The endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales visited Vashon and Maury Islands on December 3, 2012, searching for salmon. As they passed Point Robinson, they burst into playful antics that have to be seen to be believed: cartwheels, breaches, tail slaps, spyhops, and beautiful synchronized swimming in their tightly knit family groups.
This post is a total plug on my part of an activity meant to encourage people to go out and get their hands dirty, improve their environment, and help nature at the same time: Rain gardens!
Gardening season is coming to an end for most of us, but it’s not too late to plant a rain garden for this winter’s torrents.
Rain gardens are becoming more popular, especially in places like Seattle with significant rain and run-off, and I suspect also because they’re very low maintenance; you simply plant, water them until they’re established, and let nature to the rest. They also make the neighborhood look nicer than just having a strip of grass between your car and the sidewalk.
The West Seattle neighborhood is actively encouraging residents to plant rain gardens:
The gardens are part of a campaign by Washington State University and the non-profit Stewardship Partners. Their goal is to install 12,000 rain gardens in Puget Sound communities by 2016. So far, more than 700 gardens have been installed (see a map of them) and more are being added every week.
“Twelve thousand gardens will absorb approximately 160 million gallons of stormwater each year,” said Stacey Gianas, who is with Stewardship Partners.
That much water would fill 250 Olympic swimming pools. And its stormwater, which washes over roofs and streets, picking up all kinds of pollution. Usually that contaminant-filled water runs into storm drains that empty into waterways and rivers.
We all know of a few laws that have outlived their usefulness that haven’t been taken off the books yet; where I grew up there was technically a law that while traveling the Cuesta Grade “trail” in a car, you had to blow your horn five times before cresting the hill to scare the cows away; it is now the major 101 Freeway and there are few cows anywhere near the top of the Cuesta Grade.
It turns out that in many places these outdated laws may be inhibiting our ability to instigate more sustainable practices.
Some of the smartest, most innovative solutions for building thriving and sustainable communities in the Northwest are, at present, simply illegal.
Take the problem of the urban stormwater runoff that threatens the health of Puget Sound and other waterbodies throughout the Northwest. Low Impact Development (LID) solutions—including such strategies as rain gardens, street-side swales, porous pavement, and green roofs—can treat stormwater more effectively, and for less money, than the costly “hard” infrastructure of downspouts, pipes, and sewers. Yet many development codes mandate the more-expensive, less-effective plumbing solution. If only codes would allow LID as an alternative, the region could see a proliferation of lower-impact techniques that could spare government coffers in lean times, and give developers and homeowners a financial break—even while providing cleaner water and patches of urban habitat.
The question, then, is how to remove or buffer these laws in order to encourage sustainable practices and make sure residents and construction companies alike are compliant with the law while also being forward thinking and adopting better practices. Thoughts? Have you seen a town actually remove an outdated law or ordinance? Share it hear in the comments below.
Oh, all right, but only because you asked soooo nicely; for Earth Day, an example of how communities in the Puget Sound are coming together to protect the Earth and improve their own personal environments as well.
Researchers have pointed the finger at stormwater runoff as the top source of pollution that’s getting into Puget Sound and other Northwest waterways. And because runoff comes from just about everywhere — roofs, roadways, parking lots, farms, and lawns — the solution has to be just as widespread.
Enter 12,000 Rain Gardens.
This week Washington State University and Stewardship Partners, a nonprofit working on land preservation, announced a campaign to promote the installing of 12,000 rain gardens around Puget Sound by 2016. The website even has a counter tracking the number of gardens and encourages folks to enter their rain garden into the database.