(UPDATED 5:22 PM: At the end of the story, we’ve added new information from the county, including an open letter to the community, and information on how residents of the proposed-for-purchase Lowman Beach properties were notified. ADDITIONAL UPDATE 6:35 PM with Fauntleroy reaction)
(County map showing where the “green stormwater infrastructure” is proposed for the area feeding the Barton pump station; go here for larger version)
ORIGINAL 2:40 PM REPORT: Just in from King County Wastewater Treatment Division: The county has announced its preferred alternatives for facilities to achieve a required reduction in CSOs (combined-sewer overflows) at the Murray (Lowman Beach) and Barton (next to the Fauntleroy ferry dock) Pump Stations. For Murray, they propose building a million-gallon storage tank under private property across the street from Lowman Beach Park – which the county would have to buy (even if that involves “eminent domain“); for Barton, the Green Stormwater Infrastructure project – read on for the news release; more to come – the process of arriving at these choices has been going on for more than 3 years (with major acceleration in fall of last year). and today’s announcement is the first step toward an in-depth environmental review:
We’ll be continuing to expand this story beyond the news release – but wanted to share it, and related links, ASAP. (The Murray/Lowman process, you might recall, had a citizens’ advisory group in session last summer, and the county’s recommendation is *not* their choice, which was storage under the south Lincoln Park parking lot):
County identifies alternatives to control combined sewer overflows in West Seattle
Proposals preserve access to public parks, reflect community preferences and meet regulatory requirements for clean water; formal SEPA review is next
After receiving a great deal of community input and reviewing several options for each location, projects that will help protect public health and water quality near two popular West Seattle recreation areas will move forward for further environmental review. The recommendations were made by the King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks Director Christie True.
To control combined sewer overflows (CSOs) from King County’s Murray Avenue Pump Station, one project would entail building a 1-million-gallon storage tank beneath private property across from Seattle’s Lowman Beach Park.
The second project would employ a system of rain gardens and swales – known as a Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) project – between the sidewalks and streets in the Sunrise Heights and Westwood neighborhoods to reduce overflows from the Barton Pump Station near Seattle’s Lincoln Park.
True said both proposals will be evaluated as part of a formal environmental review process conducted under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) in spring 2011. “Both neighborhoods are densely developed, and that limits the number of suitable locations where these projects can be built,” she said.
“Residents expressed a wide range of opinions and preferences during our public process, and an overwhelming number opposed any major construction inside either Lincoln or Lowman Beach Parks,” she added. “Those options were not pursued because they posed an unacceptable level of impact to the community. We also had to consider the overall cost and technical feasibility.”
The project recommendations seek to balance technical and community considerations with state and federal requirements that King County control sewer overflows at the Barton and Murray pump stations to the state standard of no more than one event per year.
King County’s Barton Street Pump Station, located south of Seattle’s Lincoln Park, currently experiences an average of four overflows a year, while the Murray Avenue Pump Station north of Lincoln Park experiences an average of five.
During heavy rains, the GSI alternative would control CSOs at Barton Pump Station using soils and vegetation to capture and reduce stormwater that would enter the conveyance system. The area’s gentle topography and the connection of street drains to the combined sewer system make the alternative technically feasible.
West Seattle neighbors expressed support for this environmentally friendly solution, which also supports the County’s commitment to energy conservation and sustainability.
Identifying a CSO solution in the Murray basin was significantly more difficult due to the area’s steep terrain and the way in which sewer lines are configured. The volume of stormwater and wastewater to be stored is 10 times greater than it is in the Barton basin. For these reasons, GSI was not a feasible choice for this location.
Moving forward with a proposal for a storage tank across the street from Lowman Beach Park would require King County to purchase six private properties, a fact that County Executive Dow Constantine called regrettable, but necessary.
“As a life-long West Seattleite, I am keenly aware of the importance of every home, whether rental or owner-occupied, to the identity and stability of our community,” said the Executive. “However, the alternatives all have impacts of their own.”
The Murray proposal has the advantage of reducing the impacts of construction on park users and other neighbors. The proposal would also enable some future pump station construction that otherwise would be required in Lowman Beach Park to now be located across the street in the acquired site.
From an operational standpoint, the Murray proposal offers the advantage of a single facility in the immediate vicinity of the existing pump station, which supports reliable operation and efficient maintenance. The County will also seek to work with neighbors and the City of Seattle to make the completed site an asset to the park and to the community.
The SEPA process, scheduled to begin in early 2011, will allow public comment and continued opportunity for stakeholders to remain informed and involved. King County Wastewater Treatment Division staff is committed to working closely with affected community members through design, permitting and construction, which is scheduled to begin in 2013.
We have various requests out for comment and more information.
ADDED 5:22 PM: First responses are from the county. Natural Resources/Parks director Christie True – whose departments include the Wastewater Treatment Division – has written a letter to the community with more details on the decisions and reasons – you can read it in its entirety here.
WTD spokesperson Annie Kolb-Nelson also has answered our question about how the county conveyed the decision to the owners of the six Lowman Beach properties it would have to purchase, whether the sale was voluntary or via eminent domain:
Today county staff contacted the six property owners by e-mail, phone and hand-carried letter to let them know about the recommendation. We’ve also been in contact with these folks since earlier in the year to let them know that King County identified their property as being in the footprint of a possible county project.
In terms of property acquisition, King County has established procedures in place to ensure property owners are treated fairly, and these procedures comply with applicable state, federal and county laws. We work closely with owners to negotiate a fair price for their property and offer relocation assistance.
Kolb-Nelson also provided this link to information about the county’s “land acquisition and relocation procedures.” Regarding community meetings to discuss the recommendations, she said the county is focusing first on “working to get on the meeting agendas of existing community groups like the Fauntleroy Community Association or the (Morgan Community Association).” (We’re awaiting comment from representatives of both those groups.)
6:35 PM: From Bruce Butterfield, president of the Fauntleroy Community Association:
Everyone agrees the county needs to move forward on plans to cut back CSO occurences in the sound. It is especially important here; we have two sewage pump stations within a little over a mile of each other, at the ferry dock in Fauntleroy Cove (Cove Park) and at Lowman Beach Park. Heavy rainfall like last night can’t be contained when it comes all at once. From the beach or standing on the dock you can see where it bubbles up just north of the end of the dock. It’s sickening when you know what it is…and you can bet it’s also happening off Lowman at the same time. With this week’s weather forecast, this seems like an appropriate week for the county’s announcement.
I’m sure many in the Lower Fauntleroy and Lincoln Park area will be relieved that the south parking lot option is off the drawing board—it would have meant three or four major construction projects within a half-mile of the ferry dock beginning in 2011 and lasting about three years. We’ll still work with the county to mitigate the effects of the two new RapidRide bus stops at the dock and the Murray Pump Station upgrade, which are scheduled simultaneously.