Follow-up From City Councilperson Mike O’Brien

City Councilperson Mike O’Brien reached out to us today as a follow-up:

“Hello all –

“As I mentioned earlier this week I have been working with SPU and SDOT to have a clear idea what steps the City would be taking to monitor the Ballard Rain Gardens sites. Below is a summary of our next steps.

“Signage –

“In the next few weeks, SDOT will be removing the current posts with the black and yellow marker and No Parking with a directional arrow and replacing them within a couple weeks with a new post that will be about 18 inches shorter. The new metal posts will still retain the black and yellow marker, and the new No Parking marker on top will be smaller and lower than the previous marker. Approximately half of the no parking signs will be removed. We will be putting up temporary markers (probably orange traffic cones) at the bump outs to ensure an unsuspecting driver doesn’t accidentally drive into one of them as happened earlier in construction.

“We hope you will share this information as broadly as possible both to ensure the neighborhood knows the changes are being made, and to avoid any confusion that might arise if people think the signs are not being replaced.

“Drainage –

“There are ongoing concerns that some of the rain gardens aren’t operating correctly and the standing water isn’t draining 72 hours/3 days after rain, and is accumulating deeper than 6 inches. SPU staff will start monitoring each site and providing regular reports to me and the community summarizing how well the different gardens are draining. Staff will be flagging sites that have not drained properly after a storm will have them pumped out within a couple of days. Over the next three weeks, there might be a day or two delay in this schedule due to holidays, furloughs and Sundays.  They may also decide to block the inlets to keep water from entering some of the rain gardens in order to let the plants get established.  This monitoring procedure will potentially identify sites that might need additional review and remediation.  Staff are considering a more quantifiable method to track depth of the ponds to ensure they are not exceeding 6 inches. I look forward to hearing their proposal in the next week.

“Lastly, I would like to reiterate that there is a potential for some ponding to be present for a duration of time during long-term rain events. Simply put, if it rains for 10 days, there will most likely be rain in these ponds for up to three days after the rain event. If it rains two days after a rain event, and there is still some water in the rain garden, more will probably accumulate, and this is to be expected. However, what we will be doing is working to ensure the rain gardens are completely draining three rain-free days after an event, and the depth does not exceed 6 inches.

“Please share this information with your friends and neighbors. There are a number of different staff involved in this project, but if you have questions, please contact Sierra Hansen in my office at<> or 206-233-3811 and she can help address your question.

“Thanks, Mike”

Watching this project continue despite our first protest five months ago has developed fervor. Responses flooded in.

In summary:

  • The standing water. Still there. Children are still at great risk. Rats still drink from only three inches of water. Mosquitos still only need a puddle. Three rain-free days in Seattle is the service level agreement for the Raingardens to drop below six inches—to maybe four inches. If it continues to rain (in Seattle, where we can go 100 days with rain and not break a record), the Raingardens will be full. Still unacceptable. (Side note: A neighbor and I measured the pond outside her house today—it appeared to be the most shallow—and it was still 5.5 inches, after no heavy rain in days.)
  • There was an issue with the city’s decision on whether to “block the inlets to keep water from entering some of the rain gardens in order to let the plants get established.” One resident pointed out sandbags already block the inlets. Another said plugging the outlets will flood our sidewalks. Up for more discussion.
  • One neighbor thanked Councilperson O’Brien for stating some focused objectives and at least listening to us.

Personally, I appreciate the effort, but we already knew the City would modify the signage (not enough) and all about the pooling expectations (it was unacceptable then too). I hate to discourage the effort, but we want no pools and no signs.

My own budget planning for the Raingardens (never criticize without your own plan): Use the money allocated to monitoring and pumping and touring and van gas to now remove just the bump-outs and inlets (so it’s not drowning the Raingarden), rip out the hideous signs straight out of Detroit (no offense, Detroit), and create a typical (smaller) Raingarden with landscaping flush to the ground and lovely plants. They will be so lovely, more people will want them, and I forecast 50% of Ballard’s planting strips will have Raingardens in 24 months. More Raingardens, more aesthetic value, less headache. Much less sewage in Puget Sound.

See? Easy.

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