Building roadside raingardens in West Seattle: Barton CSO project progress

April 16, 2014 at 11:37 am | In Environment, Utilities, West Seattle news | 10 Comments

If you live in or travel through Sunrise Heights or Westwood, you probably know the “roadside raingarden” construction for the first phase of the Barton Basin Combined Sewer Overflow Control project continues to intensify. The King County Wastewater Treatment Division is building “green stormwater infrastructure” in eight blocks this year, seven blocks next year – 91 roadside raingardens in all. En route to a meeting last night, we noticed the activity on one block, 34th SW north of Holden (map), so went back today for a closer look (above). The county is now publishing weekly updates on its website – including what’s happening in which blocks:

For any residents who didn’t get block-by-block informational flyers, those also are available online. This project is part of state-mandated work to reduce combined-sewer overflows into Puget Sound; in this area, it’s called Barton because the wastewater ends up at the Barton Pump Station north of the Fauntleroy ferry dock.

P.S. The county is scheduled to present an update on its other in-progress Combined Sewer Overflow Control project, the Murray-basin-serving storage tank across from Lowman Beach, at tonight’s Morgan Community Association meeting (7 pm, The Kenney [WSB sponsor], lower-level meeting rooms, 7125 Fauntleroy Way SW).

West Seattle power outage: 77 185 homes in The Arroyos

April 14, 2014 at 9:18 am | In Utilities, West Seattle news | 5 Comments

9:18 AM: Seattle City Light estimates the power outage affecting a section of southwestern West Seattle might not be fixed until after 1 pm. SCL says “equipment failure” is to blame for the outage at 77 homes in The Arroyos. (Thanks to Susan for the tip.)

3:55 PM UPDATE: The estimates of power-restoration time have moved back, and we checked with Scott Thomsen of SCL about the status:

There is a crew working on this outage. We know that it involves underground equipment. We do not yet know what piece of equipment failed or where that failure took place. The crew is troubleshooting the system to locate the problem and identify it so they can make repairs. The … estimate for restoration of service is only an estimate and could change once the crew finds the damage and determines what is needed to fix it.

11:50 PM UPDATE: Looks like it’s finally over as of late tonight, after, as is pointed out in a comment, growing at one point to almost 200 homes. We’ll ask SCL again tomorrow what the cause turned out to be.

TUESDAY MORNING UPDATE: Turns out it was not entirely resolved – see comment below – so we checked with SCL’s Thomsen again this morning:

Yesterday crews found that an underground cable failed, which caused the outage. They switched around the damage to restore power. A permanent repair involving the replacement of the cable is being scheduled.

Today, crews are investigating an outage on that same circuit. This is limited to equipment in a single underground vault. They are working to determine what piece of equipment failed. It is possible that the two events are connected. If the vault equipment failed first, it could have caused a surge that the cable could not withstand.

When the crew identified the failed cable, they believed they had discovered the problem and restored service to all customers. In some cases like this, a customer’s call to tell us they are still out is how we learn that there is other damage that needs to be fixed.

Happening now: ‘Vactoring’ cleanup at Fauntleroy ex-substation

March 26, 2014 at 12:51 pm | In Environment, Fauntleroy, Utilities, West Seattle news | 1 Comment

After cutting trees as part of a soil cleanup at two of West Seattle’s six “surplus” ex-substations, over the objections of community advocates including the WS Green Space Coalition, City Light said it would try a different technique at the Fauntleroy and Genesee Hill sites – “vactoring” contaminated soil in a way that WSGSC was told should make cleanup possible without destroying the trees. Thanks to a reader tip, we learned this work is happening at the Fauntleroy site (just around the corner from the Endolyne business district-let) right now. Meantime, as noted in our most recent report, the Green Space Coalition is continuing to advocate for a larger community role in determining the sites’ future – rather than what has been the usual past path of seeing them sold for housing development. City Light has said it could send disposition-plan legislation to the City Council – which has the final say – as soon as the third quarter of this year.

West Seattle issue on city agendas tomorrow: Ex-substations

March 11, 2014 at 11:04 pm | In Utilities, West Seattle news | Comments Off

(City photo of Fauntleroy ex-substation site)
Another City Council committee has a West Seattle issue on its agenda tomorrow: As first mentioned here last week, the council’s Energy Committee meets at 9:30 am tomorrow at City Hall with an agenda including a briefing on City Light‘s surplus West Seattle (and vicinity) substations. Mary Fleck from the West Seattle Green Spaces Coalition will be part of the briefing; she tells WSB it’s one of two presentations downtown tomorrow, and they’re inviting West Seattleites to come to either or both, to support the goal of “slowing down the ‘disposition’ process because the best future solution may be to ‘re-purpose’ the land for public use rather than to sell it to the highest bidder for development.” The second presentation is at 3 pm tomorrow before the Urban Forestry Commission in Seattle Municipal Tower room 2750 (700 Fifth Avenue). Meantime, at two of the sites, City Light has crews working this week on what it says is necessary cleanup work because of soil contaminants – the Andover site on Pigeon Point and the Fauntleroy site in Endolyne. Fleck says that while WSGSC is disappointed that SCL removed trees at two sites including Andover, they’re encouraged to hear that the cleanup work at Fauntleroy will use “vactoring” to try to save trees while removing other vegetation.

Who’ll take over ex-substations? West Seattle Green Space Coalition meets Sunday; City Council discussion Wednesday

March 8, 2014 at 3:32 pm | In Utilities, West Seattle news | Comments Off

Two meetings in the next four days will deal with the six ex-substations City Light is getting rid of:

GREEN SPACE COALITION TOMORROW: Can’t make meetings on weeknights? The West Seattle Green Space Coalition, working on the future of six City Light-owned ex-substation sites in our area, invites you to its meeting tomorrow afternoon:

The West Seattle Green Space Coalition will meet Sunday, March 9 at 3:00 pm at the West Seattle (Delridge) Public Library. Topics will include follow-up on the WSGSC’s March 5th meeting with representatives from Seattle City Light and Tom Rasmussen regarding SCL’s project to decide within months what to do with former substations that have sat idle for decades, including ones in West Seattle. We made good progress on how to work with the City to come up with best ways to give the Neighborhoods more time to keep these open spaces for the community.

Here’s our report on the Wednesday tour mentioned above. Then on Wednesday:

CITY COUNCIL ENERGY COMMITTEE: A briefing on the ex-substations is on the agenda for the 9:30 am Wednesday (March 12th) meeting of the Energy Committee, chaired by Councilmember Kshama Sawant. Mary Fleck from the WSGSC is among those who will be participating. You can see the city’s slide deck here, including this slide outlining what happens next:

The Wednesday meeting is in council chambers at City Hall downtown; there will be a public comment period.

Update: Another West Seattle power outage affected ~2,000 after tree fell into Highland Park Way wires

March 6, 2014 at 1:34 pm | In Utilities, West Seattle news | 16 Comments

(Looks like the early-morning outage map, but this is the NEW one)
1:34 PM: It feels like déja vu to those who were up for the two-hour power outage in the middle of the night – because the footprint is just about the same. About 2,000 homes and businesses are without power right now, according to the City Light map.

(ADDED: Highland Park Way closure; photo by WSB’s Patrick Sand)
1:53 PM UPDATE: From City Light:

A large tree fell into wires near Highland Park Way SW and SW Othello Street. It broke several of the tie wires that keep the power lines attached to the insulators on the poles.

Crews are working to reroute power around the damage. This will bring about 75 percent of the affected customers back into service in the next 60-90 minutes.

Crews will then remove the tree and re-hang the wires in order to restore service to the remaining customers. We estimate being able to get that done about 5 p.m.

2:20 PM: One commenter reports power coming back. A few hundred customers have dropped off the City Light map.

2:39 PM UPDATE: We’ve added a photo from HP Way, which is indeed closed; Metro is sending messages about reroutes, including Route 131.

5:21 PM UPDATE: Back open, per Datamuse, in comments.

Update: Overnight power outage for more than 2,000 homes/businesses

March 6, 2014 at 3:06 am | In Utilities, West Seattle news | 18 Comments

It’s been a blustery night so far, and now more than 2,000 homes and businesses are without power in eastern West Seattle – parts of Puget Ridge and Highland Park – as well as South Park and White Center. City Light‘s map shows the extent but does not mention a specific cause yet – simply, “investigating.” (The image above is a screen shot of what the map shows right now.)

5:13 AM UPDATE: SCL now says a tree was to blame for the outage. Commenter Jen says the power’s back on in Riverview – that’s not reflected on the SCL map yet.

6:06 AM UPDATE: The map now shows everyone’s back on (please let us know if you’re not!).

West Seattle’s surplus ex-substations: Advocates tour with Rasmussen; Andover cleanup continues

March 5, 2014 at 9:56 pm | In Environment, Utilities, West Seattle news | 3 Comments

Two updates on the six former substations in West Seattle that City Light has declared “surplus”:

GREEN SPACE COALITION TOUR WITH COUNCILMEMBER RASMUSSEN: Community advocates including members of the West Seattle Green Space Coalition, who hope to keep the long-deactivated sites as open space, hosted Councilmember Tom Rasmussen this morning on a tour that started at the Dakota site on Genesee Hill:

Rasmussen tells WSB, “I support the efforts of the community to keep the sites as open space. The challenge is finding the funds to do so. I am researching and checking how we can do that.” Some City Light sites have become parks – in West Seattle, those include Dakota Place Park north of The Junction and Nantes Park along Admiral Way – while others in the city have been sold to housing developers. Five of the West Seattle sites are zoned for single-family homebuilding; the one on 9th SW near Westcrest Park is zoned Lowrise 2.

We couldn’t stay for today’s full tour, but organizers were expecting also to visit the Fauntleroy and Andover sites. We reported back in December about what City Light described as “cleanup” work at the latter site on Pigeon Point, work to which the WSGSC had taken exception because of vegetation removal; the city says it’s continuing that work. From SCL’s environmental-compliance manager William Devereaux:

Tree cutting and clearing was completed several weeks ago. The final phase of work involves the actual digging up of the contaminated soil putting clean soil in, reseeding grass, and replanting. NRC Environmental Services, a company from South Park, is carrying out the work. I heard that there were some questions regarding chalk/paint lines outside of the site. Before we dig on any site we have to have all of the utilities located to ensure that we do not disturb them. There will not be any digging outside of our substation site and the SDOT right of way immediately adjacent to the site.

When we start working on the SDOT right of way portion, there will be one-way traffic only, with flaggers between 21st and 22nd Ave SW on SW Andover St and between SW Charlestown St and SW Andover St on 21st Ave. This portion is not anticipated to start until next week. We are anticipating that the entire soil removal and backfill will be complete within 2 weeks.

One of the advocates on today’s tour, Cass Turnbull of PlantAmnesty, contends that “it makes little sense to choose a remediation method before the final disposition of the property is determined.” She says that if it’s determined the sites will be kept as green spaces, there are other ways of dealing with the reported low-level soil contamination that has had the city cutting and digging.

The Green Space Coalition is planning to take its case to the City Council’s Energy Committee next week. It’s up to the council to make the final decision on the ex-substations’ future, once SCL has made its recommendations.

Update: 53rd Avenue Pump Station work expected to finish early

March 4, 2014 at 11:37 am | In Utilities, West Seattle news | Comments Off

We just checked with King County Wastewater Treatment regarding today’s work at the 53rd Avenue Pump Station, and spokesperson Annie Kolb-Nelson tells us the crew is expecting to wrap up early. So the work that’s been affecting the sidewalk/trail zone by the pump station will likely be done closer to 1 pm than the originally announced 3 pm.

Alki Beach sidewalk/path alert: Pump-station-work closure Tuesday

February 28, 2014 at 2:19 pm | In Utilities, West Seattle news | Comments Off

If you run, walk, rollerblade, skateboard, ride, etc., along Alki Beach during the day, you might have to change your plans next Tuesday, according to this alert just out of the WSB inbox:

On Tuesday, March 4, a King County crew will perform maintenance to the 53rd Avenue Pump Station, a below-ground facility near the corner of Alki Avenue Southwest and 53rd Avenue Southwest, on the west side of the street next to the sidewalk and waterside walking path.

Work will take place between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m., and will involve opening a hatch to replace the pump station’s carbon filter. The crew will need up to three vehicles for this work, and while the replacement work is under way, there could be some increase in noise and odors.

We have the city’s approval to close off the work area, including closing the sidewalk and walking path, but we’ll try to maintain access for walkers, joggers and bicyclist as much as possible. It’s possible that the work will require us to detour foot and bicycle traffic to the other side of the street.

This is the pump station that was expanded over a 2+-year period between 2008 and 2010.

Update: Every-other-week garbage pickup idea has been thrown out

February 21, 2014 at 10:54 am | In Utilities, West Seattle news | 27 Comments

ORIGINAL REPORT, 10:54 AM: Though at one point the “every other week pickup” idea appeared to be on a fast track to approval, the presentation that Seattle Public Utilities will make to a City Council committee next Tuesday paints a fairly negative picture. See the full presentation here. We’ve pulled out a few slides – above, the “downside,” which includes “significant resistance.” Next, the effects – basically, some residents would actually pay more for less-frequent pickups, while others would save no more than a few dollars:

To help increase recycling, SPU recommends some other possibilities:

Just before finishing this story, we learned about this note in The Seattle Times (WSB partner) – saying the mayor has made the call not to proceed (we’re checking with his office now). We first reported back in November that the City Council would decide early this year whether to go citywide with the idea, which had gone through a test run in four neighborhoods in 2012, including part of Highland Park.

11:07 AM UPDATE: And the official announcement has arrived from the mayor’s office, saying he read the same report excerpted above, and that’s what led him to turn thumbs-down on the idea – read on:

Click to read the rest of Update: Every-other-week garbage pickup idea has been thrown out…

CSO-control project updates: Truck routes revealed for Murray; drilling time for Barton

February 14, 2014 at 3:29 pm | In Environment, Utilities, West Seattle news | Comments Off

Updates on both of our area’s King County Wastewater Treatment “combined-sewer overflow control” projects today:

(Click image to see full-size PDF)
MURRAY PROJECT ‘HAUL ROUTES’: Community members have long been asking which route trucks will use to get to and from the Murray (basin) CSO project site across from Lowman Beach, once excavation begins for its million-gallon storage tank. Morgan Community Association president Deb Barker got the word on Thursday that the routes had been finalized and published on the project website – see the map above. We asked KCWT when people along those routes will see the resulting truck traffic. From spokesperson Annie Kolb-Nelson:

Peak truck traffic is expected between April and December 2014 for the following activities: between April and July during the placement of secant piles that will act as support walls; between August and October for the excavation of the storage tank; and between October and December for tank construction (bringing in concrete and materials to the site.) During these time periods, the truck traffic will occur all day long. Work hours are 7-6 on weekdays. Any weekend work would be a special request by the contractor and if it was granted, King County would notify the community. Congestion at the site will be minimized by staging trucks away from the site and having them arrive at the site in a coordinated manner.

As for when the “primary” route would be used and when the “secondary” route would be used instead, that information isn’t available yet but we’ll add it when it is.

BARTON PROJECT PRE-CONSTRUCTION WORK: The Barton (basin) CSO project involves roadside raingardens on certain blocks in Sunrise Heights – and part of the support structure involves wells:

The construction was previewed during the recent pre-construction meetings (WSB coverage here). What’s being drilled at the south end of each raingarden block – 15 blocks getting 91 raingardens in the next year and a half – is a “deep infiltration well.” That’s considered pre-construction work; this year’s official construction schedule, block by block, is here.

West Seattle Green Space Coalition to rally at Genesee Hill ex-substation tomorrow

February 1, 2014 at 8:23 pm | In Environment, Utilities, West Seattle news | 3 Comments

Before (or while) sporting Seahawks blue and green tomorrow, you’re invited to join the West Seattle Green Space Coalition in a rally.

On Sunday at noon (before the Super Bowl game), according to coalition leader Mary Fleck, “neighbors at 50th Ave SW & Dakota will be tying ribbons around the trees at the Dakota St. surplus substation to express the neighbors’ love for the wooded, green space.”

According to a detailed announcement on the Genesee-Schmitz Neighborhood Council mailing list, it’s feared that Seattle City Light will remove the trees and shrubbery from the site soon as it continues what it says are cleanup operations at surplus ex-substations around the area – though it has not yet presented the City Council with its recommendations of what to do with the sites, 6 of which are in West Seattle. The sites in Pigeon Point and Highland Park already have had vegetation removed, and Fleck has filed complaints with the city saying it was done without permits/reviews.

Most other ex-substation sites around the city sold in recent years have gone to residential developers; the Genesee Hill site that’s the focus of tomorrow’s rally is just under 10,000 square feet and is zoned residential, SF (single-family) 5000. The WSGSC wants the utility to slow the disposition process to increase the possibility some sites might be preserved as greenspace.

Followup: Every-other-week garbage pickup? Briefing @ Admiral Neighborhood Association

January 15, 2014 at 11:29 am | In Utilities, West Seattle news | 45 Comments

Turns out last night’s Admiral Neighborhood Association briefing on the every-other-week garbage-pickup proposal was the only one on Seattle Public Utilities‘ schedule – because they’re the only group who asked for a briefing. So if you weren’t there, you missed your chance to ask questions – though SPU does have a wider-scope meeting next month in West Seattle; more on that shortly. Last night, ANA heard from SPU’s Brett Stav:

He recapped the pilot project in 2012 in four parts of the city, including a section of Highland Park. The full report on that can be read online via a link here; toplines were also part of his slide deck presented last night – see it in its entirety:

Seattle Public Utilities' every-other-week trash-pickup briefing at Admiral Neighborhood Association

Most of the questions Stav was asked centered on whether the project truly saves money – the city contends it could save up to $6 million a year. A concern brought up multiple times in WSB comments was voiced by ANA past president Katy Walum – the effect on people with small children who have diapers to dispose of. (That, as noted in the slide deck, aligns with some of the results from the pilot project – “higher satisfaction” with the every-other-week pickup was reported by homes with no diaper usage.) Current president David Whiting wondered what’s in it for people who are already working to reduce their trash.

The final decision is up to the City Council, which already took one action potentially paving the way, including a commitment to making a decision by this March, on whether to go citywide with every-other-week pickups starting a year after that. Two advisory committees already have reviewed the proposal; SPU says the Solid Waste Advisory Committee recommended doing it; its Customer Panel did not. Before going to the full council, it would likely go to the council’s Seattle Public Utilities and Neighborhoods Committee, chaired by Councilmember Sally Bagshaw. (Opinions? E-mail

Now, that February meeting. 6 pm February 13th, SPU will be at High Point Community Center (6920 34th SW). It’s about SPU’s “Strategic Business Plan,” regarding the future of the services the department provides – garbage, recycling, water, sewer, drainage. You don’t even have to wait for the meeting to have a say – here’s an online survey you can take right now.

Followup: What’s wrong with the West Seattle Bridge lights

January 13, 2014 at 5:14 pm | In Transportation, Utilities, West Seattle news | 15 Comments

Quick followup on last Friday’s report about that dark stretch of the bridge: Seattle City Light says it’s figured out part of the reason why a stretch of new LED lights on the west side of the West Seattle Bridge went out. SCL spokesperson Scott Thomsen tells WSB, “Our crews discovered that a breaker is tripping, cutting power to the lights. They are trying to determine the underlying cause for that problem, which is related to the power supply, not the lights.” More info once that’s figured out.

Seattle trash pickup every other week? First community briefing Tuesday @ Admiral Neighborhood Association

January 11, 2014 at 2:16 pm | In Utilities, West Seattle news | 52 Comments

(Photo courtesy ANA president David Whiting)
If the city moves to every-other-week garbage pickup for single-family homes, will curbs routinely look like that – or will people throw away less, to adjust? As first reported here back in November, the City Council is expected to decide by March whether to move ahead with every-other-week service, so community briefings and meetings are starting now, with a Seattle Public Utilities rep coming to talk with the Admiral Neighborhood Association on Tuesday night (7 pm, lower-level meeting room at Admiral Congregational Church, California/Hill). The city did a test run of every-other-week service in 2012, including part of Highland Park. If the council goes ahead with the change, it would take effect no sooner than April of next year.

West Seattle weather: Wind alert continues; early-morning power outage peaks at almost 9,000 customers

January 11, 2014 at 12:43 am | In Utilities, West Seattle news, West Seattle weather | 94 Comments

(TOPLINE: Power went out for thousands around 4:30 am; many got it back around 6; California reopened 8:10 am in north Junction after tree/line-down trouble; outage led to overflow at Murray Pump Station on Lowman Beach)

(WSB photo from California/Genesee, taken around 7:40 am just before crews finished fixing tree-downed lines)
WEATHER REPORT, 12:43 AM: Second straight windy night, and this time there’s an official alert to go with it – the National Weather Service has a wind advisory in effect until midnight Saturday night, with the possibility of gusts up to 45 mph at times. So charge your phone and anything else battery-powered, just in case.

FIRST OUTAGE REPORT, 4:40 AM: As commenters are noting, some have just lost power. If that includes you, please call City Light to be sure they know. So far, we have heard from people in Morgan Junction, Fauntleroy, Gatewood, Arbor Heights, Marine View Drive, The Arroyos, Vashon Island; here on the Gatewood/Upper Fauntleroy line, we’re OK.

4:47 AM: At least 4,750 out in West Seattle, according to one Arbor Heights resident who has already called SCL. Via Twitter, the utility says at least 28,000 are out systemwide, but that’s without West Seattle on their map yet.

4:58 AM: Fire crews are at the California/Frontenac transformer fire mentioned in comments, according to the 911 log. A commenter in the White Center area mentions power’s out where he is, too. Police are closing California between Dakota and Oregon north of The Junction (map) – apparently, per radio communications, a tree has taken down wires and a power pole.

5:10 AM: While the outage isn’t on City Light’s map, an update on their website does mention two separate outages totaling almost 9,000 customers (one home/business/school/etc. = one customer) in West Seattle and points south, as well as others elsewhere.

5:35 AM: Another tree reported down – 40th blocked, says e-mail, between Morgan and Fauntleroy (map), east Morgan Junction area. Thanks to the tipster for sending this photo:

Also, an update on the California SW road closure on the north side of The Junction – it’s reported between Genesee and Oregon.

6:04 AM: Commenters in Arbor Heights, (part of) Fauntleroy, The Arroyos report the power’s back on. Meantime, South Delridge seems to have joined the outage.

6:34 AM: Two hours since the outage began. Just got word from the King County Wastewater Treatment District that its pump stations both lost power and have mobile generators – noisy, they warn (if you can hear them over the roar of the wind!):

(WSB photo of portable generator, county van @ Murray [Lowman Beach], added 8:05 am)

A strong storm overnight may have caused power outages at King County’s Barton and Murray pump stations in West Seattle.

Crews responded early Saturday morning with mobile generators to restore power at the stations, which pump wastewater to the West Point Treatment Plant in Seattle. Employees will investigate whether the power outages led to wastewater overflows into Puget Sound.

If overflows occurred, King County will post public warning signs on the beaches, notify health and regulatory agencies, and sample water quality over the next several days.

7 AM: If you’re just waking up – some are still out of power; the City Light map has never fully reflected the WS outage in the past few hours, so don’t use it as a judge of where it’s out and where it’s not. If you wake up and find your power is out, DO call City Light to make sure they know – 206-684-7400. (added a few minutes later) You might also wake up to find trees/branches down. Just got word of another one:

Lisa says that’s the “top of a massive tree down in alley between 45th and 46th and Hill and Walker.” (map)

8:05 AM: Just back from a quick trip down California SW to The Junction. Everybody appears to have power – so your favorite coffee shop(s) are OK for your early-morning visits. The tree that came down between Oregon and Genesee was being sawed up; that section of road was still closed – let us know if you see it reopen; we’ll go back to check later, too. Also saw a City Light crew by the Solstice Park tennis courts in Fauntleroy.

8:15 AM: Per scanner, California is now reopening at the aforementioned spot. Wherever you are, go out and check for branches – we saw more than a few on some neighborhood roads during our recent jaunt.

8:57 AM: In south Morgan Junction, some lost power again. At least one business is affected – The Little Gym at California/Myrtle just reported via Facebook that it is without power. (Added: We just went down the hill to check, and the rest of that block, including Caffe Ladro, has power. Outages can be inconsistent that way!)

9:13 AM: Commenters in that general area and to the west say they’ve just been re-connected.

9:45 AM: King County says both Murray and Barton Pump Stations have their power back now, but they’ve confirmed there WAS an overflow at Murray – no details yet on how long/how much – so the beach will be posted as closed. Signs are also going up at Barton (north of Fauntleroy ferry dock) just in case.

2:02 PM: As chronicled in comments, some have since lost power – either again, or for the first time. City Light says it has only 250 people without power around its system, so if that includes you, please call to be sure they know – 206-684-7400.

New West Seattle Bridge lights already out; City Light investigating

January 10, 2014 at 3:03 pm | In Utilities, West Seattle news | 9 Comments

(Screengrab from Wednesday night – note the unlit section on the left)
Several people have asked us in the past few days about a string of streetlights that have gone dark on the westbound high-rise West Seattle Bridge. It’s particularly noticeable because the bridge lights were changed to LEDs just a few weeks back, and if anything, those bulbs are supposed to last a lot longer than old-fashioned ones. We checked with Seattle City Light today, and spokesperson Peter Clarke says they’re working on it: “We have a crew assigned to check the lights out tonight when it’s dark so they can ID exactly which lights are out.” We’ll follow up again next week to see what they found out and what will be done about it.

P.S. We drove this stretch mid-evening Friday and noted that the lights are out on the north side, starting at the exit from SB 99 to the westbound bridge, until the peak of the high-rise.

West Seattle Green Space Coalition’s next meeting Sunday

January 10, 2014 at 12:54 pm | In Utilities, West Seattle news | 5 Comments

If you’re interested in the community coalition that’s asking the city to slow down with its project to decide within months what to do with former substations that have sat idle for decades, this Sunday is your next chance. The West Seattle Green Space Coalition will meet at 3 pm Sunday (January 12th) at Delridge Branch Library (5423 Delridge Way SW). Last weekend, the coalition raised concerns about tree-cutting and other work under way at some of the sites even before Seattle City Light has taken its suggestions to the City Council. The sites are listed here. A few days after this Sunday’s meeting, WSGSC will be talking with the utility, so if you have any comments to share and can’t make it Sunday, e-mail co-chair Mary Fleck at

Comcast trouble in West Seattle? Should be over, or soon

January 6, 2014 at 1:37 pm | In Utilities, West Seattle news, West Seattle online | 14 Comments

Several have asked about Comcast trouble in the past hour-plus. Via Twitter, @ComcastWA said a few minutes ago “Washington state customers whose services were affected by issues should be back up or coming back up.”

West Seattle Green Space Coalition asks City Light to stop tree/plant removal at ex-substations

January 5, 2014 at 11:14 am | In Utilities, West Seattle news | 19 Comments

Until the fate of Seattle City Light‘s surplus ex-substations is decided, tree-cutting in the name of “cleanups” must stop, says the West Seattle Green Space Coalition.

Two weeks ago, a reader tip led us to report on tree-cutting at one of those sites, the former Andover substation at 21st/Andover. Reader comments also revealed something similar at the Dumar ex-substation, 16th/Holden. The WSGSC has put together before/after views of both sites. First, Pigeon Point:

Then, Dumar:

City Light told us the tree-cutting had to do with cleaning up contamination and that at least three other sites were slated for cleanup work. The Pigeon Point specifics are in our December story; regarding Dumar, SCL’s Lynn Best told us, “This is similar to the other site, Andover. The pesticides dieldrin and DDT were found at levels above (Model Toxics Control Act) cleanup levels. PCB levels below MTCA cleanup levels were found around the concrete pad. The vegetation removal was done in preparation for the cleanup.”

Here’s the news release from the WSGSC:

Ignoring neighborhood and West Seattle Green Space Coalition requests, and apparently without a directive from the Seattle City Council, in mid-December, Seattle City Light chopped down all the trees at the Pigeon Point former substation site and the Dumar former substation site.

West Seattle Green Space Coalition is demanding that Seattle City Light halt removal of plants and trees at its former substations in West Seattle. These sites contain mature vegetation, including significant trees, which are important to healthy neighborhoods. Established, green spaces are being destroyed with no plan to balance out the loss of these green spaces. Although these are only a few small parcels in West Seattle, they have been open, green habitat. The destruction of these longstanding spaces is detrimental to West Seattle. These sites are providing a small but significant balance to major high density development which is taking place in West Seattle.

Click to read the rest of West Seattle Green Space Coalition asks City Light to stop tree/plant removal at ex-substations…

West Seattle traffic alert: Another water problem

December 31, 2013 at 12:42 pm | In Utilities, West Seattle news | 6 Comments

12:42 PM: Third one in five days in West Seattle, by our count – thanks to Nancy for the photo from 112th/Marine View Drive (map), where a Seattle Public Utilities crew has just arrived to fix a reported pipe problem. This follows Delridge and Gatewood trouble (reported here Monday). We are seeking more information from SPU, and will update with whatever we hear back.

ADDED 2:55 PM: We asked SPU’s Ingrid Goodwin about both this situation and the 41st/Frontenac one, which was still under investigation when we talked with her yesterday:

Crews just finished (about 1 pm) the leak repair on 41st and Frontenac. The leak was on a service line, not the water main.

The water main break on 112th and Marine View Drive is on a 4″ pipe. Crews are onsite making the repair now.

It’s not unusual for there to be leaks and small breaks on a daily basis throughout the City. Seattle does have aging infrastructure and some of the pipes are nearly 100 years old. Our crews stay busy with maintenance, repair and upgrades to the system.

Two more utility updates: Weekend water woes investigated

December 30, 2013 at 5:12 pm | In Utilities, West Seattle news | 1 Comment

Before, and unrelated to, today’s big electricity outage, two water problems affected West Seattle neighborhoods over the weekend; we asked Seattle Public Utilities about them today:

FRIDAY NIGHT, DELRIDGE/JUNEAU: (map) We heard from area residents awakened (or kept awake) by an SPU crew working on a pipe break 9 pm Friday-3 am Saturday. SPU spokesperson Ingrid Goodwin says an 8-inch pipe broke, but service was lost only temporarily to 17 customers and three hydrants. SPU tries to “limit noise and other disturbances, especially when working at night,” she said, adding, “We thank customers for their patience and understanding when we are required to work in a neighborhood on an emergency repair.” They don’t know yet why the pipe broke.

GATEWOOD HILL: We heard about this one very early this morning, when residents near 41st/Frontenac (map) noticed discolored water from their taps, and one told us she saw water running in the street. Goodwin says SPU got calls early today “about water coming up from cracks in the roadway. … A leak investigation is currently under way to find the source of the leak. It could be on the 8” water main or on one of the 1” plastic services, but we don’t know at this time. All customers in the area continue to have water services (no water shutdown has occurred). As soon as SPU determines the source of the leak, a repair will be made.”

Update: Tree branch blamed for West Seattle power outage that affected 11,000 homes, businesses

December 30, 2013 at 9:43 am | In Utilities, West Seattle news | 604 Comments

(TOPLINE as of 10:15 pm – The last outage pocket in Seaview/north Morgan appears to be back on at last, per comments and tweets. The map below shows outage zone at its peak around 11 am:)

9:43 AM: We’re checking on the extent of the power outage that has just hit areas of West Seattle. Let us know if it’s out where you are. So far we’re hearing from Admiral and The Junction; here in Upper Fauntleroy, our power flickered but did NOT go out. More to come.

9:49 AM UPDATE: First word is that the outage affects more than 4,300 homes and businesses. City Light is estimating 1 pm restoration but PLEASE keep in mind that at this early stage, that is just their guesstimate – not a guarantee, could be earlier, could be later. We’re hearing from people in many more areas, including High Point, North Delridge, and Fairmount Springs – thanks for commenting with your location report; the City Light map wasn’t updated as of a few minutes ago.

9:56 AM UPDATE: City Light now says more than 11,000 homes and businesses are affected. There is no word yet on the cause. We’re now switching our request – let us know if you still HAVE power. (We still do, in Upper Fauntleroy.)

10:11 AM UPDATE: City Light still hasn’t announced what it believes to be the cause. If you see a truck in your area, let us know – 206-293-6302 text or voice. Meantime, please remember that if you have to drive and the light’s out, treat an intersection as a four-way stop!

10:18 AM UPDATE: Just added a screengrab of the outage map that City Light now has up. Also got a text from Katrina, who says SCL told her a transformer blew; the restoration guesstimate is now 1:30 pm, but again – could be earlier, could be later. We’re checking out some areas including The Junction, where one side of California is out, co-publisher Patrick says, and one is not. (California/Alaska photo added:)

10:29 AM UPDATE: Scanner indicates police are assigning traffic-control officers to some key intersections (among them, 35th and Avalon). Keep in mind that by our very rough count, 11,000 homes/businesses would be at least a fourth of every place on the peninsula! If your area is NOT shown in red on the City Light map we added atop this story, let us know – boundaries are often approximate.

10:38 AM UPDATE: Kent from Atomic Boys notes that the Admiral business district DOES have power. Note that these outages can be spotty – Patrick says the light at California/Lander is out.

11:03 AM UPDATE: Still don’t have official word on the cause; we’re still out chasing reports of City Light sightings. Meantime, more businesses are sending word of their status. For example, WSB sponsors Hotwire Coffee in The Junction and Zeek’s Pizza in Morgan say they have power. On Twitter, we’re retweeting updates from other businesses (see our stream at Melissa at Barnes & Noble says Westwood Village appears to be “untouched by the outage.” We’ve also heard from Tammy at Alki Juice and Java near Seacrest, who says that area is OK. (Other businesses open – especially restaurants/coffee? – let us know. Update: Chaco Canyon Café, WSB sponsor, in The Triangle, has power. And there’s a coupon here too.)

11:11 AM UPDATE: If you are seeing TV helicopters, no, there are no additional incidents – they are just looking for any signs of outage-related trouble that they can see from the air. At least one has already been going around, and we hear via the scanner that another is headed this way.

11:27 AM UPDATE: Cause finally found – tree branch into wire:

We noticed a sudden wind gust shortly before the power flickered here and went out elsewhere. (By the way, if you can’t place 46th/Hanford, here’s a map.)

11:56 AM UPDATE: On Twitter, we’re hearing about some who have lost their cable/Internet services – not 100 percent sure it’s related but anecdotally, seems to happen with major outages. Meantime, co-publisher Patrick is back from the outage epicenter at 46th/47th/Hanford; adding photos above and below this line.

Let us know when your power is BACK! However, we’d still caution that the 1 pm estimate is JUST an estimate – identifying the cause doesn’t mean the fix is simple.

12:36 PM UPDATE: Some power is back in some areas – see comments. Restoring it can be complicated too, with multiple “feeders” involved, so that doesn’t mean everyone will be back immediately – let us know when you are, though! So far, we’ve heard from parts of Junction, Admiral, North Delridge, (added) Alki areas, and (added) Junction businesses, Camp Long area (35th/Dawson) …

12:45 PM UPDATE: Some are reporting Comcast-service restoration too. Thanks, meantime, to EVERYONE who has been sharing information – in the early moments, for reasons as simple as that it meant we knew this was a very big outage, long before City Light information revealed the numbers. Also thanks for photos and info from what turned out to be the origin of the outage in 46th/47th/Hanford area – Kate Kaemerle just sent several photos including this one of the crew installing new poles:

Kate also sent this photo of neighbor Richard Rohde, who she says is holding the apparent culprit branch here:

More reports have come in of areas with restoration, including High Point and Fairmount Park.

1:17 PM UPDATE: Yet more areas continue to get power back. Mark suggested we remind people about food-safety issues caused by the refrigerator being without power for hours – here’s the official government advice.

2:07 PM UPDATE: According to City Light’s map, about 750 homes and businesses are still out – though the map does NOT show some people north of Morgan Junction who say they are too.

2:49 PM UPDATE: City Light just told someone in that general area via Twitter that the estimate remains 3:30 pm for those still out.

3 PM UPDATE: Subsequently, Colleen says in comments that she got an estimate of 9 pm for the California/Juneau pocket. Meanwhile, we asked SCL spokesperson Scott Thomsen to answer the question that many have asked – how can one tree branch leave 11,000 homes/businesses/etc. without power? His reply:

The branch that fell hit a pole carrying two feeder lines (large power lines that carry electricity for about 3,500 customers each).

When it crossed the lines and created a short circuit, the power surge not only tripped the breakers for those two lines, but also tripped the breakers back at the Delridge Substation for the entire feeder bus — a series of connections for five feeder lines. (Imagine a giant power strip where the main plug is the substation, the strip is the bus and each outlet connects to a feeder.)

When all five feeders dropped off, we had about 11,000 customers without power.

4:57 PM UPDATE: Some people just north of Morgan Junction are still out. City Light tells us that if you are, keep calling to be sure they know (and to get the latest on restoration prospects).

7:41 PM UPDATE: Ten hours into the outage, commenters in a few areas – north side of Morgan Junction, west side of High Point, among them – say they’re still out and it’s going to be a while. City Light’s map is not precise, since the utility does not have direct connectivity with all its customers (that “smart meter” system is still in the pipeline).

10:04 PM UPDATE: While City Light declared more than an hour ago that the outage was over, the Morgan Junction-area pocket remained out – until just now.

City Light starts cleanup at ‘surplus’ site on Pigeon Point

December 21, 2013 at 12:15 pm | In Environment, Pigeon Point, Utilities, West Seattle news | 16 Comments

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

If you drove, walked, or rode past 21st/Andover in Pigeon Point on Friday, you might have noticed the crew working at the old Seattle City Light substation on the northwest corner. It’s one of the six West Seattle “surplus” sites that City Light is looking to unload.

A reader wondered if a decision about this site’s fate had already been made, considering that the tree work being done by the crew yesterday looked extensive. So we checked with City Light – and found out it’s more than tree work. SCL spokesperson Scott Thomsen tells WSB it’s part of a cleanup at the site, after soil sampling at the site turned up contamination beyond what’s considered acceptable for residential property.

Click to read the rest of City Light starts cleanup at ‘surplus’ site on Pigeon Point…

West Seattle power outage: Some out; for others, a flicker

December 14, 2013 at 1:46 am | In Utilities, West Seattle news | 18 Comments

1:46 AM: It’s one of those things that can make you wonder if it was just a flicker at your place … but no, shortly after 1 am, per social-media discussion, it seems a brief power interruption was fairly widespread in West Seattle. A few people report hearing a “boom,” which suggests a transformer problem somewhere; as we write this, the City Light outage map is showing 77 residences out around and above the Me-Kwa-Mooks area of Beach Drive.

2:07 AM: The map has now bumped the number up to 181.

2:22 AM: .. and it’s back to 77, along with the notation that the cause is blamed on “bird/animal.” Restoration is estimated to be up to two hours away.

Gatewood power outage – but not a surprise this time

December 11, 2013 at 9:12 pm | In Gatewood, Utilities, West Seattle news | 2 Comments

If you have noticed while driving California SW south of Morgan Junction that a section of Gatewood is in the dark – it’s planned, according to a note we received from Lee, who says a notice was distributed saying the power would be out starting around 8 pm, for up to 11 hours. It’s not on the city’s outage map, so we don’t know how wide the area is, but this is part of the zone still served by some of Seattle City Light’s oldest equipment, which is scheduled for replacement.

10:19 PM: Power is back on!

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