Barton overflow-control options: Schoolhouse? Captain’s Park? Or?

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

A years-long process now comes down to the next few months: King County will decide this summer which of three options to pursue for reducing overflows from the Barton pump station (by the Fauntleroy ferry dock – county photo at left), as part of a process to achieve that goal for four such stations near Puget Sound beaches that have “combined sewer overflow” (CSO) problems. Last night, more than a dozen county reps and consultants came to Southwest Community Center to present, and answer questions about, the three options – one of which drew the most community concern – read on:

First – Combined Sewer Overflow refers to the fact that these pump stations – also including Murray, at Lowman Beach, as well as two in Ballard and Magnolia, and 30-plus others in the county – receive combined wastewater and stormwater. Newer systems, it was explained, separate the two. The county says overflows typically happen four to six times a year, mostly during major rain events, when the combined amount of water coming into the pump station exceeds its capacity – forcing water to overflow into Puget Sound (as opposed to backing up into homes and streets).

The goal of CSO control, consultant Bob Wheeler explained, is to cut the number of overflows down to an average of once a year. They intend to have control systems under construction by 2013 for the four beach-side stations in West Seattle, Magnolia and Ballard. And that means, after about three years of preliminary conversations, it’s time to decide what will be used to control the flows.

The basic possibilities are storage, expanding the pump station to add on-site treatment and conveyance capacity for use in those major events, or dramatically reducing the amount of water that goes into the system – for example, choosing a sizable area of the pump station’s “basin” where storm drains and down spouts would no longer go into the sewer system, with “green” measures such as bioswales, rain gardens and added street trees implemented to help naturally process rainwater.

Barton’s basin – shown on that map – covers almost 900 acres, and averages four overflow events a year, totaling about four million gallons of combined wastewater/stormwater going into Puget Sound without treatment. To meet the control expectations, the county has to add 110,000 gallons of storage, expand to 12 million gallons a day of treatment/conveyance capacity, or take 26 acres off the system. The station is served by “trunk lines,” and the one along Barton itself is the biggest, with more than half the flow, so the potential overflow would have to be captured along that line.

As a result, the three options under consideration are:

*Underground storage near the pump station itself – potentially under the stretch of upper Fauntleroy Way that is directly across the street and up an embankment, running north a few blocks from the creek overlook at SW Director to where it merges back to “lower” Fauntleroy Way at SW Concord (shown/explained here, with pros/cons)

*Underground storage beneath a parking lot at the newly community-purchased Fauntleroy Schoolhouse (shown/explained here)

*Choosing a section of the basin east of 35th SW — in Sunrise Heights and Westwood — to work on the “green” options to reduce flow (shown/explained here – note that it would reduce parking in the area, among other effects)

The latter two drew some questions, but no controversy; Kevin Wooley of the Fauntleroy Community Services Agency, new owner of the schoolhouse, said they are “interested” in the prospect of having the facility on site. “There are different possibilities, depending on what the tradeoffs are.”

The “upper Fauntleroy Way” option, however, was another story:

It would call for digging up the street and laying down a 300-foot long stretch of pipeline for the storage facility, plus two “above-grade” facilities – each 8 to 10 feet high – with odor control and electrical control equipment.

The county’s list of possible drawbacks for this site did not include the biggest one pointed out by neighbors including Gary Dawson: This isn’t just any stretch of roadway.

Atop the embankment on the west side of the street is a mini-greenbelt with tall evergreens – including Douglas firs and madrone – and long-standing rose bushes, known as Captain’s Park, centered across from the home of local legend Captain Morey Skaret. “It really is a sensitive site,” Dawson noted. “There’s really a lot of community interest and history” – and the site yielded museum-quality artifacts when dug up years ago. (It’s mentioned toward the end of this report on Fauntleroy history.)

If that site were chosen, it was asked, would those trees have to be removed? The county hedged on its response: “We would try not to impact them” – but they wouldn’t know for sure until they started digging. What about another street to the east, then? it was suggested.

As the discussion continued, county rep Monica Vandervieren said the concerns about the community park are exactly the reason these types of meetings are held – and she stressed that the feedback period is currently wide open, with a variety of ways to provide that feedback.

“So if a construction crew shows up and finds a bunch of community members tied to those trees, is that ‘community feedback’?” Dawson asked.

Vandervieren replied with an anecdote about a project elsewhere in which a pipe was “bent” around a stand of trees that needed to be saved. She also exhorted those on hand to gather materials and take them to neighbors, to be sure as many people as possible know about this (and again, take a close look at those maps – the basin ranges far from the station itself).

Shortly thereafter, the meeting broke up, and the large county contingent stayed as promised for one-on-one discussions with the 15 or so community members who eventually were on hand.

WHAT’S NEXT AND HOW TO COMMENT: The preferred alternative will be chosen by the county in June – here’s the timeline as depicted on the county website. Then the process of creating an environmental-impact report will ensue, with “more hearings,” reps promised last night – you’re likely to see those scheduled in spring of 2011. In the meantime, they promised to actively use the website for the project – here’s the start page – to post responses to questions and concerns, as well as ongoing information. If you missed last night’s meeting, you can take an online survey till April 16 – or use other feedback methods detailed on the right sidebar of this page.

MURRAY (LOWMAN BEACH) MEETING COMING UP: If you live in the Murray pump station’s basin, your version of this meeting is coming up a week from Monday – also at 6 pm, at Southwest Community Center, on March 29. The start page for Murray information is here; the three alternatives are all listed here – and they’re all underground storage facilities close to the station itself.

3 Replies to "Barton overflow-control options: Schoolhouse? Captain's Park? Or?"

  • Duckitude March 20, 2010 (8:50 am)

    Well, where are all the comments? Looks like the usual non-concern about King County’s plans for industrializing and burdening small neighborhoods with these “needed” expansions of wastewater control.

    In the meantime, the land that could most tolerate industrialization, the land where the least impact would be made on neighborhoods and park users, the land that could almost completely hide such a project keeps getting a “bye.” I am talking about Lincoln Park.

    There is so much space available with so little impact on people AND small neighborhoods and land, but, in all likelihood, it will take a revolution of the communities involved to get action that would be way more appropriate, but apparently consistently given a bye because of some “ancient” deeds and alleged restrictions.

    Central to both Murray and Barton and easily the best choice for a large underground CSO tank that would serve both pump stations…


  • GD March 21, 2010 (10:38 am)

    The community supports this project. The amount of sewage that overflows into Fauntleroy Cove each year during storm activities is unacceptable. The only controversy is the location options.
    We have been working with KIng County on this project for years and the school site seems the best choice for all. It is a mutual benefit to both parties and is supported by the community. A little research will show that the Murray pump station does not directly serve the Barton drainage so the Lincoln Park option is a non-starter.

  • Duckitude March 23, 2010 (9:04 am)

    Hi GD (that would be Gary Dawson, I presume). Your derogatory tone sets the mood. The Lincoln Park alternative to siting a large CSO tank for servicing both Barton and Murray CSO needs is doable. It is as doable as tearing up the School Site and Lowman Beach Park for the same purposes, probably more doable than the school site. The idea that you are the only one who has been working with King County for years to fix things in this area is kind of an overstatement, don’t you think?

    That’s the way you want to start this conversation?

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