyway, so we can waste our federal Tax dollars, let the plants die, and be green, pay to pull out the dead plants and replant in 2011? Check out 31st! SPU does not allow everyone to attend there meetings…I wonder why?

  7. why don’t you clowns wait until the damn thing is finished before delivering your criticism?

    expensive? yeah, well so is dealing with rain-water runoff with our waste water treatment facility.

    honestly, these comments represent ballard ignorance at it’s best.

  8. I’m willing to wait until the project is finished and I do have cautious optimism that it may all turn out okay (fingers crossed). However, even you gotta admit that if you walk down NW 77th street, all those No Parking signs (and the black/yellow arrow) signs make the neighborhood look hideous.

    Oh yeah, and my apologies to the bicyclist I didn’t seen last night going north on 28th Avenue NW . . . it was so narrow there, I was concentrating on avoiding the oncoming car at the time.

  9. Anyone who has a wet basement or does gardening in this area can tell you that there is hard pan of glacial till 1-3 feet below the surface. How many “perk” tests did the designer run in the area before construction? Perhaps planting cat tails will work, but there will probably still be standing water much of the year. We will need mosquito fish to protect the public health.

  10. in fact p., this neighborhood’s stormwater does go into the wastewater line (as do many older neighborhoods in seattle).

    sure you couldn’t build this sort of infrastructure today, but this project has real economic advantages at this specific location–that’s why they decided to build it.

    rain gardens are much more than just ‘feel good’ projects, which is also why the city is willing to design and install them in neighborhoods such as this.

  11. The Fens of Ballard! Just need to release some eels in there and it’ll be like merry ol’ England.

  12. Too late to plant? BS. For virtually anything but plants from seed, this is the ideal time to plant. Planting now gives the root system time to develop in a nice rainy climate so that the plants need less supplemental water in the summer. If you plant in late spring, you’re asking for dead sticks by September.

  13. Fair enough.

    Let’s just hope that these things work as planned. Forgive me for being skeptical of the SDOT and SPU engineers, but I have seen more local projects go wrong, or have unintended consequences, than I have seen go “right.”

  14. I was thinking the same thing- I work in restoration horticulture and NOW is when we are really busy planting. ( in the summer- it is Kill the blackberries)
    Throw some redtwig dogwood, & snowberry in there and you can get something to look at instead of puddles.

  15. What? How will plantings improve the ponding? Adding soil/plants only reduces the storage volume, its not going to make the water go away, and ponded too long stresses certain plants, heck they’ll turn into wetlands and we’ll get to hear spring peepers and get bit by mosies And if water is not infiltrating now without plants, is it going to improve? The infamous Ballard hard pan is shallow here so not far for water to travel down in the soil. But I will hope for improvement.
    BTW, these things need maintenance to keep the weeds out and prevent clogging the inlets, take a look at the rain garden on 14th Ave/59th St over by Ballard Market, its clogged and getting bypassed! And there are tons in Portland to look at for more examples.
    And sure, chopping off some of the 15-20 sewer overflows using these things is a grand idea in this area, but what is the city doing in the industrial areas that drain to the canal every time it rains, not just big rains that create the sewer overflows?

  16. I haven’t talked to one person in the neighborhood that appreciates what was done to 28th NW. Narrowing that street is ridiculous. With cars parked on both sides of the street, you can’t even drive down 28th NW without stopping for on coming vehicles. There were already speed bumps to slow traffic down. Another city project crammed down our throats.

  17. Here is the latest…the rain gardens froze over and now the city put measuring sticks in them…to measure water. To the experts in landscaping, who state: it is best to plant in the Fall, know now that the city is backfilling the entry ways with asphalt to stop water from entering the gardens to allow the plants a chance to grow. They should use the asphalt on all the
    pot homes. The rain gardens pose a grave
    dangers to the elderly and children, many of us
    have witnessed kids breaking thru the ice in already. I wonder how over budget this is.

  18. Why are they only regularly pumping water from the ones on 28th? 77th is a major walk route for kids going to and from Loyal Heights Elementary, and the “raingardens” between 28th and 29th are constantly filled with more than 6 inches of water. There is also a lovely array of garbage in them for everyone’s enjoyment. I supported these when I first heard about them but have completely changed my mind as has pretty much anyone I know who lives near one.

  19. We on 31st have ourshare of water too, these raingardens will not work in this area due to the soil we have. I showed a coworker the photos & he could not believe how crappy our once neat & well kept streets & parking strips look now. Dont dump more money in these ditches to knowhere, take out your ugly no parking signs & give us back our streets & parking.

  20. This isn’t progressive, this is a waste of money. Let’s think of what we are doing before we start something. Now half of these “rain gardens” are filled in with dirt. What a waste.

  21. If you drive by these everyday like I do, nothing has taken hold and everything that was planted is either dead or getting ready to die. Who’s the brainchild behind this mess. Way to ruin a perfectly wide road too.

  22. Hey yep clown…… they still don’t know what they want to do with these. What do have to say for yourself now????? Still a big mess all these months later…. any comments or words of wisdom???? Didn’t think so……

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