Demand for Green Infrastructure Grants Grows

All around Puget Sound and the nation, green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) is being touted as a multi-benefit solution to stormwater pollution, sewer overflows, and flooding. In an area like ours that often has enough rainy days to test the resolve of even the most loyal Seattleites, GSI has the power to manage our stormwater in ways that mimic the natural environment, while providing communities with health, social, and economic benefits. Now more than ever, we are seeing a pattern of landowners looking to help protect our Puget Sound and manage stormwater on their property through installations of rain gardens, cisterns, green roofs, and more. While these projects do come with huge benefits, unfortunately they do not come cost free. There are many great incentive programs for installing GSI, such as RainWise Rebates, but cost continues to be one of the biggest barriers landowners face. Stewardship Partners has worked hard to tackle this issue head on, by creating incentive programs that work with the successful RainWise program and also provide assistance to landowners not eligible for RainWise Rebates or other programs. Through our GSI Mini Grants and RainWise Access Grants, we strive to provide a necessary resource when even relatively small out of pocket costs for GSI projects could pose a barrier to landowners otherwise ready and excited to install GSI on their property.

Cisterns outside of Young’s Restaurant in the South Delridge neighborhood

We developed these tools through active discussion with community members and community-based organizations like ECOSS, and after many revisions of Access and GSI Mini Grants, we have delivered two very successful incentive programs to the community. A huge part of what we define as “successful” is having as easy and streamlined a process as possible for the landowner or project contractor to apply for and receive grant funding. We are happy to report that in the last few years we have seen rising demand for Access and GSI Mini Grants, with funding flying out the door! So much so, that after helping to fund 65 GSI projects in the greater Puget Sound, we have fully expended our current funding for these programs. We are actively seeking additional funding to continue these incentive programs and hope to hear good news in the near future. But we must admit, sitting here waiting to hopefully receive more funding to keep this work going is tough! It does, however, give us the chance to take a step back and look at what these programs have accomplished and who they have helped.

Over the course of four years, from 2015 to 2019, our Access and GSI Mini Grants supported a total of 65 projects, stretching from Bothell down to Kent. Green infrastructure is known for being hard working, and these projects are no exception, managing an estimated total of 2.7 million gallons of stormwater per year. That is a big chunk of polluted stormwater runoff which is no longer a direct threat to the health of Puget Sound! Another exciting opportunity that came as we developed these incentives was being able to provide a financial tool specifically to income qualified individuals and nonprofits. In 2018, we revised the GSI Mini Grant guidelines and eligibility to allow for mini grants that were a little less mini. We brought the maximum award up to $4,500, for income-qualified and nonprofit applicants; tripling the previous maximum. This update came as a result of community and partner feedback on how to make these grants more equitable. Our funder (King County)’s flexibility and responsiveness to community input demonstrated commitment to equity and social justice and its integration into all programs, making them a perfectly suited funder of this work. Of the 65 total projects awarded, we are happy to say that 43 grants went to either income qualified individuals or nonprofit applicants! Allowing larger grants for income qualified individuals and nonprofits also created a window of opportunity for contractors. Once a greater portion of the project could be covered through a GSI Mini Grant or RainWise Access Grant, there is less of a barrier to landowners interested in GSI on their property. Eligible landowners may be able to install larger projects with greater stormwater benefits and often turn to a contractor for assistance. One local contractor that has benefited from the increased funding for these projects is Giang Nguyen; read about his experience!

“Tôi luôn muốn có cái gì đó để đựng nước mưa để tôi có thể tiết kiệm lượng nước sử dụng. Tôi vui mừng khi bạn tôi nói với tôi về chương trình gắn bồn chứa nước mưa này. Tôi đã liên lạc với nhà thầu và được cho biết rằng tôi có đủ điều kiện nhận được khoản tài trợ cho người có thu nhập thấp. Tôi rất hài lòng với nhà thầu Giang Nguyễn và công việc gắn bồn chứa nước mưa. Anh ấy đã dạy tôi tại sao phải làm chậm dòng chảy nước mưa và giảm số lượng nước mưa trong cống thoát nước mưa. Tôi luôn nghĩ những cống thoát nước mưa mà chúng ta nhìn thấy trên đường phố được chảy vào trung tâm xử lý nước thải.”


“I have always wanted something to capture the rainwater so I can conserve water usage on my bill. I’m glad my friend told me about this cistern installation program. I have contacted the contractor and learned that I’m qualified for the low income grant funding. I am happy with the contractor Giang Nguyen and his work on the installation. He has taught me why it is important to slow and reduce rainwater in the storm drain. I have always thought those drains we see on the street are going into a water treatment center.”

– Qui Nguyen, Mini Grant Recipient

Contractor Giang Nguyen’s Mini-Grant Experience

Wriiten by ECOSS Staff

Contractor, Giang Nguyen

Giang Nguyen has been a RainWise contractor for 8 months, installing cisterns in the Vietnamese community and running a landscaping business. After receiving RainWise training in the fall of 2018, Giang completed his first RainWise cistern installation. The Vietnamese homeowner was so happy that they spread the word about the RainWise program, leading to many new clients for Giang from just this one homeowner. Many clients were not located in a RainWise-eligible basin, so Giang was happy and grateful for the Mini-Grant fund that helped pay some or all of the homeowners’ installation costs. Without the Mini-Grant funding, Giang believes many community members wouldn’t be willing to pay out of pocket for installations. Giang has also contacted his existing landscaping clients for potential cistern installations and to educate them on why it is important to slow and reduce the amount of rain water going into the storm drain and sewer system. When Giang learned that the Mini-Grant funding ran out, he felt sad.

Giang would like to say to the funders, “Please continue to fund the Mini-Grant program because there are lots of people in my community who are moving away from Seattle and live in a cheaper area who really want to capture their rainwater for gardening and are willing to disconnect the downspout to go into their lawn. The Mini-Grant has made my landscaping business grow financially and knowing more people who I have not met before expanded the potential landscaping work. I love the simple Mini-Grant paperwork process and I get paid faster, which is so important when I have to upfront the cost for the installation. Also, there is no W-9 form for the homeowner, which makes it easier and reduce the burden and stress on the homeowner when they should not have to worry about their income tax later on. That is why I was able to complete more installations through the Mini-Grant program than the RainWise program, and I do hope that the RainWise Program will eventually be as easy as Mini-Grant in the future.”

The Mini-Grant has been critical for Giang’s business, helped residents in King County learn about stormwater pollution and provided financial support for homeowners and home renters. Giang’s experience shows why more funding for Mini-Grants is vital.

Celebrating Orca Recovery with a Splash

2019 has been a big year already for salmon and orcas, with all four orca recovery bills passing the state house and senate! These bills, focused on habitat protection, vessel and noise disturbance, toxic pollution, and oil spill prevention, are a huge step forward to address the threats faced by our Southern Resident Orca population.

To celebrate these wins, Stewardship Partners participated in the Salish Splash!, a Puget Sound wide event on June 13th encouraging everyone to challenge their friends and family to take a plunge, raising awareness about these successes but also the work still needed to be done.

Sal the Salmon, who was challenged by Executive Director David Burger, was so happy to be a part of the day at Golden Gardens surrounded by so many great partners and community members doing their part for salmon and orca recovery!

Learn about the many different ways you can take action and support the recovery of salmon and orca populations!

Green Solutions to Stormwater Runoff

By now, you have probably heard that stormwater runoff is a looming threat to our Puget Sound. But the good news is that there are ways we can slow down and filter stormwater runoff, preventing pollutants from making it into our precious bodies of water. This video created by Sightline Institute features our very own Aaron Clark speaking about green infrastructure solutions to polluted stormwater runoff.

Breaking Barriers for GSI Projects

Here at Stewardship Partners we do our best to help get as many green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) projects in the ground as possible. Unfortunately, while most landowners love the idea of a beautiful rain garden or cistern going in their yard, there are barriers to getting these projects installed. Many great incentive programs exist for installing GSI, like RainWise Rebates, but cost continues to be one of the biggest barriers landowners face.

Newly installed rain garden getting its finishing touches.

We are working hard to address this issue by creating new incentive programs and expanding the financial assistance offered through the RainWise Program. Our recently launched GSI Mini Grants offer up to an additional $1,500 for landowners within the King County Wastewater Treatment Division (WTD) service area that are not eligible for other incentive programs. The goal of the GSI Mini Grant is to help provide both guidance and financial assistance for communities that are in areas of ineligibility for other incentive programs and may otherwise be unable to install GSI projects. Our RainWise Access Grants help income-limited and underserved communities by providing an additional $1,000 for RainWise eligible homeowners and nonprofit community organizations, bridging the gap between the RainWise rebate amount and actual project costs. Without this tool, even relatively small out of pocket costs for GSI projects could pose a barrier to landowners otherwise ready to install GSI on their property.

The creation of these tools comes from actively listening to and discussing with key partners like and community members. With a little out of the box thinking, the Stewardship Partners team was able to create a whole organizational infrastructure that didn’t exist before, all because we listened to communities sharing their experiences and barriers with us. After many tweaks and improvements to both of these tools, we now have Mini Grants and Access Grants flying off the shelves. We have a great sense of pride and gratification knowing we are able to give communities a hand in their work to protect Puget Sound.

You can find out more about these financial tools and other incentive programs at www.12000raingardens.org.

Come Hang with Sal at the Bellevue Duke’s April 10th!

Come say hi to Sal the Salmon, take a “salfie” and have a delicious, sustainable dinner at Duke’s Seafood and Chowder! Sal will be hanging out at the Bellevue Duke’s April 10th from 5-7 pm!

Sal the Salmon

Sal will be letting everyone know that throughout the month of April, a portion of special menu items at all seven Duke’s locations will be donated to Stewardship Partners! Nothing better than a delicious meal that helps support  our programs that engage Puget Sound communities as caretakers of the land and water that sustain us.

Saving Salmon at the Center of the Universe

The long wait has ended and the new Data 1 Building is open for business and already actively saving salmon! Our Salmon-Safe Puget Sound team is delighted to be working with COU LLC, Owners JoAnna Callahan, Mark Grey and Mark Hess at this beautiful new building located at the corner of 34th Ave North and Troll Avenue in the heart of Fremont, also known as the Center of the Universe. In this case, we might think of the building at the center of salmon migration.

Cascading bioswales at the Data 1 site serve as an inviting green landscape amenity & are mitigating toxic runoff from the Aurora Bridge.

A new home to Tableau, designed by Weber Thompson and engineered by KPFF, this Salmon-Safe certified project has garnered lots of attention for its work and data outside the building. Inspired by a story about polluted runoff from the 520 Bridge, the owners set about to create a project that provides public benefit in the right-of-way with cascading bioswales and rains gardens treating polluted runoff from the Aurora Bridge. Stormwater not retained by these features will be captured in an underground vault prior to being discharged via a dedicated storm sewer to Lake Union.

During design phases of the project, the owners discovered that polluted runoff from the Aurora Bridge flowed directly into Lake Union and the ship canal which is an important migration route for salmon. The outfall of polluted water directly impacts the Chinook, Sockeye, Coho and Steelhead that pass through this narrow corridor on their way to the North Lake Washington and Sammamish watersheds.

The project has received Salmon-Safe certification because its overall practices are beneficial to salmon, including reaching beyond its own site boundaries to mitigate a major neighborhood water pollution source. Additional green stromwater infrastructure facilities are being planned on other properties in the vicinity to treat more of the bridge surface runoff. To form a baseline of the highway runoff water quality prior to the installation of treatment, samples of the flow from the bridge were collected on five occasions during February-April 2017. The intention is to monitor discharges from the eventual treatment facilities for comparison with this baseline. It serves as an excellent model project for private landowners to go beyond what’s required and standard operating practices to ensure untreated stormwater mitigation on private lands. Look for this beautiful building and Salmon-Safe interpretive signage celebrating their water story on your next trip to Fremont.

Stay tuned also for more good news for Fremont coming from Salmon-Safe, Stewardship Partners, the COU LLC team and other community partners. This project is a perfect example of the collaborative partnership model that is the hallmark of Stewardship Partners’ programs and projects. By working together, we can create structures and systems that are so much more than a traditional office building.

Leading the Stormwater Village at StormCon

StormCon, the nation’s largest stormwater conference, was recently held in Bellevue marking the first time this gathering of national leaders on stormwater has come to the Pacific Northwest. But there is little doubt that this region is a veritable Silicon Valley of green infrastructure solutions to stormwater runoff.

Polluted runoff spilling into a storm drain.

Why does our community invest so much in solving stormwater? Perhaps, it is because our region is famous for rain and we have over 100 years of leadership, pioneering innovation from airplanes to coffee to software. We think it is because stormwater exemplifies the kind of local, global and complex problem that requires creativity and dedication. The simple individual solutions that Stewardship Partners promotes will cascade down into systems that can heal humanity’s broken relationship with nature.

In this spirit, a group of non-profit leaders have recently developed a Puget Sound-wide campaign called City Habitats. Started by Stewardship Partners, The Nature Conservancy of Washington, Washington Environmental Council and the City of Seattle, City Habitats has now engaged over 100 partners from across the region and across all sectors. With significant investments and support from The Boeing Company, this network is accelerating and amplifying the region’s cutting-edge leadership in stormwater and green infrastructure through collaborative partnership and coordination of efforts. We are “connecting the dots” by bringing .com’s, .org’s, .gov’s and .edu’s together to share ideas, identify emerging issues and opportunities and avoid reinventing the wheel.

City Habitats was represented at StormCon 2017 with 10 full exhibition booths, loosely organized as a “Village”. We presented solutions, ideas, projects and programs with 12 of our partners. StormCon had never had non-profits, universities or government-led programs participate in the exhibition hall before and the response was resounding: we need to do this every year!

Stewardship Partners’ leadership of this effort exemplifies our passion for collaboration and innovation, and showed the world a real hope of truly solving the stormwater problem.

 

StormCon Village Participants:
Washington Storwater Center (UW & WSU) | UW Green Futures Lab | RainWise
Evergreen College’s Center of Sustainable Infrastructure | TNC | ILFI | Stewardship Partners
WEC  |  Puget Sound Caucus of Conservation Districts | Salmon-Safe | ECOSS
Friends of the Seattle Waterfront | City Habitats | Earth Corps

StormCon Connections

Aaron Clark Makes a Connection

StormCon, the nation’s largest stormwater conference was recently held in Bellevue – first time that this gathering of municipal leaders on stormwater have come to the Pacific Northwest. There is little doubt that this region is a veritable Silicon Valley of green infrastructure solutions to stormwater.

Why do we invest so much in solving stormwater? Perhaps, it is because we are already famous for our rain, or perhaps it is our 100 year history of pioneering innovation from airplanes to coffee to software. We think it is because stormwater exemplifies the kind of complex, wicked problem that, once understood, begs creativity and dedication because individual solutions can cascade down into systems that can heal humanity’s broken relationship with nature. Pretty profound stuff.

In this spirit, a group of non-profit leaders have recently developed a Puget Sound-wide campaign called City Habitats. Started by Stewardship Partners, The Nature Conservancy of Washington, Washington Environmental Council and the City of Seattle, City Habitats has now engaged over 100 partners from across the region and across all sectors. With significant investments and support from The Boeing Company, this network is accelerating and amplifying the region’s cutting-edge leadership in stormwater and green infrastructure through collaborative partnership and coordination of efforts. We are “connecting the dots” by bringing .com’s, .org’s, .gov’s and .edu’s together to share ideas, identify emerging issues and opportunities and avoid reinventing the wheel.

City Habitats was represented at StormCon 2017 with 10 full exhibition booths, loosely organized as a “Village”. We presented solutions, ideas, projects and programs from 13 of our partners. StormCon had never had non-profits, universities or government-led programs participate in the exhibition hall before and the response was resounding: we need to do this every year!

Our participants included: from the .edu, Washington Stormwater Center (WSU and UW-led), UW Green Futures Lab and Evergreen College’s Center of Sustainable Infrastructure to the .gov, RainWise program (Seattle and King County-led) and the Puget Sound Caucus of Conservation Districts, to .org’s TNC, ILFI, Stewardship Partners, Salmon-Safe, ECOSS, Friends of Waterfront Seattle, City Habitats, and Earth Corps, City Habitats is demonstrating that collaboration and innovation are critical to the bold vision of actually solving stormwater.

Join our Rain Garden Assessment Team!

We are looking for volunteers to help develop and test a Rapid Assessment Protocol for rain gardens.

If you are in or near Thurston, Pierce, Snohomish or Jefferson counties and available to spend 30-60 minutes observing and recording specific elements of your assigned rain garden then we’d love to hear from you.

We will most likely team you up with at least one other volunteer and assign you to assess between 1 and 3 rain gardens in August or September.

Contact Emma by August 11th to learn more or sign up!

Background: Rain gardens are an important tool to clean up polluted runoff throughout Puget Sound. These gardens keep storm water out of the streets, allow time for water to infiltrate into soils and filter out pollutants through plants, organisms and fungi in the soils.