Opportunities for Seattle Home and Business Owners: Rebates and Incentives

Opportunities for Seattle Home and Business Owners:  Rebates and Incentives

Together with habitat restoration, source reduction of toxins, and development density and location, stormwater control is one of four primary strategies with the power to decrease pollution in the Sound.  As citizens and design professionals we look to do what is in our power to affect positive change.

In our continuation of posts on re-greening Seattle’s Green Streets to improve the water quality of the Puget Sound, we’ve found a number of case studies and programs.  Just a few of these are briefly described below.

Seattle Pilot Projects

While stormwater codes affect new development, what do we do about the other 98% of the city that is already developed?  Reasonable and effective retrofits are the solution to stormwater’s impact on the Puget Sound.  Seattle has a variety of pilot projects that address development at all scales.

RainWise Program:

This program incentivizes homeowner retrofits, incorporating cisterns and rain barrels used to control stormwater from their property for impervious spaces such as the roof and driveway.   Homeowners are reimbursed for the majority of the cost.  The program started in Ballard and has just been expanded to Windermere, Delridge and North Union Bay to other CSO basin areas in the near future.  https://rainwise.seattle.gov/city/seattle/overview

Stormwater Facility Credit Program:

Seattle Public Utilities offers an annual credit of up to 50% on drainage bills for private stormwater systems that reduce stormwater flow and/or provide water quality treatment.  Maintained by the owner, systems such as raingardens, permeable pavement, infiltration systems, and vaults qualify for credit when they are built to code.

2nd Avenue Street Edge Alternative (SEA) Street, a FEMA full mitigation best practice story

A 660-foot block area of Seattle was retrofitted to reduce stormwater runoff and enhance the pedestrian environment.  Conventional curbs and gutters were replaced with bioswales in the right-of-way and street widths were reduced from 25 to 14 feet.  Completed in 2007, the project cost Seattle $651,548 and has proven successful through record rainfall storms.

Swale on Yale

In a blink of an eye, the South Lake Union and Cascade Neighborhood have sprouted new offices, restaurants, and apartments, and in the world of stormwater that means a large load to the city’s infrastructure.  To accommodate the new impervious space, in the stormwater system,  approximately 190 million gallons of stormwater will be treated annually in four biofiltration swales at Yale Ave North and Pontius Avenue North.  The biofiltration swales are 270 feet long by 10’-6” to 16’-6”.  Stormwater flows in storm pipe below the surface from Capitol Hill to the Cascade Neighborhood where it is collected in a vault and then diverted into the swales.  2,000 feet of new storm pipe will be built to convey the stormwater to the diversion vault, through the swales and then the remaining treated stormwater will be discharged into Lake Union.

Future Programs

As the WA Department of Ecology has just closed the comment period on updates to the stormwater code, under consideration has been whether GSI should be required or incentivized.  One goal is to simply utilize opportunities where work is already being performed in the right of way to enhance the vegetated space in the planting strip, by adding the benefit of decreasing stormwater runoff and increasing water quality with a bioswale.

When Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) is voluntary or difficult to enforce, Developers interests need to be addressed:

  • Risk
  • Construction cost
  • Property sales

Likewise, successful GSI programs will address the concerns of Property Owners:

  • Utility fees
  • Property taxes
  • Operation and Maintenance

Non-Profits and Academic Institutions raise awareness and advocacy:

The 12,000 Rain Gardens Campaign, spearheaded by Washington State University and the nonprofit Stewardship Partners, hopes to see 12,000 green stormwater facilities installed in the Puget Sound region by 2016.

The Sustainable Sites Initiative

An interdisciplinary group from the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and the United States Botanic Garden came together to create The Sustainable Sites Initiative to create voluntary national guidelines and performance benchmarks for sustainable land design, construction and maintenance practices.  http://www.sustainablesites.org/

Cost/benefit analysis of GSI:

Green stormwater infrastructure is new to many people who are used to seeing convential curbs, tree lawn and sidewalk.  Not only do risks need to be minimized, but the benefit should outweigh the cost.  Most people assume “cost” to be strictly financial, but others might embrace the “triple bottom line approach” and include the cost to people (quality of life) and the environment.  Awareness of potential benefits builds earned support from the public, but even that comes at a price.  Pilot design/construction projects in the city of Seattle and elsewhere have included additional costs to educate the public with community outreach to raise the public’s awareness and interest in the new design.  General cost data is available for reference including calculators and case studies for GSI design strategies so to establish expectations and clarity in decision-making.   GreenValues Stormwater Toolbox provides info on green infrastructure, their costs and benefits and other resources.  www.Greenvalues.cnt.org