Husky Sustainable Storms: Bioswale (Phase 1)

Estimated Amount to be requested from the CSF:

Letter of Intent:

This LOI introduces Husky Sustainable Storms (HSS), an initiative launched by students, faculty and staff of the University of Washington to mitigate stormwater runoff on-campus by designing and building a stormwater treatment structure that mimics ecological processes and reflects environmental values. Husky Sustainable Storms hopes to achieve this goal in the 2011-2012 academic-year with the assistance of the UW Campus Sustainability Fund. The goal of this LOI is to outline its intent for funding in the winter quarter, but it hopes to apply for full funding of a project in the spring quarter.

In the winter quarter, HSS requests $10,500 to conduct a “feasibility study” of a water treatment project in a UW parking lot. The purpose of the feasibility study is to prepare the project for actual construction. Funding will cover the following three items:

  • Mentorship with a licensed engineer;
  • Stipends for HSS students;
  • Sponsorship overhead;
  • Incidental costs.

This funding would provide the resources needed to accomplish the following objectives: 1) improve environmental quality by researching and designing a stormwater treatment project; 2) solicit professional engineers needed to approve the project; 3) outline a plan for navigating bureaucracy, permitting systems, and budgeting approaches.

The timeline for feasibility funding would be winter quarter 2012, and it would facilitate implementation or finalization of a project in spring quarter 2012. Please note that the specific sponsoring agency for this project is not included in the following LOI. Several sponsoring agencies have been contacted, included the Green Futures Lab, Engineering Services, and Transportation Services. Transportation Services is the ideal sponsor, but campus staff has had little time to meet with our group. HSS has a meeting with staff from Transportation Services on November 10th, and sponsorship will be discussed then.

Not only are these critical components of implementing an infrastructure project, they are critical to advancing the values of the CSF grant. HSS has planned for significant student involvement and improving the environmental quality of University infrastructure. These objectives assist in accomplishing these goals. The specific dimensions of these objectives have been articulated below.

Objective One: Address Climate Change by Improving Surface Water Quality
All UW stormwater flows directly into Portage Bay, adversely impacting local ecology, public health, and the climate. Stormwater runoff carries harmful nutrients, pesticides, oils, and metals into our local waters. It devastates local wildlife, including migrating anadromous fish and native plant species. As the quality of local ecology diminishes, so does its ability to process chemical compounds, nitrogen, and phosphorus. Eventually, the breakdown of this capacity decreases the rate at which carbon is absorbed by aquatic plants. It even increases the methane released by harmful bacteria and algae.

Now is a critical time for UW to invest in green infrastructure methods of stormwater treatment. Specifically, NPDES permits will increase in severity and influence, further restricting the harmful pollutants that UW is allowed to convey to local waters. As a result, the University will be forced to upgrade its stormwater treatment. From interviews with UW staff, HSS has learned that parking lots are a portion of University property that harms water quality. If UW is considering water quality treatment approaches, then now is a critical time to advance green infrastructure alternatives.

Feasibility funding will allow HSS to accomplish the following goals:

  • Complete the site selection process. HSS has initiated conversations with UW staff in Engineering Services, Environmental Health and Safety, and Landscape Architecture. Many staff have suggested sites where green infrastructure could improve water treatment. However, each site places new criteria demands a new design with different impacts on water quality. HSS has designed criteria, and it needs time to examine them.
  • Feasibility funding will demonstrate to campus departments that HSS is serious and intends to aid them in their work. Without demonstrating a source of funds, campus departments cannot incorporate HSS ideas into their infrastructure plans.
  • Research appropriate stormwater designs that treat water and engage students. There are many infrastructure approaches and designs, but HSS must work within restricted resources and it must educate students. Feasibility funding will allow students to conduct the appropriate water quality tests and research that will maximize the project’s impacts environmental and educational impacts.

Objective Two: Involvement of a Professional Engineer
Any change to UW’s stormwater system will need a permit issued by the City of Seattle (COS), and any infrastructure that requires a permit will require a stamp of approval by a licensed Professional Engineer (P.E.). In working with a P.E., HSS plans to accomplish the following goals:

  • Students in engineering, architecture, and landscape architecture will collaborate with a licensed engineer in identifying codes, guidelines, and permit requirements.
  • The nature of this mentorship will be of collaboration. The P.E. will assist students in identifying the correct guidelines, but applying those guidelines and rules will be in the hands of the students. This ensures that infrastructure is designed according the appropriate rules as well as involves the work of UW students.
  • The winter quarter will serve as a timeline for working with the P.E.

If this component is not funded, then HSS will have to solicit volunteer P.E.’s for assistance. This is not ideal. Time constraints prohibit HSS from conducting extensive outreach for volunteer engineers. Additionally, it will compromise the quality of the collaboration.

Objective Three: Finalize Plans Necessary for Implementation
Feasibility funding will develop concrete outputs necessary for the actual building of the project. These outputs have been listed below.

  • Develop engineering drawings;
  • Finalize authorization with Transportation Services or other department;
  • Design an outreach plan to UW students. This is a critical component of the HSS project, which it hopes to outline in its grant application;
  • Articulate a plan for compensating contractors;
  • Outline a specific budget for the project.

Husky Sustainable Storms requests $10,000 to perform the feasibility study. HSS is prepared to return unspent funds to the CSF should expected costs of the project fall. Specifically, costs could fall in locating a licensed P.E. Firms may charge different rates for overseeing the design and conducting the senior review of a stormwater project. HSS plans to conduct outreach to many firms in the Seattle area as well as appeal to the UW Engineering Services for assistance.

Primary Contact First & Last Name: Patrick Green