More Rainwise, Less Forced Bioswales?

Field of Daffodils

Spring has sprung, sunny, beautiful and blue one moment–gray and rainy the next. At West Seattle Raingardens, we’re enjoying the shift of the seasons. And we’re pleased to see King County’s increased promotion of the Rainwise program. We’ve also noticed the County’s “rebrand” of its Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) program as “Protecting Our Waters” and its continued erroneous references to bioswales as “rain gardens.”

We have two questions, the first being why didn’t King County begin with Rainwise from the start? Why push CSOs as a first–instead of as a last–resort?

This is Seattle–we all support clean water and healthy, effective and safe methods to manage storm water. By using the strong arm approach of forcing deep and wide CSOs into neighborhoods, King County angered, confused and broke trust with its residents. As intelligent, caring and responsible home owners, we appreciate the more democratic and reasoned approach of asking residents to willingly take part in the effort to prevent CSOs through Rainwise.

The second question is whether King County’s kinder and gentler approach is to be trusted–or if it’s just an interim step before the County continues its plans of spreading more CSOs in West Seattle and beyond?

Limited budgets have likely played a part in King County’s scaling back of its initial West Seattle CSO plans. The County may also have changed gears in part due to the hard questions and backlash from affected residents. Even though we were unable to stop the Barton CSO construction, our advocacy efforts led to some positive results including trees being saved, a stronger emphasis on safety and improvements in bioswale design.

Only time will tell what becomes of King County’s Barton bioswale project in terms of its safety, efficacy, maintenance and further spread. We’re cautiously optimistic the County’s enhanced focus on promoting Rainwise will stop the spread of CSOs across the County–but we’re still keeping a close eye on the proceedings in our neighborhood and beyond.

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