Are all those rain gardens out there working?

Volunteers assessing a rain garden.

While there is little doubt that rain gardens are effective tools in managing stormwater and runoff in general, we’ve wanted to track how real-world rain gardens fair over time and geography since we started the 12,000 Rain Garden Campaign back in 2011. As it turns out, local governments across Western Washington want to know how they are doing as well.

In February, Stewardship Partners, WSU Jefferson, Thurston, and Snohomish Extensions, and the City of Puyallup wrapped up a 3-year project to develop an easy to use assessment protocol for rain gardens and “bioretention facilities” (more highly engineered rain gardens). Funded by the Stormwater Action Monitoring (SAM) program that manages pooled resources from Western Washington local governments, over 80 volunteers and 40 sites across 4 counties were involved in this study. The primary goal of this project was to create an assessment tool that would make it easier for every community to assess their own rain gardens, streamlining and standardizing the data being collected so we can learn about general trends and improve rain garden design and maintenance strategies.

(Photo courtesy: Resource Media)

It was encouraging to analyze data from across these far-flung rain gardens and learn that by and large, real world rain gardens work, work well and are well-liked by the people who own them. The assessment protocol is available now on the SAM website and will be shared nationally as well: https://ecology.wa.gov/Regulations-Permits/Reporting-requirements/Stormwater-monitoring/Stormwater-Action-Monitoring/SAM-effectiveness-studies


Did you know we are halfway to our goal?

In 2011 we set out on a mission to identify and register 12,000 rain garden projects throughout Puget Sound. And we are happy to announce that we are officially half way to that goal! Community groups and local jurisdictions across the region have worked with us to register their rain gardens through 12000raingardens.org and soundimpacts.org, officially totaling 6,202 projects!

It’s a Wrap: the 4th Annual Puget Sound Green Infrastructure Summit

On February 7th, the forecast was dire. Snow-pocolypse was imminent. Stewardship Partner’s marquee professional event of the year, the Puget Sound Green Infrastructure Summit, was scheduled for the next day. Food had been prepared and purchased, 250 people registered, 40 speakers confirmed, agendas printed, cars packed to the gills, but the choice was clear, we had to reschedule and let everyone know immediately to make sure none of our partners would be in harm’s way from what ended up being a multi-week winter storm across the region.

Attendees participating in one of the challenge topics. (Photo credit: The Nature Conservancy)

Flash forward six weeks as 260 people arrive at Cascadia College’s Salmon-Safe certified campus and begin to connect and reconnect with fellow Green Infrastructure leaders from the whole Puget Sound region and from each of the four sectors (connecting the dots: .com, .gov, .org, and .edu). It couldn’t have been a more uplifting contrast. The sun was out, and virtually every speaker was able to reschedule for the new date of March 22.

And what an amazing event we had! We grounded ourselves in a history of human relationships to land, water, fish, trees, and whales that dates back 10,000 years to the last ice age, and we consciously chose to create a learning and collaborative community. We applauded the ways that many redevelopment efforts are adding density and jobs while simultaneously reversing negative environmental impacts and we dove deep into the sticky issue of how we are going to retrofit a century’s worth of hardscaping to treat our wealth of rain like the vital resource it is.

Youth Voices panel participants. (Photo credit: The Nature Conservancy)

Our attendees were challenged to make this emerging and growing field a source of good jobs and education for the passionate and increasingly diverse generation entering today’s job market who don’t see themselves reflected in our ranks nor see pathways to change that fact. We laid out 16 challenge topics to network and build coalitions around, and 6 breakout sessions to dive deeper into specific hot topics related to retrofits and voluntary green stormwater infrastructure.

There is no way to summarize just how hopeful and meaningful of a day it was, but when co-chair of the Orca Task Force, Stephanie Solien, took the stage at the end of the day to call us to action, it was so great to hear her say that it was in fact she who felt called to action by the summit and the amazing group of doers who showed up and  take action every day. I think that sentiment was shared by all and is the reason that we are already looking forward to the 5th Annual Green Infrastructure Summit in 2020. And maybe we’ll stick with late March instead of February! Huge thanks to the amazing team at SP, truly all hands were on deck, plus our brilliant host committee and generous sponsors, volunteers, and all those people who adjusted their calendars to make it work.


Thank you to our 2019 Host Committee Members & Sponsors who helped make this event a huge success!

Carnation Farms: A History of Innovation

In our current age of factory farming and mass consumption, the ethos of stewardship practiced by those farmers who came before us seems to be a fleeting concept. If we take a step back and look at the history of Carnation Farms, maybe we could learn a lesson or two.

Caring for the land and animals on which we rely was a focal point of E.A. Stuart, Carnation Farms’ founder, who purchased 360 acres of Tolt, WA farmland in 1908. Stuart saw a need to increase dairy production while at the same time treating their livestock in such a way to ensure they were happy and healthy. Stuarts’ advertising slogan “milk from contented cows” was the basis on which the farms reputation was built.

Stuart had an early impact in the Snoqualmie Valley, and this impact continues to this day. The farmland originally purchased in 1908 has gone through several transitions, a few different owners, and operational changes, but today it is still known as Carnation Farms and it functions in a manner akin to the early days with a special emphasis on stewardship.  

E.A. Stuart unveiling the monument of “Possum Sweetheart” at the annual Washington State Holstein-Friesian Association picnic, held at Carnation Farms on July 31, 1928

Presently, Carnation Farms is a nonprofit organization and Salmon-Safe certified farm, still owned by the Stuarts and still operating with the historic stewardship practices embodied by E.A. Stuart. Rosy Smit, Director of Sustainable Agriculture Education, boasts “Carnation Farms and Stewardship Partners have been working together since 2013 on sustainability initiatives, community education and environmental stewardship. Our mission is to transform the way that people want to eat, and we celebrate delicious and nutritious food produced in a sustainable manner by providing inspirational and educational experiences that positively affect the health of our community and the environment. We deeply value ecosystem health and working with Stewardship Partners has enabled us to restore large tracts of riverbank and enhance riparian corridors, all the while educating farm guests, and summer camp and youth program participants about how to not only responsibly farm the land but also how we strive to be good stewards of our property. Stewardship Partners provides us with education and ecological restoration expertise, and we look forward to continuing our collaboration and making an impactful difference, not just on our farm but in our local community. We are excited to include ecological education in our Mentorship in Sustainable Agriculture program this year, where our farmers-in-training will experience firsthand how riverbank restoration can impact the local ecology on the farm and in the greater community.”

You can come learn more about Carnation Farms, their commitment to stewardship, and our partnership with them restoring riparian habitat at one of the volunteer events we host there each spring and fall.

Remembering Our Friend Patti Southard

Patti (left) and her sister Ellen (right) crabbing in the San Juan Islands

We are deeply saddened by the passing of our dear friend Patti Southard. We have lost an incredible driving force in the green building community. Patti was a brave and loving friend who made everyone smile and had an infectious way of making hard environmental and social justice work fun. Her environmental contributions at every level surpassed those of anyone I’ve ever met. She was one of a kind and will be greatly missed.

Patti Southard was the program manager for GreenTools at King County for the past 14 years. She was a pioneer in creating incentives and solutions to move the needle forward in making green building mainstream. Patti received numerous awards for her work in the green building sector and was on several boards including Oxfam, Built Green and Northwest Natural Resource Group to name a few.

Patti had a long family history in conservation of the New Jersey Pine Barrens as well as many years of leadership in outdoor and environmental education. She was raised on her family farm and focused her sustainable development career on the juxtaposition between rural and urban communities and planning.

Our hearts go out to Patti’s friends and family, especially her sister Ellen Southard, who is a very close partner of Stewardship Partners and manages the Urban Salmon-Safe Program. Throughout the year we will be recognizing Patti’s spirit in the work we do, starting yesterday with the trees we planted along the banks of the Snoqualmie River in her honor.

With my deepest loving condolences,
David Burger

“To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die”. -Clyde Campbell

Powered by Plants: 2018 in Review

By Habitat Restoration Crew Lead Geoff Bough

2018 was an incredibly productive year for the Snoqualmie Stewardship Program field crew. We had the opportunity to work on exciting new properties as well as create new volunteer partnerships. This year also brought our first fee for service work through our partnership with Capri Property Management for a streambank stabilization project in Woodinville. The project involved laying out rolls of coir fabric and the installation of hundreds of livestakes and shrubs to better hold the slope together. This was a fun project for us and allowed us to work with some plants that are not typically in our palette.

Our planting goals for the year were far exceeded with the installation of over 17,000 trees and shrubs throughout the Snoqualmie watershed. Most notably was the phase two section of the Aronica Family property. We partnered with Microsoft this year for the annual Day of Caring event and were able to prepare a large area for a Fall planting at Aronica. We also had our friends at Aspect Consulting out to our site at Carnation Farms where we planted 1,000 trees and shrubs along the Snoqualmie River!

The Snoqualmie Stewardship Habitat Restoration Crew

We are ever thankful to all of the landowners, partners, volunteers and other agencies that allow us all to become better stewards of the land through education, restoration and hard work!

If you would like more information on the Snoqualmie Stewardship Program or have a project that you think our crew could help with, please visit stewardshippartners.org or contact Chris Lapointe at cl@stewardshippartners.org.

Time to Stand up for Our Beloved Orcas

by David Burger, Executive Director

With the devastating news about Tahlequah and Scarlet this summer, I found myself longing for a time when their struggles were not a common theme. I reflected on a time when I was a young boy and my grandfather took me out to his sailboat to see a pod of orcas in the San Juan Islands and was blown away by these majestic creatures.  This memorable moment gave me great respect for the natural environment and a big reason why I’ve dedicated my life empowering people to become caretakers of the environment and our native wildlife.  Our Southern Resident Killer Whale population have been in the national spotlight and it hasn’t been good news with no new calves born in the last three years.  There are many factors for the decline in the 30-year low population relating to pollution, habitat, food supply, etc., and Stewardship Partners directly worked to solve these.

Orcas rely heavily on Chinook salmon, another endangered species, making our work to restore habitat and keep our waters clean one of the most important actions we can do to help orcas.  It’s clear that we are at a critical time for our Southern Resident orcas, and we urge you to take action to protect and restore habitat. Become a Stewardship Partner today by donating, volunteering, or learning what actions you can do in your daily lives.  It’s my hope that I can show my grandkids orcas in the Puget Sound one day.

Stories of Region-Wide Environmental Success

Great ideas often start with conversations. So many environmental stewards (including Stewardship Partners), community groups, conservation districts and environmental government programs are working hard to protect and restore the ecosystems that make this place special, yet we rarely hear about all the positive impacts of that work.

However, the time has come to start celebrating the work being done and raising awareness of projects big and small. To recruit and empower all our friends and neighbors to become stewards, we need to show them that positive change through stewardship is possible, these projects are working, and they will be duly rewarded for joining the stewardship ranks.

Stewardship is dispersed across the region and is carried out by a lot of hands, working on many different projects all towards a clear and collective goal of a healthier Puget Sound. In an effort to see where we are at in reaching this collective goal, Stewardship Partners created Sound Impacts (SoundImpacts.org). After surveying dozens of partners in stewardship about what would make an impact metrics portal enticing enough to actually use, the Stewardship Partners team hired CAI (a Seattle-based impact evaluation and technology firm) to help us create and launch Sound Impacts as an easy-to-use, visually impactful, transparent, and robust tool. Version 1.0 has been online for over a year now and the result is truly transformational.

Today on SoundImpacts.org you can create a user profile, measure your positive environmental impact, and start inspiring others to join in the movement to not just protect, but actually improve the environmental health and resiliency of our region. We know this is a large feat, but we also know it can be done. With over 4,000 rain garden projects and 89 permeable pavement projects currently registered, we know that our region’s stewards are already keeping over 70 Million gallons of harmful polluted runoff out of Puget Sound. But that is only the tip of the iceberg. With project types including tree plantings, invasive plant removal, depaving, and green roofs recently added, this tool is ready and waiting for many of our fellow stewards across the region to contribute their projects and watch the impacts skyrocket.

As we begin to make plans for upgrading Sound Impacts to a 2.0 version, we will add impacts beyond stormwater managed to include the many co-benefits of nature-based efforts like carbon sequestration, air quality impacts, urban heat island impacts, and community health impacts.

Are you ready to start telling your stewardship story? Look to see if the projects you have worked on have been registered on Sound Impacts and add them if they aren’t there yet! We know our region has a lot of stewardship heroes out there and we want to help tell the story of their work, so we can continue to inspire more individuals and communities to engage in acts of stewardship, building a movement to help leave this place better than we found it.

Crew for Hire!

The Snoqualmie Stewardship restoration crew extended their reach recently with a collaborative effort between Capri Hospitality Management, the City of Woodinville, and a few other partners. The crew has always been for hire, but more and more businesses and new partners are approaching us to work on restoration projects, mitigation projects, and collaborative efforts outside our normal routine of riparian restoration on agricultural lands. This recognition is a great way to expand our breadth of work while maintaining our focus on providing clean water, healthy habitat, and engaged community partners.

 

This September they worked to stabilize nearly 200 feet of stream bank on the property of the new Hampton Inn and Suites in Woodinville, WA. This project offered the crew a chance to hone their bioengineering skills by stabilizing a steep and challenging bank along a tributary of Little Bear Creek, a creek historically known for salmon spawning.

As Stewardship Partners gains this new knowledge and expertise, expanding our services offered to landowners, businesses, and other organizations/agencies, the Snoqualmie Stewardship Restoration crew is available to work on slope/bank stabilization, volunteer event management, riparian habitat restoration, wetland restoration, upland forest restoration, implementing green infrastructure features such as rain gardens, and mitigation projects.

 

Additionally, the entire Stewardship Partners’ staff is available to be hired for consultation and opportunity assessments, project design, mitigation design, permitting assistance, implementation, and maintenance. Our full-time restoration crew and Director of Ecological Restoration combined have over 25 years of experience providing these services to landowners and communities and have restored over 72 acres of degraded habitat. We are excited to share our expertise, muscle, and passion with a wider audience in the years to come!

A Conversation between Sustainability Leaders

On October 3rd, Stewardship Partners hosted a riveting conversation between two leaders in environmental sustainability, Tom Alberg and Chris Bayley. Tom and Chris are long-time friends who grew up in the Seattle area, met while attending Harvard, and returned to the Northwest where they each founded organizations committed to sustainability and environmental stewardship.

Tom Alberg is the founder of Oxbow Farm & Conservation Center, and Chris Bayley is the founder and current Board Chair of Stewardship Partners. Originally a family farm that raised beef cows, Tom and his wife Judi converted Oxbow Farm into an education and conservation focused non-profit whose earliest partner in conservation was Stewardship Partners. This early partnership helped form Stewardship Partners’ model of engagement where we empower people as caretakers of our land and water, and even led Oxbow Farm to restore over 14 acres of salmon habitat along the Snoqualmie River with the help of Stewardship Partners.

Held at the Madrona Ventures offices in downtown Seattle, community members were able to witness this exceptional conversation while enjoying sweeping views of Seattle. Moderated by Lisa Jaguzny, Oxbow Farm & Conservation Center’s recently appointed Executive Director, Tom and Chris discussed their respective paths in sustainability and why environmental stewardship is important to preserve the natural beauty and health of our Puget Sound home. Growing up in the Northwest, Tom and Chris both had a natural, if at the time subconscious, desire to protect the environment they grew up in.

“I played on the beach at Bainbridge Island and Orcas Island and did all these wonderful things that involve nature. I suppose that’s where I understand now that it’s so valuable because our grandchildren are now turning over the same rocks on Orcas and finding the same crabs that I was finding [as a child].” – Chris Bayley

 

This event was an extension of our “I’m a Stewardship Partner” campaign where we recognize community members committed to environmental stewardship practices. Tom Alberg is a shining example of a Stewardship Partner and was presented with the first ever “Groundbreaker Award for Environmental Leadership in Washington State” for his work with Oxbow Farm & Conservation Center and Stillwater Creek Vineyard as well as a continued commitment to sustainability.

Stewardship Partners would like to express a sincere thanks to Madrona Venture Group for hosting this inspiring event in their scenic offices, Novelty Hill Winery for providing delicious, Salmon-Safe wine, along with Barbie Snapp, Lisa Jaguzny, Chris Bayley, and Tom Alberg for helping make this an engaging and inspiring evening dedicated to sustainability.

You can view a video recording of the evening’s conversation on the Stewardship Partners website here.

Water Under the Bridge: And Other Salmon-Safe Urban Updates

On September 19th, eighty Puget Sound region environmental leaders and design specialists joined us for the unveiling of the Aurora Bridge Bioswale Design in Fremont. Hosted by Salmon-Safe and Milstead Coffee and sponsored by the Boeing Company, the event was a celebration of the future Aurora Bridge Bioswale and its benefits to salmon and Puget Sound.

For more than 80 years, polluted runoff from Seattle’s Aurora Bridge has been discharged untreated to Seattle’s Lake Washington Ship Canal, impacting migrating salmon and other aquatic life. This inspired environmentally innovative developer Mark Grey to join forces with Salmon-Safe to convene a multiple organizations in a partnership to treat runoff through rain gardens, including a three phase project at his Salmon-Safe certified Data 1 development project (Phase 1) adjacent to the bridge and his upcoming projects, The Watershed Building (Phase 2) and The Aurora Bridge Bioswale (Phase 3) an 850 ft2 bioswale under the bridge, along the Lake Washington Ship Canal in Fremont.

In addition to the reception at Milstead, our team also presented a Green Infrastructure workshop and tour for 40 students, teachers, and parents from the B.F. Day School. The school offers a strong curriculum for sustainability and urban ecology and was one of the first in Seattle to build a rain garden at its facility.

The Aurora Bridge Project Team is led by Salmon-Safe and includes KPFF for civil engineering and Weber Thompson for landscape design. Outreach partners include The Nature Conservancy, Stewardship Partners, Groundswell Northwest, and The 2030 District.

 

Skanska Seattle and Portland Practices Make a Zero Sediment Runoff Commitment to Salmon-Safe

Salmon-Safe welcomes Skanska to our Contractor Accreditation program. Skanska is the first construction practice in the U.S. to make a regional commitment to achieving Salmon-Safe accreditation across its Northwest operations. The Seattle and Portland offices are leading the way in a practice-based approach, applying best construction site management practices with the goal of achieving zero sediment runoff.  First piloted a decade ago in the Sammamish River watershed, Salmon-Safe’s construction management accreditation is the nation’s first independent accreditation program to recognize construction firms’ excellence in water quality protection practices.

 

 

Salmon-Safe Launches new Designer Accreditation Standards for Practice-Wide Watershed Commitment

Salmon-Safe’s new designer accreditation represents a commitment by professionals in a design practice to key principles related to urban watershed stewardship. Through thoughtful site planning, implementation of low impact design solutions and use of eco-friendly materials, site designers have the opportunity to contribute to the restoration of our urban watersheds. In this newest accreditation program from Salmon-Safe, we seek to partner with design consulting practices working on buildings, streets, parking areas, and related infrastructure with the intention of protecting downstream water quality and habitat while helping to restore urban ecological function. To learn more visit: https://salmonsafe.org/certification/designers/    OR contact Puget Sound Director, Ellen Southard, (206) 579-8645; ellen@salmonsafe.org