Followup: On an overflow night, Morgan’s CSO-plan reaction

The red triangle in that graphic, taken from this updated-every-10-minutes county webpage just after midnight, is a reminder of the problem that’s supposed to be solved by what’s been a controversial and sometimes combative process, as King County decides how to cut down on combined-sewer overflows (CSOs) from two West Seattle pump stations. The red triangle shows that one such overflow is happening right now at Murray (Lowman Beach), the station whose proposed solution – unveiled just the other day – is the most controversial. It means that because the heavy rain is overloading the pump station’s capacity, a mixture of raw sewage and stormwater from the “combined sewer” system is going straight into Puget Sound. And the county is under orders to make sure that happens less often, so it’s announced – as first reported here last Wednesday – that it will study an underground-storage-tank alternative for Murray, which would require, if it wins final approval, the county to purchase six private properties across the street from Lowman Beach Park, even if that means taking them via “eminent domain.” The Morgan Community Association has been involved in the process, and hosted an extra public meeting last summer that led to the creation of a Citizens’ Advisory Group, whose ultimate recommendation was different from what the county’s now pursuing. We asked MoCA vice president Chas Redmond, also a CAG member, for comment; MoCA’s been mulling its official reaction ever since, and just sent it Saturday night:

The Morgan Community Association (MoCA) appreciated the opportunity to have played a role in facilitating a discussion between King County and the Lowman Beach/Murray Basin residents. We were glad that the County responded with a full set of interactive sessions leading up to a recommendation from the Murray Basin Citizens Advisory Group.

Under recommended alternative 1F, King County would design and build a storage tank beneath private property across from Lowman Beach Park and collect runoff from the Murray Basin. Recommended alternative 1F also contains green infrastructure solutions for the Barton Basin that are strongly endorsed by MOCA as they result in reduced flows into the Lowman Beach/Murray Basin.

We understand that the current recommendation will entail significant disruption and we look to King County to provide fair and consistent mitigation to these impacts. It is our sincere hope that the County will work closely with each affected resident and property owner to ensure a timely and just relocation process. We count on the continued communication between all parties.

However, MoCA is pleased that Lowman Beach Park will be preserved as the valuable community asset that it is. Recommended alternative 1F proves that citizens working with appropriate government operational staff can implement solutions which truly expand the set of options available for storm-water clean-up and retention. We look to the day when there will be fewer combined-sewer overflow events to achieve the overarching goal of the project – a clean and productive Puget Sound.

The Fauntleroy Community Association has jurisdiction in the area affected by the other pump station that was the subject of a CSO-reduction recommendation, Barton (by the state-ferry dock). For that “basin,” the county wants to create “green stormwater infrastructure” to hold onto more water outside the drainage system. FCA’s president Bruce Butterfield commented the day the decision came out, as we reported that night; the Barton decision is so non-controversial, in fact, FCA has decided not to have a December board meeting. Next step for both recommendations will be an environmental review that the county says will include more community outreach, so be on the lookout for that.

8 Replies to "Followup: On an overflow night, Morgan's CSO-plan reaction"

  • Nulu December 12, 2010 (10:19 am)

    With powerful and wealthy beach-side hamlets represented by MoCA, Fauntleroy Community Association and Murray Basin Citizens Advisory Group and their attorneys, doctors and politicians, it is no surprise that the most impacted residents will be those in Mourningside Heights.
    This working middle class neighborhood is on the east (wrong) side of 35th and lacks political power or wealth.
    I wonder what special consideration these homeowners have missed?
    And what Mournigside Heights’ homeowners association, if any, is involved, or whether most residents even know what has been decided for them?

  • mdb December 12, 2010 (10:46 am)

    I’m sorry, did I miss something? Don’t the two basins we are talking about here end at 35th? Where is Mourningside Heights and how is it affected by these decisions?

  • Nulu December 12, 2010 (10:57 am)

    Something missed?
    Good question.
    Please click on blue lettered link in the above story reading, “unveiled just the other day.”

  • mdb December 12, 2010 (11:09 am)

    My bad Nulu, I didn’t realize the upper basin stretched that far east. The outreach and meetings here were pretty extensive, did you participate? None of the groups you referenced represent this area (to my knowledge) Is there an organized MH neighborhood association that the County should have contacted?

    Honestly, this solution being proposed here in this area is likely to add to property values as it will significantly beautify the streets as it partly solves the overflow problem. This area will basically get free and attractive rain gardens on every block. So by my judgement you are being impacted in a seriously great way!

  • Nulu December 12, 2010 (1:54 pm)

    Yes I attended community meetings where major concerns voiced loudly and with outrage included their streets being torn-up, loss of on street parking, lack of access and interruptions that would likely last years.
    I recall quacking outrage of Lowman Beachies complaining of not being sufficiently included in the process.
    I also remember suggestions that this very solution be in those neighborhoods, but would not be feasible due to the low voluntary compliance!
    With this solution, voluntary compliance becomes a mandate.
    These good neighbors have had no say, notice or choice.
    “Honestly, this solution being proposed here in this area is likely to add to property values as it will significantly beautify the streets as it partly solves the overflow problem.”
    Wow, if this were so, it would be a no-brainer for your neighborhood too!
    Somehow these same concerns disappear when it is some else’s back yard or street frontage.

    Another interesting point is that Mourningside Heights is close to and directly above, as the water wants to flow, the much heralded Longfellow Creek area where the water naturally flowed historically.
    I don’t understand how this area could be included in the natural basin, as the water would not flow uphill. The Othello Street water must be collected and piped a mile south to Barton.
    If you look at the Barton Basin border, you can see some creative and tortured gerrymandering that is at odds with the topography.

  • mdb December 12, 2010 (3:08 pm)

    I would definitely take this solution in my neighborhood, and I am one block west of 35th, not down in some waterfront house. Thanks for pointing out that this solution isn’t without its disruptions. At the meetings I attended, I heard Lowman folks begging for this kind of solution, because it is the least disruptive. But I think you are confusing a few things. The reason this isn’t recommended for the whole basin is in part because of low compliance, but it is mostly because the majority of the basin in on steep slopes, making natural water infiltration quite dangerous…all the water that gets put in rain gardens actually causes those slopes to deteriorate and makes landslides a lot more likely. So I believe that is why it was only recommended for this small portion of the basin. I also believe that what is recommended here is a more robust program than just asking every house to disconnect from the sewer/sanitary system (rain barrels, etc.) It looks to me that KC will be assisting in converting areas between sidewalks and streets, which will be quite beautiful (take a look at how this was done in High Point). Hopefully this means that KC will being paying for this as well. I don’t know the details of it.

    Even though you feel downhill from 35th, your runoff goes into pipes underground that run downhill by gravity to Lowman. I know that seems strange, but you are part of the basin that drains that way. I don’t think this is gerrymandering, I think it is how the pipes were built 100 years ago. The point is to take you out of this flow by keeping as much rainwater as possible in the ground instead of the pipes.

    If you and your neighbors are really concerned about compliance and implementation, I really hope you start a dialogue with KC about it ASAP. The fact that you feel like your neighborhood’s voice was not at the table previous is an issue – whether this was lack of outreach and/or lack of interest or organization on your hood’s part, no matter – what is important now is that you start talking to KC about how this project will take shape.

  • Nulu December 12, 2010 (4:28 pm)

    It is frustrating that so many assumptions are ascribed or implied towards me.
    I also live west of 35th, at the highest point in Seattle.

    In the future, as I walk south on 36th I hope to see that these people have dug up and ripped out their newly installed raised vegetable planter beds and city provided planting strip trees to excavate swales and install prescribed plantings.
    Of course the sidewalk in front of their property will need costly surveys, geotechnical engineering and expensive DPD and SDOT permits to break up and haul away old concrete, dig down several more feet, relocate existing gas, water and electrical lines and then install a costly deep and thick porous concrete sidewalk.

    I have, however, crossed over to the east of 35th into Mourningside Heights. We regularly use the Highpoint Playground, rec center, and Holden Park. We usually walk, walk the dog, bike and go sledding in this area. I walk our child every day to the Old EC Hughes School now home of Westside School. Our child has a playmate on 32nd Ave near Holden.

    This area is on a hillside with steeper terrain than much of upper Barton, Morgan Junction, Endolyne or Seaview. Just take a look at the Seattle and King County GIS maps online.
    Or just try walking up to 35th from the Holden and Highpoint play-fields.
    This area is neither a plateau nor basin. It is a hillside i.e. the high in Heights that slopes due east hundreds of feet to the Longfellow Creek.
    There certainly are many other areas that meet such weak criteria but were not selected.
    And those areas have larger homes with larger hard surface run-offs contributing more drainage water.
    But as these posts suggest, they also have more money, better connections and the well established clout of their NIMBY organizations.
    Can I possibly be the only one to be suspicious of lack of community outreach by the city, county, MoCa, Fauntleroy Community Association and the apparent lack of affected residents in the “Citizen’s Advisory Group?”
    As WSB so well stated, “FCA’s president Bruce Butterfield commented the day the decision came out, as we reported that night; the Barton decision is so non-controversial, in fact, FCA has decided not to have a December board meeting.”
    That statement can only exist in the pleased isolated minds of the hamlet that I was born and raised – Fauntleroy.

  • Stephen December 14, 2010 (10:24 pm)

    The question was raised at one of the meetings with KC and CoS at Fauntleroy Hall how changing the parking strips to rain gardens would affect the existing streets, curbs, and sidewalks. The answer was, not at all. The intention of these rain gardens is to delay the water from entering the combined sewer system, that’s it. The street drains would still function as they do now. My house is one of the ones that may be beautified through the addition of the rain gardens, which is fine by me.

Sorry, comment time is over.