Ballard Siphon project moving forward

Underneath Salmon Bay run a pair of 75-year-old sewer pipes that needs to be replaced. The old wooden pipes convey about 60-million gallons of sewage to the West Point Treatment Plant near Discovery Park every day. According to Annie Kolb Nelson with the King County Wastewater Treatment Division, the pipes are at the end of their lifespan.

The Metropolitan King County Council recently secured funding to replace the wooden pipes with larger concrete segments. The new 85-inch pipes will help ease the combined sewer overflows, which are overflows of stormwater and wastewater that occur during heavy rains in older parts of Seattle. “The County was able to use our strong credit rating to secure a low rate loan that will allow the Ballard Siphon to be upgraded while saving money for ratepayers, creating jobs, reducing sewer overflows, and improving water quality,” said Councilmember Larry Phillips, who represents Ballard on the County Council. “This really is a win-win for people living in the Ballard area and for the entire county.” The $20-million, 20 year loan with a 2.8 percent interest is with the Washington State Department of Ecology. According to a release sent out by King County, this loan It will save the County an estimated $26.9 million in interest compared to conventional bond financing.

Kolb-Nelson tells us that they are currently looking for a contractor for the project and once started, the project will take two-and-a-half to three years. There will be two portals – one in Ballard, one in Magnolia. “People should expect impacts during construction – noise, dust, the presence of heavy equipment and possible traffic impacts,” Kolb-Nelson says. “King County will work with the public and the contractor to take reasonable steps to minimize impacts where we can.” The county will appoint a community relations contact if citizens have questions or concerns.

Construction on the Ballard Siphon project is expected to begin later this year. (Old photo courtesy Seattle Municipal Archives. Disclosure: King County Councilman Larry Phillips is a sponsor of MyBallard.)

Red Mill Burgers eying old Totem House location

We heard the rumor over the weekend, so did the Seattle Times columnist Nancy Leson: Red Mill Burgers is eying the old Totem House location across from the Ballard Locks. Leson confirms that John Shepherd, the owner of Red Mill, and his sister/business partner, Babe, are indeed interested in the location.

“We want to save the Seattle icon,” Shepherd tells Leson. “We want to put in top-quality fish, sell halibut fish n’ chips, add five or six Red Mill signature burgers, Babe’s onion rings and restore all the totem poles and the whole building. It would be an awesome thing to do.”

So far the Shepherds have not heard from the current owner of the Totem House, which closed suddenly at the end of 2010. Red Mill Burgers currently has two other locations in Seattle. One on Phinney Ridge, one in Interbay.

You can read Leson’s entire article here. (Thanks @rainydaygal1 for the Tweet and SeattleRichardson for posting in the forum!)

Free tax help at the library starts Thursday

Although tax day is still months away, you can get help with your returns now. The Seattle Public Library, United Way of King County and the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) are offering free tax preparation services at eleven Seattle library branches. Trained volunteers will be available to answer questions and help prepare personal tax returns. Business tax returns are not eligible for the free service.

Help will be available at the Ballard Library (5614 22nd Ave NW) each Thursday starting February 3 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The tax help will continue every Monday 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. and Thursday through April 14th. Drop-ins are welcome, or you can call the branch for an appointment (206-684-4089)

For a complete list of times and library branch locations, click here.

Group submits petition to FAA regarding airspace

The Magnolia Community Club reports that it has collected and forwarded 74 pages of petitions to the FAA  in opposition to the proposal to lower the Class B airspace over Magnolia and parts of Ballard and Queen Anne. 

Well over one hundred people showed up at a Community Club meeting last November to express concern about the proposed change that would lower the floor from 3000 feet to 2000 feet above sea level.  That would mean larger planes flying lower and with more frequency over Magnolia.


The FAA will accept written comments (in triplicate) until Monday (1/31).  If you would like to submit your comments, click here for the information.

Students conduct an oil spill drill

Ballard High School students are learning how to handle oil spills. On Thursday, students in the school’s Maritime Academy conducted an “oil spill drill” as part of their Sophomore Maritime Survey. The fictitious spill took place off Port Angeles where one oil tanker collided with another vessel.

Students using ESI (environmental sensitivity index) maps to determine what animals would be affected by the spill

The students were divided into five teams: Command, science, logistics, prediction and safety. During the drill the students had to determine the best method to contain, clean up and restore the area of the spill.

“One key to the success is the communication between the different groups,” John Foster of the Maritime Academy tells us. “The science team relays information about the spilled product and the animals effected, the logistics team figures out where spill response equipment is kept, and how to get it to the site, the prediction team tells the others where the spill is likely heading and the safety team ensures that the clean up is done safely. Taking all this information, the command team must come to a decision about how to best attack the spill.”

Students using a nautical chart of the Strait of Juan De Fuca to explain where the oil spill is headed

“The students had to demonstrate their familiarity with different types of spill response equipment (containment boom, skimmers, etc.), nautical charts, NOAA oil spill response software, tide tables and federal guidelines for spill response.,” Foster tells us. “Within an hour the teams were able to locate the spill, predict its trajectory for the next three days, organize and stage equipment to respond, and set up a decontamination station for effected personnel and animals.”

If you’re not familiar with the Ballard Maritime Academy, it is a three-year program at Ballard High School with a hands-on curriculum that focuses on introducing students to the maritime industry and marine sciences. (Thanks John for the photos and information!)

What makes your neighbors so great?

Seattle’s 17th annual Neighbor Appreciation Day is February 12th and the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods wants to hear what makes your neighbors so great. Post your good neighbor stories here and read what others are saying about what makes their neighborhood special.

Neighbor Appreciation Day is Seattle’s annual day to reach out to neighbors, create new bonds, and express thanks to those who help make your neighborhood a great place to live. Hundreds of people across Seattle will come together on February 12 (and the week of) to celebrate. To learn more about Neighbor Appreciation Day, click here. There you will find ideas, tools, e-greeting cards, and a listing of events.

Parking rates in Ballard to go down

The hourly rate for parking in downtown Ballard and at the Ballard Locks is going down. The current rate is $2, but today the Seattle Department of Transportation announced new rates, which includes a $.50 decrease for Ballard.

See a larger version of the map here.

Over the next two months SDOT will implement the new rates, which include rate increases for four neighborhoods and decreased rates in 11 neighborhoods.

Two weeks ago the city released its first parking rate modification plan which didn’t include a change for Ballard. “We’ve taken a critical second look at our data and methodology for setting parking rates,” said Charles Bookman, SDOT’s director of Traffic Management. “These modifications are a reflection of the mayor’s and City Council’s commitment to data-driven policies to make it more likely for motorists to find an open spot on the street.”

From SDOT:

In adopting the 2011 budget, the Seattle City Council directed SDOT to set rates to achieve an average of one or two available spaces per block in each neighborhood. During its review process, the department revised its methodology for achieving such on-street availability to more closely align with this policy direction. Most significantly, SDOT adjusted its target occupancy range to 71 percent to 86 percent, instead of the previously used 58 percent to 78 percent, which better corresponds to the seven parking spaces per block found on average in paid parking neighborhoods. The plan to extend paid parking hours for the nine neighborhoods with active nightlife and high evening parking demand, announced on January 14, remains unchanged.

Once the new rates have been in place for awhile, SDOT will collect data to determine if the new rates are successful at achieving SDOT’s goals.

Public meetings on Seattle schools transportation plan

Seattle Public Schools is holding a series of community meetings about proposed changes to its Transportation Plan for the 2011-12 school year.

The first meeting is from 7-8:30 p.m. tonight (Thursday) at Aki Kurose Middle School, 3928 S. Graham St.

The second meeting is from 6:30-8 p.m. next Thursday, Feb. 3, at Hamilton International Middle School, 1610 N. 41st. The third meeting is from 6:30-8 p.m. Wed., Feb. 8, at Chief Sealth International High School, 2600 SW Thistle.

The proposed Transportation Plan changes would save the district $4 million by creating new Transportation Zones for bus routes for attendance area elementary and K-8 schools.

The proposed changes would benefit students and families by decreasing the bus ride time for attendance area schools to 25 minutes or less. As routes will be shorter, buses are less likely to encounter the traffic delays that occur on longer routes, so families will find departure and arrival times to be more reliable. The plan also benefits the environment by taking about 80 buses off the roads and reducing the district’s carbon footprint.

Children within the transportation zone and outside of walk zones would be eligible for district-provided transportation. Transportation Zones would include the entire attendance area of a school, extending to areas within a 1.25-mile radius from the school and within the middle school service area. Existing walk zones to schools would still apply.

Bus transportation for middle schools, high schools, option schools, English Language Learners, Special Education and Advanced Learning would have minimal changes.

In addition to the new zones, some schools’ bell times would change, with some high schools and middle schools starting 10 minutes earlier and elementary schools starting five minutes later.

The School Board is scheduled to vote on the proposed plan at its Feb. 16 meeting. Opportunities to comment during public testimony are available at the February 2 and February 16 board meetings. For information about signing up for public testimony, visit the School Board website at

There’s money in old records – literally

For the last 20 years Janet Back’s husband has been fighting Parkinson’s disease. As a classical music lover, he used to buy records to play on his old turn table. Because of the disease, he can’t do that anymore.

“He’s pretty much in late-stage Parkinson’s and can’t walk a lot of the time, and you have trouble understanding him,” Back says with tears in her eyes. They decided recently to move him into an adult home, and because he doesn’t have the dexterity to use the turn table, Janet decided to sell his record collection.

After calling several stores, she discovered that Bop Street Records (2220 NW Market St.) is one of the few shops with a significant classical music section. So she decided to sell them her husband’s collection.

A couple of days after the boxes were dropped off at the store, Janet remembered something – her husband used to stick money in record sleeves.

Voorhees showing where Back’s husband would stash money.

Bob Jacobs and Bop Street owner Dave Voorhees agreed to go through the nearly 1,400 records to look for cash. “When we had only found $200, we called Janet and she was just overjoyed with 200 bucks, so then it became my mission. Let’s find more and more and more!'” Voorhees recalls.

Eleven hours later, after going through each record twice, they had the final tally: $3,553 had been stashed away. “He had the money stuck down in the covers or in some cases inside the paper sleeves,” Voorhees says.

“I didn’t even know how I was going to pay the deductible on my insurance,” Back says of her car that was in the shop. “We just don’t have extra. I mean everything… we’ve just struggled for years.”

A Bop Street employee, Bob Jacobs, Cory Nelson of Viking Bank, Janet Back and Dave Voorhees

“I think the thing that just blew me away was, you know, in this day and age I think that ethics, morals and standards have really started to slip and I think there are a probably a large percentage of people that would’ve found that money and just put it in their pocket and I would’ve never been the wiser,” she said.

Back gave Voorhees and Jacobs a small portion of the money they’d found, even though they tried to talk her out of it. That money will be donated to the Ballard Food Bank in Back’s name.

“I’m sure someday someone will buy one of these albums and find a special little chunk of money,” Back laughs, “And they’ll go ‘Yee haw!'”

Rep. Carlyle assumes vice chair of Higher Education Committee, aims for ‘genuine reform’

Rep. Reuven Carlyle of Seattle’s 36th district began the new legislative session and his second term in Olympia as vice chair of the Higher Education Committee this month.

“What I hope to do is to really bring about some genuine reform in our education system—in K-12 and higher education,” said Carlyle. “I have four young children, and that’s the heart and soul of who I am and why I ran for office.”

Carlyle has worked on the committee during the last two sessions, but this is his first in a leadership position.

The state’s education system is moving in a troubling direction that warrants immediate and profound action, according to Carlyle. He said this area of state government distresses him the most and characterizes the shift of funding from the state to the students as “a disaster waiting to happen.”

“The state is retreating from its obligation to open the doors of access to higher education, and it’s going to become more and more elite and privatized,” Carlyle said. “But there’s many of us giving it all we have fighting tooth and nail to try to educate the public about the value of changing course and really being much more aggressive about allowing everybody to access higher education, not just a small segment of society.”

Photo from Carlyle’s Facebook page.

Carlyle will also serve as a member of the budget-writing Ways and Means Committee. This is his first time serving on the committee, which is especially critical given the state’s current economic woes.

“Our economy is going through the most extraordinary structural change in generations,” Carlyle said. “This is a time to break down old clichés and old stereotypes about state government and about taxes and services and to really honor the will of the public to rebuild our state.”

From Washington’s House Democrats website:

In the December special session, $588 million of the $1.6 billion budget deficit for the current budget cycle was addressed. How to address the remaining amount is the Ways and Means Committee’s first problem, before moving onto the projected $4.6 billion shortfall in the two-year budget starting in July.

“It’s time we thoughtfully lay out our state’s priorities and do our best to fund them,” Carlyle said. “I’ll be challenging colleagues to start fresh with our budgeting, and put dollars where we can unleash opportunity and the entrepreneurial spirit in our state.”

Also serving on the Ways and Means Committee are Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles and Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson, both representing the 36th district.

Carlyle will continue to serve on the Technology, Energy and Communications Committee, and hopes to use his voice to bring technological efficiency to the state infrastructure. The current session will run from Jan 10 to April 24.