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Phase 1 roadside rain garden results have caused residents to be cautious about Phase 2.

SPU dismissive of Ballard residents on roadside rain garden project?

In a firm but formally toned letter sent on Wednesday, Dec. 12, the Ballard District Council re-requested that a formal community advisory committee be formed as Seattle Public Utilities makes progress on Phase 2 of the Ballard Roadside Rain Garden.

Ballard District Council had already requested this back in October, but felt their request was snubbed in a followup letter by SPU.

In an SPU letter sent on Nov. 16, Andrew Lee, CSO Reduction Program Manager, said that they welcome the opportunity for community feedback. Lee wrote that they will start engaging residents on the neighborhood block level in early 2013, once they have a better idea of where the soils may be located.

But the Council found the response somewhat sidestepped their request for a community advisory committee.

Of course, the Ballard District Council's letter reminds SPU of Phase 1, called the "Ballard Natural Drainage Project," which has scarred residents' immediate willingness to let SPU continue without consent.

"The failed Phase 1 Ballard rain gardens made quite an impression. That neighbors, with as it turns out accurate concerns about the perc in the soils, were summarily dismissed during Phase 1, also left it's mark."

For the pilot project, SPU installed 10 blocks-worth of rain gardens, primarily in the Loyal Heights area, but they did not properly absorb water and soon roads were flooding with water. Many residents felt SPU was not listening to their legitimate concerns, and eventually SPU had to rip out one-third of the rain gardens, and fix another third, costing them an additional $500,000.

SPU's November letter makes no mention of the incident. Furthermore, a neighborhood communication sent out by Shanati Colwell about upcoming soil boring goes as far to herald the roadside rain gardens built in Phase 1.

"Ballard Natural Drainage Solutions are part of the citywide effort to reduce sewer overflows into our local waterways. the roadside rain gardens already constructed in your neighborhood are proven technologies for managing stormwater and recommended by water-quality experts nationwide."

Again, no mention is made of Phase 1's blunders.

Still, the Ballard District Council and other residents of Ballard are not fully objecting to roadside rain gardens. As the Council's December letter states:

"Make no mistake, Ballard residents, property owners, and businesses are keenly aware of the water quality, policy and quality of life issues at risk with CSOs. Many of our incomes are tied to the fisheries, and fish need healthy water. We very much want an efficient, cost effective, and expedient reduction in CSOs."

We will update if there is any update on the progress of community feedback, either through a committee or otherwise.

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