UW Floating Wetlands Project Phase I

Estimated Amount to be requested from the CSF: $11,000

Letter of Intent:


Floating Wetlands at the UW will be a two-phase project with an end goal of constructing floating wetlands within a waterbody of the University of Washington.  This Letter of Intent is requesting funding for Phase I, a Feasibility Analysis investigating location possibilities, design prototypes, construction processes, permitting requirements and anticipated maintenance needs.  Phase II funding will be requested after completion of Phase I and would consist of the development of floating wetland construction documents, completion of permitting, construction and installation of the floating wetland platforms, and minimal maintenance. This request is for Phase I only.

Brief Explanation of the Floating Wetlands Project

Floating wetlands are an emerging green technology that mimic naturally occurring wetlands by using floating frames as a base upon which to grow native wetland plants.  The use of floating wetlands creates opportunities within compromised water bodies for environmental remediation.  Research and implementation on floating wetland structures has been conducted worldwide offering a body of information to support the benefits of this technology.  Such measured environmental impacts have been: carbon sequestration; fish, bird, and other habitat renewal; reduction in phosphorous, ammonia, nitrogen, heavy metals, and other aquatic pollutants; climate adaption and water temperature mitigation; and shoreline protection and beautification.

Phase I of this project would continue work already begun by several Landscape Architecture graduate students working with the Green Futures Lab.  It would also expand outreach to students and faculty in a number of departments including: the College of Built Environments; Aquatic and Fisheries Sciences; Environmental Science and Forestry; and Engineering.  These departments would be consulted for proposed site assessment, design research, and permitting requirements.  At the recent Sustainable UW Festival, the GFL received a great amount of interest from students of different science departments looking for involvement in implementation of green technologies.  Many were interested in projects they could apply their expertise to and both Phase I and Phase II of the UW Floating Wetlands Project could provide that platform.

In Phase II, students from across the university would again be invited to participate in detailed design, construction, installation and observation.  Although education and outreach for Phase I would primarily be internal to the UW design and science community, implementation of Phase II and beyond would allow for outreach to the public and greater UW student body through signage, publicity, and continued monitoring of the built floating wetlands.  Based on the success of a previous GFL CSF project - The Biodiversity Green Wall - students, faculty, and the surrounding communities are proud to see the UW at the forefront of innovative green technologies.  Floating Wetlands at UW would push the current implementation into new territory and build upon the region’s reputation for addressing polluted waterbodies, while also considering complex urban habitat needs.

Our current preferred locations for Floating Wetlands are along the Lake Union and Portage Bay shorelines, where migrating juvenile salmon need to seek refuge from predators in shallow water. Current permit requirements for floating structures in the Lake Washington watershed system limit the amount of overwater coverage, to reduce potential “ambush” habitat of predators. To address this condition, we have been developing initial designs that would create partially submerged planted structures, to provide refuge for juvenile salmonids in the shallow column of water and the vegetation above the floating wetland islands.  Initiating permitting conversations for these structures with UW, State and Federal agencies will take time but could open the way for widespread shoreline habitat improvement -- going beyond the paradigm of “do no harm” to “provide multiple benefits.”

Since this project is building upon research already begun in the Green Futures Lab, we have access to an existing body of information regarding design and implementation of floating wetlands on which to base this requested Feasibility Phase.  Outreach to floating wetland projects within Seattle has been initiated and can serve as a valuable resource with regard to scale and monitoring possibilities.  This includes King County’s installed floating wetland within Hicklin Lake in West Seattle, and on floating wetland structures built and monitored in a constructed wetland in Redmond, Washington by a Landscape Architecture student and former employee of the Green Futures Lab (who is now interning with King County to investigate floating wetland applications for stormwater treatment.) These existing projects and research in the Seattle area offer strong precedents for the successful customization of floating wetlands technology to the UW campus and Lake Washington basin. Through well-vetted investigation of potential UW sites and interdepartmental research collaboration, floating wetland technology could provide exciting improvements to the UW landscape.

Outcomes of Phase I will be: 

  1. identification and approval for placement of the structures on the UW campus;
  2. proposed designs for the floating wetland structures; 
  3. budget estimates for the completed structures;
  4. identification and solidification of partnerships for construction, maintenance and matching funds;
  5. an outline of permitting requirements, timelines and issues and initial submission of required permits.  Our aim would be to complete Phase II construction, and to then monitor the design and habitat performance using separate funding sources.

An estimate of the project’s budget

The Phase I of this project would operate with a total cost of $11,000.  This would allow the Green Futures Lab to hire 2 students at 225 hours each for an approximate cost of $9,000 over Winter and Spring terms, building on the extensive volunteer work that has already been accomplished. Familiarity with the floating wetlands constructed at Hicklin Lake and in Redmond has indicated that a materials budget of $1,600 would be suitable to develop and construct prototypes. We anticipate potential permitting fees and costs at $400.  


Primary Contact First & Last Name: Kasia Keeley