City will reimburse Ballardites for new raingardens

This soaking rain we’re having has to go somewhere, and Seattle Public Utilities wants it to soak back into the ground instead of flowing into our waterways. Excess storm water runoff can cause erosion, sewer backups and send pollutants into our salmon-spawning streams and swimming beaches. Tracy Tackett with Seattle Public Utilities says that adding a rain garden or a cistern to your property is an easy way a homeowner can help that rainwater soak into the ground. At this week’s Ballard District Council meeting, Tackett gave a preview of a new program called RainWise, which offers a pretty good incentive to get involved – up to 100 percent reimbursement.

SPU is rolling out the RainWise program in Ballard in a couple of months to help homeowners manage storm water. Homes between 65th & 85th and 15th & 33rd can take advantage of the program. Under RainWise, the city will reimburse homeowners for the addition of a raingarden, help them construct a curb bulb (like the one shown above at Ballard Corners Park,) or replace the water-repelling pavement in your alley with a more earth-friendly permeable pavement. If you’ve got a 10 foot-wide planting strip in front of your house, a rain garden can easily go there, Tackett says. The six-foot strips are too narrow to work with. “If the resident is interested in the curb bulb design, that takes away a minimum of one parking space, and ideally is the length of 2-3 parking spaces,” Tackett tells us, “We are interested in pursuing curbbulbs only along frontages where the homeowners contact us to solicit the change.”

Although the official roll-out for the program isn’t until March, homeowners can sign up now. According to Tackett, the city will pay 100 percent of the cost for early birds. “Early adopters are higher incentive because they will help us ensure we have worked through any kinks in our new program,” Tackett says. If you sign up later, the city is still willing to reimburse you for possibly 90 percent of the cost. This money comes from the Seattle Public Utilities drainage and wastewater fund, specifically the funds allocated to combined sewer overflow reduction. “We anticipate a high demand for the roadside raingardens,” Tackett says, “We will prioritize blocks that have a high level of support by the full block, where the block works among themselves to say where curb bulbs are desired along the length of block.”

Geeky Swedes

The founders of My Ballard

33 thoughts to “City will reimburse Ballardites for new raingardens”

  1. Oh, this is sure to be popular.

    Honestly, are there are lot of blocks in your neighborhood where folks are going to want to wipe out 2-3 parking spaces?

    I've seen fistfights nearly break out on my block over parking spaces already. And as the city continues to shove tens of thousands of more people into a few square blocks, do they expect the competition for parking spaces will just go away?

    The raingardens look nice, and I understand the environmental benefits. But the city once again shows they are totally divorced from reality and he real-world needs of we poor schlubs who have to suffer through life under their “vision.”

    These raingardens sure will make a great place for our rainbow-colored flying unicorns to graze.

  2. Actually the disconnect is more to do with your misunderstanding. The rain gardens are to reduce combined sewer overflow discharges into Puget Sound. The city and county are subject to hefty fines, and the ugly discharge of raw sewage is just plain disgusting. If we had a sidewalk in front of our house (live in Crown Hill, so maybe by 2510), we would be all over this idea because we don't own a car, and I have to look at my neighbor's ugly heap of a truck out my front window. I just re-read the article and it sounds like only one parking spot goes away, but not a lot of parking spots. I think I'm one of the poor schlubs who suffers with life under the blindered vision of folk with too many cars.

  3. I'm with you! I can only hope this city will wise up and require city sticker parking permits and limit the number per household. My car farming neighbors suck.

  4. A wonderful it… I hope some people take advantage of it… we are on 64th…. so although we can't make use of it directly, hopefully enough of the 20 blocks uphill north of us will, so that the water running downhill can stop turning our yard into a marsh every winter !

    On this topic, we'd love to learn how to put a rain garden into our back garden… and there are some good ideas and information within the rain wise program.

  5. I installed a raingarden for one side of my roof drainage about 15 years ago. Unfortunately, we have impenetrable hardpan in this area not far under the surface, so there is only limited capacity for soil absorption. The rainwater sinking into the ground tends to run down hill on the surface of the hardpan and appear in basements or as springs in cut banks. It might be wise to have some groundwater hydrology assessment done here before channeling a lot more water into the soil. If you drive around the area described above, you will see a lot of cracks in the streets from either soil movement or voids created by water drainage. Last summer the city dumped a couple of yards of concrete into a void nearby under the street.

  6. On streets like mine, which line the perimeter of a playfield with 7-day a week, 13-hour a day booked sports activity, there is virtually NO parking available for residents, many of whom do not have garages. Taking away yet one more parking space per house is a stupid, counter-productive policy, and will only lead to more hostility between residents and sports teams.

    For those who rent houses, you really think the landlords are going to take responsibility for maintaining the curbsides? Get real. That responsibility already falls on the shoulders of the tenants.

    As long as this program remains optional, great. If it becomes mandatory, look out.

  7. in addition to Alysse's comment about misunderstanding – it appears from the article that you can have a rain garden w/out a curb bulb. It looks like they will help with rain gardens, construction of curb bulbs OR re-do the alley. No unicorns necessary.

  8. Shucks. We're just north of 85th, with the typical North Beach gravel driveway and I've been thinking about re-doing the landscape for aesthetic reasons and to stop the water pooling after a decent rain.

    This would have been the motivation to kick off a cool late-winter project.

    (we're without sidewalks too)

  9. I believe for east Ballard you're in a different drain field area and the County will have to be the ones to offer you a program. They're plans for this are in the 10 year range.

  10. The rainwise program link above has links to all the fact sheets they're producing so anyone can make some changes.

    RE the soil tests mentioned in another post – they've done some of that, and that's another reason for the boundaries for the program.

  11. Our tax $$ at work. Really? How can anybody be against this? Must also be good for the children too. While I agree the ancient Romans knew just a little bit about what to do with water, they also had other issues to deal with. We do too. Like 10%+ unemployment for starters. Gotta love the Ballard Poobahs saving the planet though!

  12. Thank you for providing a background story and name for the tragic mess the city created near 87th and Phinney.
    The city geniuses turned an important major neighborhood artery into a clotted narrow goat path where barely one vehicle can navigate. To add further to the insult, this poo-pie is topped with a traffic circle with a radius too narrow for any car to navigate.
    Nowadays, the tangle of frustrated drivers is a familiar sight at that intersection as each one takes a turn traversing the path, stopping twice to back up just to make a left turn.
    And you say they're seeking more neighborhoods to volunteer for this?


  13. Having a rain catchment system from the roof of a domicile or garage to an underground or above ground reservoir, not a pickle jar, for use during the summer to water gardens and flush toilets makes sense to me. Say you save 10-20K gallons during the rainy months and expend it during the dry summers. How will the waste water utility charge be figured since it is dependent on the incoming fresh water charge?

  14. You are exactly right. Most of Ballard has a thin layer of top soil over Hard Pan (Glacail Till). The Hard Pan is from the last ice age and is all of the dirt and sediment compacted into… well… very hard dirt. :D The reason that many basement flood in Ballard is that when you dig a basement in Glacial till then it is really acting like a pool.

    The part that is missing is the thousands of pine tree's drinking up the water and tons and tons of top soil.

    Cisterns are a great way to save on water. We have a great area for using rain water for toilets and washing machines. There some products like Water Hogs that can fit under decks.

    The big issue with Ballard is that it's such an old neighborhood that there are lots of streets with no Storm Sewers.

  15. Because West Ballard does not have storm drains. The streets are legally the storm drains for most West Ballard homes… which ends up in Puget Sound directly. East Ballard has storm drains so the water is routed correctly. Most likely it will be based on your sewer card which you can get for free from DPD.

  16. Amen! I have to get through the mess you are talking about every day-twice. I always figured it was some wierd attempt at traffic revision to force us off the side streets, but….God forbid, maybe they were attempting to divert rainwater. Either way, it was a dismal failure. It is a hopeless snarl of cars and runoff.

    I feel INCREDIBLY sorry for the folks who actually have to live on those streets-I think if I were them I would have filed a law suit against the city-their neighborhood is now a joke.

    “Gee whiz-hope you didn't want anyone to ever visit your house without being willing to walk three blocks!”

    Sue. Sue. Sue.

    Maybe all of their friends and family should pursue a 'greener' lifestyle wherein they bike from their home in Everett that way they wouldn't be mucking up the air in good old green Seattle……..hey! I know!! let's just put up a wall around the city and not let cars in at all. Only bicycles ridden by vegan lesbian wicans!! That will just jump the gun and solve all our problems.

    I have tremendous large garden beds that absorb tons of rainwater, but that doesn't matter. There is no sense and no end to the crap the city planners foist upon us. They are totally divorced from any working sense of reality.

    Sadly-that is going around.

    I think the city should do this “curb-bulb” crap on every corner on Capitol Hill….I'll bet that would last about ten minutes. For years I haven't even visited any of my friends who still live there.

    “Invite me over so I can drive around for twenty minutes looking for a place to park until I just….drive back home….never mind-don't invite me.”

    I've never figured out why anyone would want to live in one of those neighborhoods-they have clearly never lived any place normal. Twice the mortgage and one quarter of the space. Sign me up! It's so cool! And it comes with free tweakers!

    Encourage density. Discourage traversability. Great. A city where there are 800 people living on every street, but unless they are all on bicycles we are doomed.

    Seattle should really just get over it and outlaw cars and butter and alcohol. Give me a reason to get the hell out of here.

    “curb butresses” would be a better name for them. How much fossil fuel do you suppose is wasted by all of the people endlesssly waiting everyday to get their turn to go around them?

  17. Okay help please — seriously just honest questions:

    1) how is a “raingarden” any different than any other space with dirt and plants?

    2) if runoff is such a big concern to the city that the will pay for raingardens and reclaim street space to address it, why do they let new and remodeled houses cover what appears to be 98% the lot nowadays?

  18. oh and permeable pavement sounds like a great idea if it holds up close to as well as regular pavement. Why don't they just make it the defacto choice for all repaving projects?

  19. The city has been behind a long, hard push to destroy single family housing (which typically had a significant percentage of unpaved space on each lot) and replace it with “density” – condos and apartments that have pavement right up to every property line. I'd bet this has reduced the amount of unpaved ground by 1/3 overall. Now they say we have a problem with not enough unpaved ground to absorb rainwater.

    What a surprise!

  20. How does it's cost/durability compare to traditional paving? I think I've heard there's a bit of a budget crisis these days – how does switching to “permeable pavement” figure into that? For that matter, given the current budget crisis, how expensive is this program? Is it really a top priority to fund these things given other priorities?

  21. So, now we'll concern ourselves w/ pesticides to ward off disease from standing water or at least use added electricity to run our bug zappers

  22. Great call on the toilet/washing machine comment! Perhaps putting some money toward this venture could be even more beneficial.
    Let's do some math.
    580,000 people in Seattle proper. Perhaps we all go to the bathroom three times per day. Assume everyone has a low-flow flushing toilet at 1 gallon per flush(which we don't all have). That's 1,740,000 gallons of water flushed down toilets each day. 635 million gallons of water each year. Just from toilets. Likely way higher.
    Here's what we do: Design and install easily maintable rainwater catchment systems that divert water from gutters to toilets. This will save the potable water we've been flushing, and eliminate hundreds of millioons of gallons of water from entering the stormwater.

  23. 1. special plants that do well in soggy environs and help slow down/filter stormwater. prevents said water from overloading wastewater treatment facility at west point.
    2. they don't. only 35% coverage is allowed

  24. thanks — some of the houses and townhomes built lately look like they cover more than 1/3 of the lot, but I'll take you word for it.

    Can I assume that lawns don't do a good job of catching a filtering rain water?

  25. cars will be to expensive to drive within the next years anyhow, why not invest in a way to introduce water to your soils while you still have an economy and income to afford such a venture. makes sense to me, now you all just have to realize that the best thing to plant would be Red Alder on the North end of the dirt patch so it's shades out nothing but cement and pioneers life back into your lawns of suburbia

  26. I'm pleased to see the number of comments here.
    You can find more information on the program at our RainWise Tools site

    A map of the project area is on the bottom left of the RainWise Tools page to see if you are eligible for a rebate under the program.

    In coming weeks we will be posting more program details on the site, including information about current roadside rain garden projects, more on registering your interest in future roadside rain garden installations, and forms and procedures associated with the RainWise Rebates in the Ballard target area.

    If you are interested in being an “early adopter”, we are seeking people who are willing to provide us with feedback on the installation and rebate process in return for a higher rebate percentage. We also ask that you be willing to show your installation as part of a project tour, and that you speak to your neighbors about the program. We may have to limit numbers of these “RainWise Ambassadors”. Details will be available on the RainWise website soon.

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