Morgan crowd to county sewer team: “You can’t destroy the park”

(Quick 360-degree look at Lowman Beach Park this morning, from its NW corner, atop the seawall)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

It seems like a no-win situation: To keep millions of gallons of wastewater from spilling into Puget Sound every year, a beloved park on its shore might have to be compromised, perhaps even sacrificed.

But the neighbors and fans of Lowman Beach Park (map) who crowded into the Morgan Community Association‘s quarterly meeting Wednesday night insisted they could turn the search for a Combined Sewer Overflow solution from no-win to win-win – provided they are brought more deeply into the process, getting detailed data they can use to independently evaluate the possibilities, then suggesting and supporting an acceptable alternative.

But is it too late? With the county reiterating it’s “on a track” to choose its preferred alternative this summer, Wednesday night’s Morgan discussion was the last scheduled public meeting; it wasn’t even scheduled until after the proposed alternatives received an at-times emotional reception last month (here’s our story). Now, residents are asking the county to schedule more, and asked for the creation of a “stakeholders’ group.”

More on what they said, what they heard, and what happens next, ahead:

This is all happening because, in an average year, five million gallons of CSO wastewater goes into Puget Sound every year from the county-operated Murray Pump Station at Lowman, usually during heavy rains, The “combined” system – not considered an optimal system, but that’s what’s in place in parts of the city – mixes rain water with other wastewater, including sewage, so that means overflows include raw sewage going into the Sound. The state has ordered a drastic cutback in that pollution, limiting it to one million gallons a year at Murray.

Murray is not the only pump station involved in this process – Barton, on the other side of Lincoln Park by the Fauntleroy ferry terminal, is one of three others. Both those sites were the subject of March meetings at Southwest Community Center at which a team of county staffers and consultants discussed the three respective alternatives they had chosen for CSO control (here again is our March Murray report; here’s our March Barton report) and said they had to settle on one this summer, so they needed comments within a few weeks.

(WSB photo from 10/8/2009 Murray CSO open house at The Hall at Fauntleroy)
Before those meetings, the process in general was discussed at two lightly attended open houses in West Seattle last October (we covered both – here’s our Murray report from that round, and our Barton report).

This week, the county’s presentation (see the slide deck here) began with a condensed version of the background information presented at the March meeting – explaining what Combined Sewer Overflows are, why the county is required to take steps to reduce them, and what types of methods they can use to make that reduction happen. There was some crowd disagreement over whether the background briefing was required at all, but when county reps asked who wanted it, enough hands went up that they went ahead.

The presentation included a few changes from the one shown at the March meeting (see it here), including one slide including the flow that the Murray pump station gets from the Barton station – by the Fauntleroy ferry terminal – on the other side of Lincoln Park, and another (above) showing photos a similar type of – but not similarly sized – county project (at North Creek in Bothell).

But the three alternatives the county says it’s considering are the same – linked from this page – three versions of storage totaling a million gallons:


*Above (these visuals are from the slide deck, not the explanatory county webpages), the one with big pipes underneath sections of Beach Drive (900 feet long) and SW Murray (250 feet long) – explained here


*Above, the one that would force residents out of several homes/apartments across from Lowman Beach Park so an underground tank could be placed (along with some storage pipe under Beach Drive) – explained here


*Third and final, above, the most unpopular one – digging up much of Lowman Beach Park, including its century-old sycamores and water-view tennis court, for a 170 x 85 x 20 underground storage tank, along with an above-ground building along its north side for electrical and odor-control equipment – explained here

Wednesday night, emotion and determination ran high, with declarations like this one from Kate: “This is the most beautiful, tiny, tiny little park that you want to destroy,” and went on to list the many different ways that people use it every day, from kayak launching to dog walking. “You cannot destroy the park!” she insisted, concluding that Lowman would be lost “over my dead body.”

Then there were the calls for a more open public process, rather than closing it with this meeting and another week or so of commenting, then announcing a preferred alternative this summer.

From Patrick Gordon (who came up to county community-relations liaison Martha Tuttle after the meeting and declared it to be the “worst public process” he had ever seen): “You’ve been working on this since 2007, then you show up (in 2010) and say we have two weeks to comment? You have an opportunity here to engage an amazing community that cares about the Sound … in a process we could all be proud of.” He went on to suggest a model: The Alaskan Way Viaduct stakeholders’ advisory committees, in which he and Fauntleroy Community Association board member Vlad Oustimovitch – who was also at Wednesday’s meeting – have both participated.

Gordon recounted that at one point, those interested in the AWV’s future were told an elevated structure was the only option – “then the city, county and state put together a stakeholders group and we sat down with them. We came up with a solution beyond what anybody said we could have thought of.” During his comments Wednesday night, he also shared a poem from his 11-year-old daughter, writing of Lowman Beach Park as “a place of comfort, a place of joy.”

That theme resounded over and over again, as did the theme of proposing that park neighbors and users could help solve the problem. Marine-mammal advocate and area resident Donna Sandstrom (founder of The Whale Trail) told the county reps, “This isn’t your problem, this is OUR problem. I hope we can (solve the problem quickly) … that park is a gem.”

A big public forum could make big progress, suggested Jennifer: “We need you to get a HUGE hall” for a major community meeting to talk about the challenge. “We have engineers … We are going to stand up as a community and say that locating an above-ground facility at Lowman Beach is not an option.”

So what IS an option, for worried neighbors? Dr. Ron Sterling, who lives next to the park, reiterated what he had said at the March meeting – that he believes the county’s proposals for the Barton CSO-control facility (linked here) are too small, and that he thinks a storage facility could be built underground at Lincoln Park, to serve both. (The county has said there are too many “geotechnical challenges” for that to work, including that it would have to be a “deep-bore tunnel” because of the elevation change between the beachfront pump stations and the blufftop land that comprises most of Lincoln Park, up to 160′ in elevation.)

Dr. Sterling also scolded the county team for too little “public process,” too late: “If you had coordinated with the community from the start, we would have the political will for you to do the right thing.” (He has written his take on the meeting in two posts at the advocacy website he has set up for the CSO situation,

What the “right thing” might be, residents say they need more information to help determine.

For example: The county said it had ruled out the possibility of disconnecting a significant portion of the 1,000-acre “basin” from the stormwater system – a Green Stormwater Infrastructure which conversely is one of the three final options being considered for Barton CSO control – because they believe it wouldn’t remove enough of the potential flow. Sandstrom wondered if the county was underestimating local residents, offering her belief that a sizable majority of residents could be “rallied” to deal with the stormwater in a “green” way. (County reps and consultants said that even if 50 percent of the homes – which they believe would be the highest likely participation rate – joined in, that still only would reduce the flow by 13 percent.)

Several of those in attendance repeated that they want to see more of the data the county used before it settled on the three options it’s officially considering. Whether and how they’ll get it, was not clear: At one point, when asked how residents could access detailed data, project manager Shahrzad Namini suggested they could file a public-disclosure request. Some attendees were audibly and visibly aghast at the suggestion that the requested data would not be freely provided. The facilitator the county brought in to run the meeting, Tammy Kellogg, tried to intervene and clarify the request, but then segued into one of several expressions of concern about the time: “My job is to get you out of here before the lights go out,” to which one audience member retorted loudly, “No, it’s not, it’s to inform us.”

Since Lowman Beach is a Seattle city park, some are looking to city leaders to protect it from what they see as its potential destruction. At the March meeting, a Parks representative in attendance suggested that if the Lowman underground option was chosen, maybe the park’s destiny was to be just a utility site; that prompted cries of “This park is not a throwaway park!” Wednesday night, when the question arose about what would happen if the city had to give up park property for this kind of use, City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen – a West Seattle resident who chaired the council’s Parks Committee until this year – rose to say that city law requires the replacement of any relinquished parkland.

No one appeared to be in a tradeoff mood. Yet the county stressed that even if the underground tank at Lowman wasn’t the eventual choice, the Lowman park will be affected one way or another – some kind of “staging” would happen there for any and every option, they explained, since there’s no place else to “stage” construction equipment in the area. And they noted that this project, whatever is chosen, will be combined with a long-planned upgrade of the Murray pump station itself.

The real problem, one attendee suggested, is that any option chosen now may be outdated in the future unless the “upstream problem” is addressed; another said that planning for it to handle a “100-year event” may not be enough; yet another suggestion was to look at separating the combined sewer system that is the root of the problem, and combining that with sustainable stormwater handling might become the answer.

An hour and a half into the discussion, half an hour longer than the MoCA meeting was supposed to run, it began to ebb, but the question was pressed: How soon will there be an answer as to whether more meetings can be held? Project manager Namini said she didn’t know. Community-relations rep Tuttle said, “There’s more discussion back at the office that’s going to take place.” After the meeting, we asked her who would ultimately make the decision on the request to extend the public process; she listed the chain of command – Namini reports to Wastewater Division Head Christie True, who in turn reports to county Department of Natural Resources and Parks interim director Bob Burns, who in turn reports to County Executive Constantine.

Those determined to protect Lowman Beach Park said they’ll go straight to the top themselves: “If you’re not listening to us, we will go other places to be heard.” Letters already have been sent to Constantine; petitions (described on the Sound Angels advocacy site) remain in circulation – including the hard-copy one whose creator Jim Coombes told the meeting it’s past 500 names – while he originally was hoping for perhaps 50 – and an online petition (here) as well.

Though his neighborhood is dealing with the Barton station situation, not the one at Murray, Fauntleroy Community Association president Bruce Butterfield was on hand Wednesday night and offered a summary late in the meeting: “It’s frustrating for a lot of people because we don’t know what the solutions are, but it’s wonderful to see the passions.”

Until and unless those passions sway the county to add more public discussions to its selection process, official feedback options are now down to these:

*Online survey, which the county website says will be available until “the end of April”
*Phone: Martha Tuttle at 206-684-1207

Additional feedback links:
*The Sound Angels site links to city, county and state leaders in its right sidebar

According to the county’s current timeline, an environmental-review process – which would include additional public-feedback opportunities – will be triggered by the choice of a preferred alternative this summer, and a “draft facilities plan” is due to the state by the end of the year.

36 Replies to "Morgan crowd to county sewer team: "You can't destroy the park""

  • Duckitude April 23, 2010 (8:43 am)

    Wow. Great detail and mostly correct, except for a few things. Unfortunately, I work today, so have to get out of here, so no time to comment much, but to say thank you for the coverage.

    Two quick things.

    The county has until 2030 to get most, if not all county CSO projects completed. There is plenty of time to do this right.
    The idea that Lowman Beach Park would be used for staging is ridiculous and totally incorrect. Even for the underground diesel electrical back-up generator that was going to be built in 2005 or so and was redesigned through a community process (imagine that?), was going to be staged in Lincoln Park. All staging for any construction in this area will be most likely in Lincoln Park.

    I am aghast at how the county continues to spin the answers, the data, and the threats to get what they seem to be really too invested in as “public servants.” I could go on…. but, you can figure it out.

    It is a pretty transparent “sell job.”
    Again, to keep the record straight. I am a renter. I have no investment at stake and no residence at stake. My landlord does. I am very attached to Lowman Beach Park, whether I live far away from it or not. I am very attached to this whole area and to the use of Puget Sound for kayaking, windsurfing, swimming, and snorkeling.

    I have also spent more hours on my surfboard at Westport than I probably should have… (surfers!)

    When I lived in Ballard so my daughter could go to Ballard High School, I was at Lowman Beach Park all the time. I used to live on 38th in West Seattle near Fairmont School until I moved to Ballard and then back to West Seattle.

    I have no conflicts of interest. I have a huge and deep respect for the ocean and for Puget Sound.
    I am not a disgruntled neighbor or a NIMBY person. I can move at will. I don’t have to put up with the construction mess at all. It won’t hurt me at all. It is just plain wrong.
    This is not the last thing I want to do with my spare time, but, even if it were, this is so wrong that I would put tons of more personal stuff on hold for this cause. So, there!

  • Duckitude April 23, 2010 (8:47 am)

    One more quick thing. To WSB folks — if you are going to let government employees or contractors write comments on this blog, they should be accountable and pre-approved as actual government employees and should not be able to post without declaring who they are, what their contact information is, and who authorized them to post on this site. It’s called “accountability.” Please!

  • bebecat April 23, 2010 (8:55 am)

    This is a sad situation. I encourage all those who love Lowman Beach Park (or a special area in your own neighborhood) to support this community by #1 signing their petition and #2 contacting the appropriate public officials on their behalf. Your “special area” could be next.

  • hangin'inWS April 23, 2010 (10:04 am)

    Huh? People who work for government can’t have personal opinions?

  • Bettytheyeti April 23, 2010 (11:13 am)

    I was hearten by some of the intelligent comments by our community on why the 3 “solutions” should NOT be considered. I was awaiting the postmortem by the WSB on the King County’s presentation and the meeting. For those not in attendance, TR distilled it nicely. I am actually surprised at the county’s ham-handedness. eg. picture a large mechanical pump with grass on top of it. A two year closure of Beach Drive and the entrance to Lincoln Park; really?!
    Destruction of the Park and turn it into a sewage facility, okay?! Oh was this park an amenity? The K.County: we decide for you, we are starting A.S.A.P. and we are at the beginning of the process. These are you options . . . because. It is sad. Please sign petitions if you haven’t. Get involved.

  • Dan April 23, 2010 (11:15 am)

    Thank you for posting a very detailed article. Seems like all solutions proposed have their own problems. Time to try to think out of the box.

  • old timer April 23, 2010 (12:07 pm)

    To my mind, this was a typical government operation.
    First, the organization picks a set of ‘alternatives’.
    Second, a public meeting is held to solicit ‘comments’.
    Notice it’s ‘comment’s’ that are solicited; not other alternatives.
    The menu has been written, you get to choose from what’s offered.
    The result is that the organization is fulfilling the public input mandate, but almost totally removes any possibility of having it’s predetermined course of action altered.
    This breeds the contention and rancor as most people do not understand the system – they think it is there to serve them, but in fact, it exists to serve the organization.
    Not to say that there are not hard working and dedicated people
    working on governmental issues. But, where they interact with the public they are supposed to serve, we have a fault line subject to severe quakes.

  • elevated concern April 23, 2010 (12:42 pm)

    Old Timer, you are dead on with your analysis. Seems to apply to everything the county and the city engages in for checking the box that the public was asked for their input.

  • Duckitude April 23, 2010 (1:39 pm)

    If you are a government employee working on this project or associated with it, sure, you can have “personal” opinions, but don’t misrepresent them as official positions.

    There was a post at WSB on another article recently signed by KCWTD. That is an official statement and when an official statement is rendered by a government contractor or employee, it should be “signed” (the writer should be identified) and contact information given. Anyone can represent themselves as KCWTD.

    In addition, for a KCWTD person or contractor to weigh in on this from a personal standpoint, I still want to see their “conflicts of interest disclosure statement” (in other words, if you are going to lobby for the government position in this matter, and you are a government person, don’t pretend you aren’t). It affects your judgment and therefore your credibility in terms of being rational and logical in these kinds of matters.
    Hey, my conflicts of interest disclosure statement for my medical practice is online for all the see. Wouldn’t you want to know if I was a doctor who received samples and was buddy-buddy with pharm reps, etc., when I weigh in on medication discussions?

  • Mike April 23, 2010 (2:13 pm)

    The work being proposed for Lowman Beach is not new news. It’s also not starting construction for another THREE years.

    Again, stop flushing your toilet.

  • Wbn April 23, 2010 (3:24 pm)

    From my understanding won’t there still be a beautiful park there after they rebuild the pump station? don’t you think the park will be even more beautiful after the work is done? In my opinion that parks smells and would probably benefit from some work on it.

  • Kate April 23, 2010 (3:39 pm)

    I was at this meeting as well (I admit to being the Kate quoted in the article).

    Another point missed in this piece is about the two options in which a giant pipe would be installed under Beach Drive. The government website says “traffic disruptions during construction” would occur. The engineer at the meeting said that this portion of Beach Drive would be COMPLETELY CLOSED for 2 YEARS. This would create a 20 minute detour for anyone who had to get around the blockage, because you would have to go all the way North to Jacobson, up to the Alaska Junction area and back South to get around it. Any solution using Beach Drive needs to keep traffic flowing, at least with one lane.

    Second, the engineer also offered a possibility that is not described on the govt. website as well– the above-ground mechanical structure could actually be placed below ground, at greater expense. This seems to be the only acceptable option for that, and why they have not offered it up as a possibility is beyond me, except to confirm the hidden, behind-closed-doors process that this project has been developed under.

    If they dig up any or all of the park, they better replace everything they destroy, put the tanks and equipment all underground, and restore it to its original beauty and use.

  • Bettytheyeti April 23, 2010 (4:02 pm)

    @Wbn the most expensive proposal would place the tanks and mechanicals below the park. And they say the mechanicals would have to go above ground for the safety of the folks who have to work on them. The size of the pumps are 3x the existing. The trees would be gone. The size would pretty much take the park. Its seemed to me their preferred (expeditious) plan was to get rid of the park, place a large holding tank below and large structure for the mechanical above, stamp some art on it (so its “art” and eye-sore) and send outflow into Sound. Again by their own statistics, Barton is under capacity. 2 yrs optimistic disruptions. And this would not require solution buying land. Just taking the park!

  • Duckitude April 23, 2010 (5:42 pm)

    Hi Kate and All: This is just NOT only about road disruption and the look of the park afterwards. It is about the health of the Sound and good planning… not just a make work project or a band-aid, or minimally fulfilling some legal obligation while destroying treasured neighborhoods.
    First, they can’t restore the park or the neighborhood anyway. Impossible. Unless they know how to take the heritage trees out of the park and bring them back. Not possible. Also, there will be very little surface dirt in which to plant anything substantial after they put the tank in below ground.

    So, No. 1 — the park cannot be restored. It is a hope and a lie that is just not going to happen.

    No. 2 — doing these underbuilt risky operations in close quarters in small neighborhoods is risky business from many standpoints. When they go down, and they will, there will be big problems… when there is a storm surge or increased tidal levels due to global warming, there will be big problems.
    They have already studied what tide changes will do and how vulnerable these close-to-the shoreline pump stations are to failure due to rising tides and tidal surges. They know what is coming, but they push for the wrong solutions anyway.

    I have no idea why they are so attached to these plans, but I am going to do my darndest to get them unattached.

    If this goes to SEPA, it does not have a chance in a million to get approved, using their own research to show the risks and dangers.

    Money for nothing.

    Let me tell you. They can change course at this point. When I moved into this neighborhood in late 2004, a 4 x 8 foot Seattle Dept. of Planning Zoning Notice was erected in front of the Lowman Beach Park sign in late 2004 early 2005. I went to the DPD and filed a petition for a hearing, I created waves all over the place (funny for a surfer to create waves instead of just riding them….) and with the help of Dow Constantine and Tom Rasmussen and others, we stopped the first set of plans for the underground diesel electrical generator and got them to change it to a place under the sidewalk and street instead of under the park itself (with a new roadway INTO the park). That was after the SEPA hearings were final. It can be done at almost any stage of the so-called process.
    I will write more about what was said at the meeting soon, but, the issue just does not rest ONLY on the restoration of the park or traffic issues… it is about the right solution for both neighborhoods and the sound. And, at this point, as one Seattle Parks senior person put it “political.”
    Let’s see, how many votes did our current incumbents win by last time around?

  • Duckitude April 23, 2010 (6:03 pm)

    Ooops… meant to say in next to last paragraph directly above “And, at this point, as one Seattle Parks senior person put it “it is mostly political.”

  • Duckitude April 23, 2010 (7:00 pm)

    Okay, I have had some time to go through this article and look at what was reported and what was reportedly said, and what was actually said, and the main “controversial” points.
    First of all, it is a great report and obviously was done with great care and great professionalism, capturing the essence of the struggle that is taking place. So great in fact, that there are practically no errors. The only factual error I think may be wrong is the elevation of Lincoln Park, variously quoted as 106 feet to 125 feet.

    However, the elevation issue is a red herring, since they have not said how low they could go with a big tank in that area. Obviously deeper tanks require more concrete or reinforcement because of the outward pressure of the water at deeper levels (I think), but, I doubt it very much if they could not do a tank whose bottom is close or below Puget Sound mean sea level. The Escala in Seattle has a parking garage underground that goes down more than 100 feet. I can’t imagine that the Escala’s parking garage couldn’t hold water clear up to the top of it on its own given that the parking garage is essentially the foundation of a huge building.
    Thus, how slanted up or straight through from sea level to the tank it would have to be is up for grabs. Depends. Tunnels are built all the time in situations like Lincoln Park. An 80 or 100 foot tunnel from shoreline to tank is doable, probably without any special large boring machines.
    In addition, the pipes that go to and from such holding tanks are not the 12 foot pipes (those are storage pipes, not real pipes), but would be pipes that are about the same size as what is under Lincoln Parks shoreline walkway already, about 4 feet at most. No reason to have bigger pipes because the pipes that exist can only handle so much capacity anyway.
    I hope you are getting my drift on this. There is so much potential in a Lincoln Park site that it is pretty exciting, actually. If you want to flush out summer sewage (the real reason for smells), you could build a holding tank that would be just for that… flushing the system during none rainy periods so the sewage actually flows through better and is diluted. Diluted sewage does not smell like more less undiluted sewage and summers along the coast have more sewage odor, not because they have current substandard odor control but because odor control facilities are not the answer. Most of the odor comes directly from street grates that go directly into the combined sewage pipe and emit odors due to stagnant effluent during non-rainy periods. There is no way to put odor control on those street intake grids (except, what we do is put a door mat over the one near us during non-rainy times to block the backdraft of odor up and out of the grid and down the street (primarily northwest winds during summer). I could go on, and on… But won’t take up more space here.
    Lincoln Elevation argument = red herring. Lincoln Geotechnical challenge argument = red herring.
    I can say one more thing about what was presented and what is in this article. Mr. Gordon is exactly correct when he says “this is the worst public process” he has ever seen. It is really bad. I and three other neighbors Lowman Beach neighbors were on an “official” community committee to help drive the earlier underground generator plans in the right direction. We met, we talked, we contributed, and plans were changed to meet what the neighborhood felt was the right solution that preserved the park from further industrialization. No problem there.
    However, I had to dog Martha Tuttle to get updates on any new thinking about the generator. She knows my phone number, my address, my front door, my e-mail which has been the same for the last ten years, and no word. I had to keep trying to get updates to get updates. Finally, I got an update which was cryptic and essentially which was “You aren’t going to like it.” Okay. Frankly, we were a known and used community committee, assisted by Morgan Junction Community Association to be such a committee, AND EVEN WE DID NOT GET APPROPRIATE COMMUNICATION OR CONSULTATIVE POWERS. So, the below ground generator became an above ground generator without our consultation or review, or even a communication about what the “new” plans were for that device. Uh, public process bad? Yep, even so bad they summarily dismissed us altogether as the designated community committee for the generator matter.

    Need I go on? This is a travesty of everything from neighborhood involvement to engineering to even good science. Please stop the insanity of these plans.

  • natinstl April 23, 2010 (8:25 pm)

    If you go to this link you can see a great pic of Lowman Beach back in 1922. It used to be called Lincoln Park Beach.

  • Duckitude April 23, 2010 (8:31 pm)

    Hi: Tried to view the pic, but it is “restricted.”

  • Mike April 23, 2010 (9:04 pm)

    Try this:

    Makes me sad so many homes sit where all those trees used to be. If only those homes and thousands more didn’t exist around there we would not have to worry about updating the sewage system.

  • Mark April 23, 2010 (9:24 pm)

    WSB thanks for such outstanding reporting. We are just up the street and have already invested in separating out sewer and drainpipes to reduce our sewer input. Unfortunately our neighborhood needs to all chip in to hire an attorney to start creating very expensive roadblocks for the county. Our process rewards those who can obstruct and increase costs on government agencies. While these government folks are undoubtedly good intentioned, the more we spend to delay and increase their costs, the more we will disrupt and hopefully defeat their plans. We are ready to contribute from this house.

  • bolo April 23, 2010 (11:25 pm)

    “where all those trees used to be”

    Look like madrona trees.

  • Jennifer Hall April 24, 2010 (12:31 am)

    Mark, I agree that we need to band together, hire a good attorney (better yet, find someone to help us out partially pro bono — yeah, I know — good luck), and hold some meetings to educate neighbors about rain barrels, green roofs, separating sewers and drain pipes like you’ve done. I’m wondering if we can get some funding from the county or city for rain barrels. We want to do what we can. I, personally, could use training around ways to reduce sewer input.

  • Bettytheyeti April 24, 2010 (10:58 am)

    Yup Mark, I agree; it’s looking like we need to “lawyer up!”

    @Jennifer, mitigation thru green roofs, rain barrels, swales, etc. help but only 13%. As someone said at the meeting a combination of several of solutions may achieve better results.

    Short of taking a crash course in seismic hydrology, find someone who has already done this.

    What galls me: I vote for pro-park levys only to have them take a gem with shoreline and the offer me a concrete replacement.

  • miws April 24, 2010 (2:18 pm)

    Thanks, natinstl, (and Mike) for the link to that great pic!



  • Amanda April 24, 2010 (5:19 pm)

    I agree with all those who believe that siting the CSO project at or under Lowman Beach Park would be a tragic loss for the community.
    I disagree entirely with the good doctor, however, on the issue of Lincoln Park. His “solution” is to save one park by sacrificing another one, and putting massive, possibly unnecessary, sewage storage tanks in one of the finest parks in Seattle. Not only is he basically manufacturing plans for how to engineer the project at Lincoln Park, I think he is ignoring the reality of what it would do to Lincoln park to site a CSO diversion and storage project there. Among other things, Lincoln Park’s shoreline is restricted marine habitat under state law, and no sewage, diluted or not, may be released from within the park. The elevation issues, whether it is 106 feet, 110, or 125 are serious impediments — you either pump the flow back up, which is very expensive, or you don’t capture it all, which defeats the purpose of CSO project altogether. Finally, unlike Lowman Beach Park, Lincoln Park is critical habitat for a variety of plants and animals. It makes no sense to “solve” the problem we face with the County by offering up Lincoln Park as a solution.
    Rather, we should work collectively on lower-tech, green solutions that reduce the flow in peak rain events — everything from disconnecting roof drains from the sewer to installing small-footprint swales to absorb flow. It’s worked in other neighborhoods and it can work here. I don’t believe the County has made a serious effort to educate and mobilize the community behind these kinds of solutions, and I think if the community was mobilized, we might solve the problem without losing any of our parklands.
    Since there’s a bunch of talk about lawyers on this list, I’ll note that I am a lawyer and I’ve already filed a public disclosure act request for the documents related to the CSO project at Murray station. I’m doing this at my own expense. I think it is important for the data underlying the options the County is pursuing to be available, and I am frankly astonished that the County officials at the meeting indicated they would not make data available to the public unless a public disclosure act request was filed. I will not, however, work toward any proposal for siting the CSO project in Lincoln Park.

  • Duckitude April 25, 2010 (8:56 am)

    Hi Amanda and All:

    I guess being called a “good” doctor is better than being called a “bad” doctor, but it also seems a bit condescending on your part, Amanda. Thanks, but, no thanks.
    If you had been at the Morgan Community Association meeting on April 21, you would have heard that I stated clearly that I would be working for an alternative that would be sited in Lincoln Park. There is nothing hidden about my agenda.
    However, your take on what I am talking about is clearly full of errors. And, your logic on “save one park by sacrificing the other” is completely erroneous. The idea that what would be above ground at Lowman Beach Park as it is currently planned, if placed in Lincoln Park instead, would be “sacrificing” Lincoln Park is pretty off the mark, don’t you think? Even if the entire above surface, or the entire remediation surface constitutes one acre (which it would in Lowman Beach Park), such a surface constitutes less than 1% of the surface of Lincoln Park, but constitutes 100% of the surface of the usable space at Lowman Beach Park. There is literally no one who is going to accept that logic.
    Let’s put it to a vote. All those in favor of sacrificing 1% (at the most) of Lincoln Park vote yes for a facility there. All those in favor of sacrificing 100% of Lowman Beach Park, vote yes for a facility there.
    I have NOT suggested a massive surface structure. If you consider an underground structure as sacrificing the park please explain what you mean. I have suggested a larger *underground* structure. You can go a lot deeper than 20 feet (as proposed for the Lowman Beach tank) in Lincoln Park, thus minimizing the surface disturbance there for a larger tank.
    Why a larger tank? Because, if you look at the data (BTW, there is a lot of data out there already if you want to look, and it is on the King County site — no FOIA is needed to get the data. In addition, Jan Drago has promised total transparency on this and will hold a briefing and more on this matter the first Wednesday in May)… because, if you look at the data, the spills in this area far exceed 1 million gallons per event more than 80% of the time there is a spill. Maybe you don’t care about the Sound, but it sounds like you do, so maybe you just need to get up to speed on the data. Fact is, King County’s goal of only one spill per year into the Sound for *each* of Barton and Murray pump stations is not a high enough goal. They are clearly underbuilding.
    Since you seem to want to debate the data and merits here, I will have to make this a long, long post.
    Discharge into the Sound from Lincoln Park? I have never suggested it and would never suggest it. No matter what facility is built in Lincoln Park, there is no need to discharge into the Sound from that facility. Any discharges into the Sound would always take place from the two existing outfalls already in place at the Barton and Murray pump stations. King County has already clearly indicated that any CSO tank in the areas of Barton or Murray would not need to even be close to the pumps themselves and would utilize whatever outfalls are already in existence.
    Let me say this again, so you don’t miss it. I have never suggested any outfall and would never suggest any discharges from a facility located in Lincoln Park, and no such discharge would be necessary.
    Piping to and from a tank located in Lincoln Park would be no different than the piping that has already been planned (and, thus certified to be possible and achievable) for two of the three current KC proposals for the Barton CSO tank. It is doable even at a high elevation for those tanks, so it is doable for something in Lincoln Park that would be a much lower elevation. Please, review those two plans at KC’s site before you try to dispute the element of elevation in my proposal for Lincoln Park.
    You speak about critical habitat in Lincoln Park versus Lowman Beach Park. I am not sure where you get your data about “critical habitat” but, essentially, the same habitat exists at Lowman Beach Park, including Great Blue Herons, who are pretty skitish and would be very impacted by any prolonged construction so close to the beach at Lowman Beach Park (among other things). The idea that Lincoln Park is “more” ecologically sensitive” than Lowman Beach Park is just plain an untenable argument. For instance, is the mid-park parking lot in Lincoln Park an ecologicaly sensitive area? It currently constitutes more than an acre of land itself. If a tank was put in there, it would have literally no impact on the park at all, and, if you took the parking lot out it would have a more positive impact on the ecology of the park and reduce oil, wear and tear, noise, and other disturbances to the park’s ecology, quite effectively? Did you oppose the baseball or do you oppose the baseball parks located within Lincoln Park which impacts wildlife tremendously in the area of the baseball field (increased noise, traffic, wear and tear). Do you oppose the location of the Seattle Park’s Southwest Headquarters which has a surface footprint much much much larger than anything a CSO facility would have in Lincoln Park? Do you oppose the location of the Vashon Ferry landing, which contributes huge amounts of noise and pollution to Lincoln Park through the ferry site itself, not to mention the pollution for the traffic and idling cars the location generates for Lincoln Park?
    Really, what I am proposing would have NO real impact at all on the ecology of Lincoln Park and tons of upside for Puget Sound. Here’s the upside. You talk about green solutions. I fully support green solutions. In fact, maybe you and I should get together to draw up *mandatory rules* for conversions and parkway modification and *subsidies” for those who wish to convert now (before the mandatory rules go into effect) and money back from their sewage bills for “going off the grid.” How about that? To rely on voluntary efforts of citizens to care about the health of Puget Sound is really completely inadequate for the health of the Sound. It won’t happen voluntarily. Period. It is human nature to think of self first, not others. If you wish to change that mindset, you have your work cut out for you.
    In addition, sewage, not just runoff is an issue in many instances. There needs to be back-up onsite electrical generators, but there is no guarantee that they will work all the time, start up properly, etc. In addition, pumps go down for many reasons and cause spills. No matter how “green” you get, there will be a need for CSO tanks. In our particular area, a CSO tank that is “underutilized” could be used as holding tank to flush the system during low rain months to keep odors down for the whole coastline from Barton to Alki. That would be nice. Point is, prepare for the future, build for options.
    As you seem to not know, the lowest pump station in the KC system is the Barton Pump Station. It has already gone down at least one time quite recently due to flooding and tidal surge and when that happens, nothing helps except a CSO tank, because the pumps themselves are disabled. Tidal surges will continue to get worse, and sea levels, meaning, Puget Sound sea levels are going up. A 2008 study by KC about the vulnerability of pump stations to rising sea levels has been done and it clearly underestimates the needs and risks. But, even it clearly shows how vulnerable Barton and Murray pump stations are to flooding from tidal surges, and increased sea levels. We need back up pumps somewhere. Putting back up pumps at higher elevations will have not footprint impact on Lincoln Park and will help in the current problem of pumps going down for various reasons, and for the future. Seattle and King County are notorious for not thinking about the future.
    Need I say more? Probably, but this is long enough for now. I would be happy to hold an open debate with an audience, anytime, on the matter of the merits of locating adequate underground CSO tank(s), back up generator, and back up pumps in Lincoln Park anytime. Name the place and time.
    Finally, if you really care about the Marine Reserve and the rules and regulations attached to Marine Reserves, here is what you can do right now at Lincoln Park, whose Marine Reserve is being abused and degraded on a daily basis against the Marine Reserve Rules — dogs and off-leash dogs, daily, in large numbers, are adversely impacting the Marine Reserve there in so many adverse ways — harassing wild life, depositing urine and fecal material on the beach, swimming in the Sound (depositing urine in the Sound directly), etc., etc. etc. Given the current abuse of the Marine Reserve at Lincoln Park, what I propose would be far less. Really.
    Finally, if you are going to argue about the Bald Eagle issue in Lincoln Park, here’s what you can do to increase their population in the park, right now. Regulate the number of crows in the area. Already, the crow population is so huge it has impacted eagles in the park severely. Last summer it was clearly documented that crows, in large numbers descended on one eagle nest (I think the only eagle nest in the park) and kidnapped and killed and ate the eaglets that were there.

    As for the talk of “lawyers” on this thread. It hasn’t really risen to that level yet, so, that just amps up the adversarial nature of these advocacy and brainstorming activities. Our representatives at all levels of government for West Seattle are some of the very best there are when it comes to representing the community and they are already responding very quickly and vigorously to our concerns. I really don’t think there will be a need for lawyer-assisted adversarial action in this matter.
    And, also, on that point. I am more than happy to allow a 34th district vote on this issue. I don’t care what solution is decided on. I just wish it to be mindful, thoughtful, future-oriented, and adequate. But, if it isn’t — that is, if the will of the people is different, I can live with that. Although we do not live in a democracy (too bad), I truly respect the democratic process, and whatever the will of the people is, is fine with me, even if it is not what I would want. Can you?

  • Amanda April 25, 2010 (10:43 am)

    Actually, I don’t want to debate the data and merits here. I don’t want to argue and I don’t want a fight and I certainly don’t want litigation. I strongly prefer to find common ground and work on building a coalition, as opposed to remaining divided — to the extent that our divide matters, and I understand that it may not.
    I don’t frame this as a debate between siting something at Lowman Beach vs. Lincoln Park. I see this as a debate between siting something in parkland vs. testing solutions that don’t involve installing any large storage tanks, electrical utilities, and generators, anywhere.
    As for finding common ground: For example, maybe we could agree that attempting green solutions first would be a viable option? Or maybe we could agree that it makes sense to examine the data to see whether green solutions were given appropriate consideration? Or whether there are other potential solutions that none of us has heard about? I’m all for finding a way to not fight over whether Lincoln Park is a suitable location.
    Finally, I apologize for the “good doctor” appellation. I did not intend any condescension, but I now see why it came across that way. I am sorry.

  • Bettytheyeti April 25, 2010 (10:59 am)

    @Ron, I forgot about the large “ecologically sensitive” parking lot at the middle of the park! Was it seismic or elevation problems that KC removed that option?

  • Duckitude April 25, 2010 (6:15 pm)

    Hi Betty: Actually, we don’t know for sure the real data and the real reasons KC has “rejected” siting these tanks some other place, like Lincoln Park. All they have “alleged” is that there are geotechnical challenges to using “large bore tunneling devices in Lincoln Park.” The thing is, they don’t have to use large bore tunneling devices, so it is a red herring, as they say. I am asking Jan Drago to ask King County for copies of certain documents, like, feasibility studies for siting these facilities in Lincoln Park, etc., so we can get to know exactly what work they did, if any, in such a “determination.” The biggest problem with all the information that they are giving us is that none of it is footnoted or clearly substantiated.
    Honestly, I think KC is hoping they can get by on a minimum of up-front research, solid feasibility studies, (you name it), and will only go the “extra mile” if they are pushed all the way.

  • Duckitude April 25, 2010 (6:48 pm)

    Amanda: Thanks for the quick reply. Apology accepted (as you might know, there is a long tradition of using that phrase in courtrooms in what is clearly a strategic attempt by the users of the phrase to be sarcastic enough, but not too sarcastic, for the purposes of, it seems, more-or-less subliminally influencing the credibility judgments of juries).

    Let’s work on the green solutions. I am all for it! But, there is some debate about the science of green solutions, at least the roadside catchment gardens. I don’t think there is any debate on the issue of capturing roof run-off, but roadway, garden, lawn, etc., runoff contains huge amounts of toxins, including dog fecal matter, which is a substantial ongoing pollutant and growing pollutant of Puget Sound.
    Right now, it is not clear to me that there is sound science about the consequences of “capturing” such pollutants in roadside gardens as opposed to capturing them as part of the greywater of wastewater, so it it can be processed rather than just run back into planet earth.
    Processing technology is getting more and more sophisticated to the point that we may be able to process out all toxic metals, coliforms (dog and human) and pharmaceuticals, and oil, BEFORE it goes into the Sound.

    The question I have is don’t roadside capture areas just put all that back into the earth, which then seeps into the Sound anyway? My understanding is that due to the nature of the geology in most of West Seattle, stratified mud, more or less, that liquid that is sitting or captured in various ways seeps quite easily down until it hits bedrock or something like that and liquid may even travel along small fault lines right between sedimenation layers right into the Sound, slowly, but surely. So, are these really just unsealed mini-septic tanks, that collectively, not unlike unsealed regular septic tanks, allow pollutants to seep into the Sound through conduits we don’t even begin to understand yet? As you know, unsealed septic tanks in the South and West Sound are one of the major reasons for the “dead” Sound areas there.

    I feel we need to consider such outcomes of some of the so-called green strategies to make sure we aren’t just contributing to the ongoing problem or not.
    I don’t want to jump on a bandwagon, let’s say, like the the rage over corn-based ethanol — which turned out that its production and distribution is more greenhouse gas intensive than one would have ever thought and probably not good green policy. I am just saying, we need to be mindful in our thinking, not just willy-nilly in adopting what might appear to be a good strategy, but it turns out to not be based on good or well-thought out science.
    And, as much as I believe in getting homes off the run-off grid, I do not think it will be done by volunteer efforts alone (kind of like Bush saying, “we don’t need government helping the poor and needy, just do some volunteer work…” that worked really good). And, I don’t believe it will be done quick enough to save the Sound on its own. Bringing back the Sound could take 40 years minimum if we let it go much further.
    So, those are my thoughts at this point. Do you know if anyone is proposing sewage bill credits for taking roof-run off off the grid?

  • gerol April 26, 2010 (4:50 am)

    This is a new approach that has been developed in Germany…

  • amanda April 26, 2010 (12:39 pm)

    I totally agree that there could be technological issues related to “green” or low-tech solutions. I do want to ensure that those kinds of options have been given full and complete consideration before we take actions that are more disruptive. At this point, I don’t know about sewage-bill credits or other financial incentives at this point, but I hope to find out more from the documents and from our council-members.

  • Linda Ann Cox April 28, 2010 (7:48 pm)

    We don’t have much time. We have retained land-use attorney Williamson Law Office who contacted King County to get information so we can delay this project a bit and have time to consider all alternatives. The initial fee to get this going is $1000.00. If we must pursue legal action the legal costs will run much higher. We need your help now.

    I set up an account at US Bank … called…. SAVE LOWMAN BEACH PARK

    Please stop by US Bank and make contributions, payable to SAVE LOWMAN BEACH PARK or write a check payable to Save Lowman Beach Park and mail to Linda Cox at

    6523 California Ave SW #228, Seattle, WA 98136.

    We need donations as I deposited $100 at this time to open the account. Your donations will be appreciated and future generations will appreciate our efforts to save the beach-side park.

    Please call your friends, etc and ask for donations. Let’s make a difference and save this beautiful beach-side park. Many folks in the Community insist there ARE other alternatives.

  • Duckitude April 29, 2010 (10:52 am)

    Linda! Kudos! I have posted this at
    I recommend posting your announcement also at the WSB Forums page for more attention.
    Thank you for your support and activism!

    • WSB April 29, 2010 (12:17 pm)

      Duck – She sent it to us in e-mail and we will put it up as a story. Doesn’t preclude the forums as you know but it’ll be on the home page, probably next thing up, ’cause it’s in queue – TR

  • Duckitude April 29, 2010 (1:11 pm)


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