Letter of Intent
Estimated Amount to be requested from the CSF: 
Letter of Intent: 

Summary The UW Floating Wetlands Demonstration Project is designed to occur in two phases: Feasibility Analysis (I) and Implementation (II).  The Campus Sustainability Fund accepted the Green Futures Lab’s Phase I proposal, which we anticipate to be completed during Winter quarter 2016.  Project goals currently achieved by our Floating Wetland Student Team include:  

  • investigating optimal installation locations and conditions;
  • researching and classifying the habitat needs of juvenile migrating salmon;
  • identifying permitting agencies and permit requirements;
  • building relationships with agencies, stakeholders, partners, and interested parties;
  • articulating design criteria responses to particular conditions and concerns; and
  • developing preliminary conceptual designs.  

Phase II funding will enable the team to develop appropriate designs, create detailed drawings sets for required approvals and construction,  acquire  materials, obtain permits, and see the project through construction, installation, maintenance, monitoring, and evaluation. CSF assistance will also allow our Floating Wetland Student Team to co-lead a scheduled Spring 2017 seminar, bringing the detailed knowledge gained in Phase I to a larger group of interdisciplinary students who will develop possible alternative prototypes for further consideration.  We anticipate improvement of Union Bay aquatic habitat - especially for outmigrating juvenile salmonids - and moderation of pollutant loads through the deployment of these floating wetlands.  Furthermore, this project will provide a compelling educational example for our students while setting precedence for other Seattle water bodies, showcasing UW’s leadership role in green technology and public/community partnerships.  

Brief Explanation of the Phase II Floating Wetlands Project Water is an integral part of the University of Washington campus, and in our mission to be sustainable, its importance cannot be overlooked. In other parts of the world, floating wetland structures are being successfully used to reduce harmful substances in waterways such as metals, excess nutrients, and other pollutants. They sequester carbon, mitigate water temperatures, and provide habitat for aquatic biota. Here in the Pacific Northwest, floating wetlands are an emerging technology. The Floating Wetlands Demonstration aims to exemplify future aquatic sustainability in a visible and participatory manner, raising public awareness in an exciting new fashion.    

Floating wetlands are designed to increase vegetative cover and habitat for aquatic and avian species, especially where hardened shorelines limit habitat quality. They hold significant potential benefit in the greater Puget Sound region as extensive shoreline hardening has contributed to great decline of critical species and is a significant “Vital Sign” targeted by the Puget Sound Partnership.  However, as an innovative approach toward habitat creation and restoration, floating wetlands have little precedence in the Pacific Northwest.  As such, floating wetland implementation faces intense scrutiny prior to implementation.  This necessitates thorough research, forward-thinking design approaches, and clear communication.  Thus far, students working on Phase I of the Floating Wetlands Demonstration have succeeded in these categories and look forward to taking the next steps toward implementation of this valuable approach.  

Our conversations with permitting agencies and tribal representatives have drawn support and highlighted barriers toward installing innovative floating wetlands to improve shoreline habitat in the waters of the UW campus.  The Green Futures Lab hopes to apply 2017 CSF funding toward continued project development.  We will build upon current design and research as student staff members are retained to create and co-teach a Spring 2017 seminar.  Funding would allow our student Floating Wetlands Team to co-lead this course, applying their multidepartmental expertise while bringing in additional students as registered course participants. The course would also draw upon faculty and professional proficiency located at UW, City, and County, and State levels. Students in the seminar would gain knowledge and understanding of:    • occurrence, use, and diversity of floating wetlands in other parts of the world; • environmental conditions of Union Bay and Portage Bay and their relation to potential habitat and juvenile salmon migration patterns; • design criteria applied to understanding coastal zone policy and treaty rights within the Lake Washington-Lake Union fish migration corridor; • designs of floating wetlands created for other locales and their results; and • potential materials that might be used in appropriate new floating wetland designs for the UW campus.  

Application of this knowledge will result in designs for a range of floating wetlands suitable to conditions in UW campus waters. From this benchmark, the Floating Wetland Team will select a final site and design(s) for installation.  The subsequent implementation phases include:  

  • final selection of sites and floating wetland prototypes to be installed (working directly with permitting agencies);
  • submission of permit applications for the specific prototypes and sites;
  • detailed drawings and material selection for the floating wetland prototypes to be installed construction and installation of the prototypes;
  • monitoring and maintenance of the floating wetlands;
  • development of a webpage interpreting the floating wetlands and their intended function, with a QR code linked to the webpage placed onshore near the wetland;  and
  • creation of presentation(s) to be given to UW students in relevant wetland, ecology, fisheries, and ecological design courses.  

Estimated Phase II Costs We anticipate that Phase II of the project would operate through Fall term 2017 with a total cost of $16,000.  This would compensate our team of three students leading the Spring seminar, and over Summer and Fall 2017 with the team working part time to bring the demonstration project to full fruition.  We anticipate a materials and transportation (of materials) budget to be approximately $1800 of the total figure.   

The Phase I Floating Wetlands Demonstration Project funds have supported investigation, design thinking, and coalition-building to advance floating wetland installation along UW shorelines in Union Bay and Portage Bay.  Representing both the College of Built Environments and the College of the Environment, the GFL student staff of three have performed extensive research on and response to environmental conditions of UW waters; fish habitat needs and limitations; permit requirements and permitting pathways with the appropriate agencies; siting opportunities and constraints; and development of resulting design criteria for local floating wetlands, incorporating stakeholder needs and insights from the region. We have also cultivated awareness on the part of permitters of the technology, who are interested in considering our resulting design proposals. We are enthusiastic to continue the permitting, design, construction and education for these demonstration prototypes that may be scaled up to inhabit the Lake Washington-Lake Union basin to make a measurable difference in the aquatic health of our university and region. 

Contact Information
Primary Contact First & Last Name: 
Jackson Blalock
Full Proposal
This will display after the CSF committee has reviewed and approved your LOI, and after you have received the link to edit your application.
Executive Summary: 

UW’s Green Futures Lab (“GFL”) is seeking to design, permit, and install demonstration floating wetlands (“FWLs”) to function as aquatic habitat in Pacific Northwest salmon migration corridors, through three separate project phases. Phase I, funded by CSF, has identified permitting pathways and appropriate, fish-friendly design parameters to realize this potential. In a future Phase III we hope to deploy FWLs for demonstration and study.  Phase II Floating Wetlands Demonstration will build from our Phase I research and design progress to: determine specific potential sites; create detailed design prototypes reflecting site nuances, species’ needs, and permitting requirements; and apply for permits for the selected prototype design(s).  The final design proposal for permitting will utilize design exploration and prototype development from students in an interdisciplinary Floating Wetlands Seminar and a linked volunteer Floating Wetlands Design-Build Lab, informed and engaged by the Floating Wetlands Student Project Team (“Team”).

Phase II will develop designs for yet-to-be-determined sites; no installation will occur during Phase II.  Sites of interest include UW shorelines along Portage Bay and Union Bay, along with other shorelines in the Lake Washington stream system (the salmon migration corridor encompassing UW shorelines).  The budgeted cost of Phase II is $12,050.

In order to address shoreline hardening – a contributor to decline of critical species and a “Vital Sign” targeted by Puget Sound Partnership – while improving water quality, we seek to design, prepare documents, and receive permits for FWLs in salmon-bearing waters for the first time in the Pacific Northwest.  We will use progress made toward submitting drawings and documents for permit review as a metric in gauging success of Floating Wetlands Demonstration, Phase II – Prototype Development.

The GFL’s work with FWLs began in 2013 with a seminar which produced Floating Wetlands Research and Design Investigations, Volumes I+II.  This prompted installation of 360 sq ft of student-developed water treatment FWLs in Redmond as well as King County-developed FWLs at the Brightwater Treatment Plant and Education Center.  The current Floating Wetland Demonstration builds from this initial water-quality-specific research, taking next steps to push for viability of FWLs for freshwater shoreline habitat restoration in the region.  Our 2016 CSF grant (Phase I – Initial Feasibility Study) allowed us to analyze and synthesize regional salmonid research, permitting processes, and design considerations to inform this proposed Phase II – Prototype Development.

Jackson Blalock, a Master of Landscape Architecture candidate, will lead Phase II.  SEFS and SAFS students Corrine Hoffman and/or David Hagopian will continue Student Team involvement. The Team will present their research and design parameters to a special Floating Wetlands seminar, engaging these students throughout Spring term as they assist with design development and influence the Team’s designs as presented to permitters. The Floating Wetlands Seminar will engage multiple departments in recruiting students for seminar participation as well as for an extracurricular Floating Wetlands Design-Build Lab to further project development under the scope of the CSF grant.  Both seminar and Design-Build Lab will build capacity for Phase III - Installation by broadening awareness of the project.  Professor Nancy Rottle, Director of the GFL, will be involved throughout the project. Mason Bowles (King County Department of Water Resources), Jason Toft (UW School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, Wetland Ecosystem Team), and Jeff Cordell (UW School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, Wetland Ecosystem Team) will continue to advise as needed.  Julie Blakeslee (UW Environmental and Land Use Planner) will also provide consultation services with the project as we move forward.

The  GFL’s previous work is available at: http://greenfutures.washington.edu/index.php/projects/detail/floating-wetlands

Total amount requested from the CSF: 
$12 050
This funding request is a: 
ItemCost per ItemQuantityTotal Cost
Spring student staff (2)$15/hr + benefits = $18/hr10hr/wk, 12 wks = 2160 x 2$4320
Summer student staff (2)$15/hr + benefits = $18/hr10hr/wk, 12 wks = 2160 x 2$4320
Construction materials (testing)$350/mockup6$2100
Travel to meetings, presentations, supplies, etc$200$200
Permit application fees$960$960
Non-CSF Sources: 
problems changing number of row/columns, uploading Project Approval Forms. See separate email to Kyle McDermott
Project Completion Total: 
$12 050
Sustainability Impact: 
Living Systems and Biodiversity
Environmental Justice
Sustainability Challenge: 

Polluted runoff from urban and agricultural lands has taken a massive toll upon wildlife populations and ecological function in the Puget Sound.  Shoreline development has compounded this problem and disconnected beneficial aquatic-terrestrial connectivity by removing vegetated buffers along shorelines, often replacing these healthy riparian zones with rip-rap, bulkheads, and other forms of shoreline armoring.  As such, pollution reaches our waters while ecologically-beneficial nutrients and food sources’ contributions to aquatic habitats are diminished, leading the Puget Sound Partnership to list (fresh and marine) water quality and shoreline armoring as “Vital Signs” of Puget Sound and contributing watersheds’ health. 

FWLs are an emerging green technology that grow native wetland plants on buoyant frames to mimic functions provided by natural wetlands and riparian zones, which have been largely removed due to shoreline development. Overhanging vegetation drop needed insects and detritus for food and aquatic root systems purify polluted water and provide refuge for small fish. FWLs have been consistently shown to improve water quality world-wide, but they have yet to be integrated into habitat restoration.  Due to the immense scale of shoreline hardening in the greater Puget Sound and the likely long-term duration of such shoreline alterations, FWLs provide a particularly relevant solution to address shoreline habitat loss.   However, FWLs have not been applied toward aquatic habitat and have so far had limited use in the PNW due to concerns over salmonid habitat and the potential for increased predation upon juvenile salmon as a result of over-water structures.  By developing the region’s first permitted FWLs in a manner that creates refuge and nursery habitat for juvenile salmonids while discouraging predation, the GFL’s FWLs have potential to not only improve water quality, but also contribute to aquatic habitat restoration in a manner that addresses regional concerns, serving as an example for other Seattle water bodies and showcasing UW’s leadership role in restorative green technology and public/community partnerships.

Explain how the impacts will be measured: 

The impact of Floating Wetlands Demonstration, Phase II – Prototype Development will be measured by the progress made toward site-specific design drawing sets and ensuing permits issued that will allow for Phase III installation of approved designs.  As a first-of-its-kind project in Washington State (and greater Pacific Northwest), successful permitting of the Floating Wetlands Demonstration will have great impact as it sets precedence for accepted feasible designs and navigates a permitting route for future shoreline habitat restorations and water quality improvements utilizing FWLs. 

Education & Outreach: 

GFL’s Floating Wetlands Seminar will provide an avenue for students to engage with the Floating Wetlands Demonstration project in a manner productive to the GFL as well as enlarge individual students’ educations.  Outreach for the Floating Wetlands Seminar will be conducted through multiple avenues, including UW’s College of the Environment, College of Engineering, and College of Built Environments (as well as with respective individual departments within).  Additional outreach will be conducted through the Center for Urban Horticulture, student groups such as Society for Ecological Restoration-UW, and others.

Specific outreach and education goals for Phase II of the Floating Wetlands Demonstration include:  

  • furthering student understanding of the permitting complexities and Tribal Treaty Rights; surrounding aquatic structures, prototype realization, shoreline restoration, and shoreline development;
  • furthering understanding of the aquatic processes ongoing in the fish corridor that the UW campus contributes to – or inhibits – particularly in relation to out-migrating juvenile salmon;
  • creating awareness of the benefits and limitations of floating wetlands as a sustainable technology
  • stimulating cross-departmental conversation and teamwork, utilizing the Floating Wetlands Demonstration to bring students together from different fields to develop solutions.  The Floating Wetlands Design-Build Lab will invite students who are interested in the project to assist with prototype development and material assembly testing through fun, informal, hands-on activities which leverage volunteer involvement to help grant funds stretch further.  
Student Involvement: 

The Floating Wetlands Demonstration, Phase II – Prototype Development will provide employment for two students from Spring through Summer 2017.  In Spring 2017, two students will work approximately 10hrs/week, and again two students will work approximately 10 hrs/week during Summer term (hours may be otherwise distributed to include a third student team member.)  The compensated positions will engage students from different departments, and  there will also be opportunities for volunteer positions.

As an initial benchmark, the Team will compile existing documentation and design parameters into a form which is accessible and informative for other parties interested in developing FWLs in the region, and for consumption by students in the Floating Wetlands seminar and volunteer Design-Build Lab. From here, work will target the specific development of the FWL prototype through site selection and analysis, detailed application of Phase I’s design parameters to the selected sites, and development of a drawing set and documents for permit application.  See “Accountability” chart below for timeline.  Throughout this work, the project Team will be in conversation with various permitting agencies and affected parties (e.g King County, City of Seattle, WA Department of Ecology, WA Department of Natural Resources, Muckleshoot Tribe, UW Capital Projects, community groups), seeking feedback on design and siting in order to develop a successful permittable design which addresses multiple stakeholders’ needs. 

Project development and student involvement will also occur through the Spring 2017 LARCH 598 F Floating Wetlands Seminar, in which the student Team will function as advisors and “clients”, to expand the project’s outreach and education potential and to ensure appropriate design solutions, as well as to benefit from registered students’ dedicated efforts to further explore and refine site-specific designs.  The Team will present their research and design parameters, engaging these students throughout Spring term to ensure that their prototype designs are appropriately developed in response to needs of juvenile salmon and other considerations.  The Team will adapt work produced in the class to a selected site and refined design for permit application, as innovative ideas are expected to come from the seminar’s interdisciplinary design explorations.  In this sense, the 20 – 25 students involved in the Floating Wetlands Seminar will be providing an in-kind donation of ideation and design document production to the Phase II project, while expanding their awareness of and competence in applying FWLs as a viable sustainable technology. The Landscape Architecture Department has allocated faculty time for this special seminar, but funding is not available for the student Floating Wetlands Team; CSF funding will only be used to support the contributions of the student Team, and materials for students to develop floating wetland prototypes in the seminar and Design-Build Lab described below.  

In addition, the Team will use the course as a base point to recruit volunteer participants in a “Floating Wetlands Design-Build Lab” in which materials and assembly mock-ups for proposed FWL designs are tested.  Led by the project Team and running concurrently with the Floating Wetlands Seminar, the Design-Build Lab will test the efficacy of material assemblies presented through design proposals in a fun, inviting, and educational hands-on atmosphere.  Students in the seminar will be likely to participate in the Lab, as this provides an opportunity for them to take FWL ideas off of papere and into reality, providing learning experiences alongside valuable portfolio and resume material.  Through these linked processes, the project Team, seminar students, and volunteers will gain valuable experience in: collaborating with an interdisciplinary team; conducting relevant research; translating new expertise into a design proposal; the iterative design process; exploring regulatory processes; and organizing and presenting their findings.  

TaskTimeframeEstimated Completion Date
Compilation of existing research, analysis, and design parameters3 weeksMarch 27, 2017
Advisement on seminar content and development of Design-Build Lab process2 weeksMarch 27, 2017
Focused site selections (6)3 weeksApril 17, 2017
Design development and final proposal selection(s) (working with seminar and Lab)10 weeksJune 9, 2017
Design refinement with permitting agencies12 weeksJuly 7, 2017
Production of drawing set for permits3 weeksJuly 28, 2017
Permit submission3 weeksAugust 21, 2017
Amount Awarded: 
Potential Funding Reductions: 
As prototype FWL installation is tied to an extremely complex permitting process reflective of land ownership, local and state codes, Tribal Treaties, and surrounding land uses, we plan to initially develop designs for multiple (~6) sites in order to provide permitting agencies and affected parties with a wider range of potential design/siting options upon which to provide feedback. Incomplete funding of our proposed budget would cause the project to approach fewer sites in our feasibility studies, resulting in fewer options for permitting agencies and therefore less likelihood of project success securing a permit. Budget decreases could also be addressed by focusing on similar designs for multiple sites, allowing lower costs for study model development and testing. This could also result in sourcing of materials via in-kind donation or other means.
Project Longevity: 

As Phase II-Prototype Development will advance and permit a final design for our Floating Wetland Demonstration project, we do not presently request funding for long term management and maintenance. Phase III-Deployment will be funded separately at a future date, with planned installation between October 1, 2017 and April 15, 2018 in compliance with City of Seattle’s salmon-protection work windows. In-water FWL deployment is expected to last for approximately 18 months, during which time GFL staff will handle all maintenance in-house. The FWL will be removed from the water at the end of this lifespan in accordance with salmon-protection work windows, or – if deemed beneficial by regulatory agencies – allowed to decompose in situ.

Project status: 
Active: Planning phase