TCA General Meeting for June

Ask about a rain garden!

If you live in the Thornton Creek watershed and do not live on a steep slope then you may be eligible for a FREE rain garden


Benefits Include:
  • Filtering pollutants before they reach the creek
  • Beautiful native vegetation provides habitat for bees, butterflies and birds
  • Reduced flooding and storm drain overflow
  • Enhanced appearance of homes and yards


If you have questions contact Kyle Olsen at or at 425-316-8592

Download the PDF Flyer here: KCD Rain Garden Flyer

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Thornton Creek Alliance initiates a Citizen Science Monitoring Program

Are you interested in learning about how you could help improve Thornton Creek?


Over the years many researchers have monitored Thornton Creek waters for various physical and chemical properties.  An evaluation was done by the Alliance to determine if folks living in the watershed could be helpful in obtaining information that would be valuable to these researchers both in increasing the amount of information available and eventually improving the quality of the creek.  Results of this effort identified several areas where this type of Citizen Science approach could be beneficial.


As a result the TCA board agreed to sponsor this effort using funding from a King County grant.  The first area of focus is to obtain information on the concentration and location of E-coli in the Creek.  A test for this is available and reliable which will allow a citizen scientist to perform and get useful information for the researcher. Thornton Creek Alliance has purchased the equipment and materials necessary to perform this test.


Working with Seattle Public Utilities we are developing a strategy of locations and times that would be most beneficial for helping to understand where the sources of E-coli are entering the creek.  By being able to pinpoint these sources we hopefully will be able to eliminate them.  There are already good examples of where this has occurred.

If you are interested in helping in this effort or other citizen science projects related to the creek please contact Gary Olson.   206-523-4384

Influence of the Confluence

PICTURES! Thanks to all our partners in the community and everyone who attended for making this such a successful event.

Get ready for the big event!


Please bring your family and friends on June 11 from 2 pm to 6 pm to celebrate two new projects on Thornton Creek that reduce upstream flooding and downstream flows. Learn how you can be part of ongoing efforts to preserve our urban watershed.


Live Music! Food Trucks! Kids activities! Lots of Participating Groups!


Some of the things you can explore: private property streambank enhancements, citizen science water quality monitoring, hiking, bird watching, classroom education, clean up and planting.


Park at the Meadowbrook Community Center (10517 35TH AVE NE, SEATTLE, 98125). Or park next door at Nathan Hale High School then walk over to the Meadowbrook Pond for all activities.


There will be tours of the Thornton Creek Confluence at Meadowbrook Pond throughout the afternoon and at the end of the event there will be a tour of the Knickerbocker Floodplain Project at Kingfisher Natural Area on Thornton Creek. To learn more about the projects visit:
Thornton Creek Confluence
Knickerbocker Floodplain Restoration Project 


Influence of the Confluence is hosted by Thornton Creek Alliance
and Adopt A Stream Foundation

In cooperation with Seattle Public Utilites and Seattle Parks and Recreation


Special Guest: The ThorNton Creek Band


PARTICIPANTS INCLUDE: Sno-King Watershed Council, Green Seattle Partnership, Cascade Climate Action, Island Wood, Tree PAC, Protect our Waters, Hive Bio Community Lab, Adopt a Stream Foundation, Sound Salmon Solutions, Seattle Nature Alliance, Midsound Fisheries Enhancement Group, Plant Amnesty, King County Noxious Weed Board, Thornton Creek Alliance and more…

Upcoming meetings!

TCA_Meetings_03 and 04

Knickerbocker Reach Reborn!

The Confluence Project gets all the press, with its multi-million dollar price tag, conspicuous construction, and extreme traffic impacts but for my money the coolest restoration happening in the Thornton Creek Watershed right now is the Knickerbocker Reach Floodplain Project.

Where once was a tightly armored channel bordered by the rubble of residental fill, there now is broad floodplain, a creek with deep pools, aerating riffles, and ripirian wetlands. Magnificent!

Terra forming wraps up soon, with lots of planting to continue into the fall..

Before, tight lined ditch, hidden in the weeds.

Before, a tight lined ditch, hidden in the weeds.


Now - A deep pool, with logs for structure and the tapered banks await hundreds native plants.

Now – A deep pool with logs for fish and tapered banks awaiting hundreds native plants.


East of the bridge, the site of tons of rubble and rotting creosote timbers - a reach in rebirth!

East of the bridge, formerly the site of tons of rubble and rotting creosote timbers, a reach in rebirth!


Confluence Project Updates From Seattle Public Utilities Webpage on

Thornton Creek Confluence Updates

August 18

Construction Update


The project reached a milestone earlier this week when the north branch of the creek was reconnected to the main stem, marking completion of in-water work on the north branch and main stem. This brings us one step closer to project completion and also means one less bypass pump running on the construction site. Over the next few weeks, construction activities will include:


  • Cleanup and dewatering of the site following heavy rainfall this week

  • Concrete pouring and formation of the bridge abutments

  • Creation of the south branch creek, west of 35th Avenue NE


August 11, 2014

Construction Update


Construction of the culvert and meandering creek continues to progress. See below for near-term activities and an outline of the remaining construction timeline:


  • Excavation and placement of log structures in the north and south branches of Thornton Creek
  • Concrete pouring and formation of the bridge abutments
  • Connection of the north branch to the mainstem of Thornton Creek and Meadowbrook Pond
Construction is anticipated to be complete in the fall, with the following sequence of work:


  • Creek Restoration, continuing through September
    • Completion of in-water “fish window” work, with a possible extension through mid-September
    • Connection of south branch to the mainstem of Thornton Creek and Meadowbrook Pond
  • 35th Avenue NE, anticipated through the end of November
    • Complete the bridge, walls, sidewalks and barriers
    • Install utilities across the bridge
    • Form and pour the deck of the bridge; installation of water main on the bridge
    • Resurfacing, paving and striping of 35th Avenue NE
  • 36th Avenue NE, anticipated through the end of November
    • Install utilities along the floodplain
    • Construct the cul de sac
    • Construct the trail/roadway connecting 36th Avenue NE to Meadowbrook Pond
  • Site Restoration, anticipated through the end of November
    • Landscaping and planting
    • Fence installation
    • Artwork installation

Washington Board Upholds Stormwater Rules and Watershed Scale Planning!

Stringent regs withstand a challenge by Puget Sound cities and counties.


 on April 17, 2014 at 10:08 am
Cut and Pasted from Sightlines Institutes excellent “Sightlines Daily” blog.
Check it out at:

What is exciting to me (Chuck D, VP of Membership) is the focus of dealing with stormwater on a watershed scale and the affirmation of the use of low impact development (LID)!
This post is part of the research project: Stormwater Solutions: Curbing Toxic Runoff
Seattle rain garden during a downpour.
Seattle rain garden during a downpour. Image by Lisa Stiffler (Used with permission)

The Pollution Control Hearings Board—the legal body presiding over state environmental regulations—has upheld the stormwater permits governing Western Washington cities and counties. The decision was issuedthis spring by the three-person board after permittees challenged the rules.

The state Department of Ecology in August last year approved the municipal stormwater permits, which aim to clean up and control polluted runoff that fouls Puget Sound and local lakes, rivers, and streams.

The permits require cities and counties to update their development regulations so they require the use of green technologies that catch and soak rain water where it falls, instead of sluicing it across asphalt and roofs and into gutters and drains that dump it into sensitive waterways. The green solutions include permeable pavement that rain percolates through to the ground and extra-absorbent, souped-up rain gardens called “bioretention facilities.”

The permits also tackle the torrents of dirty runoff with a big-picture effort to measure its damage. The regulations require King, Pierce, Snohomish, and Clark counties to consider stormwater effects in an entire watershed, which includes all of the land that drains into a specific body of water. The goal is to make sure we’re keeping an eye on the overall effects of development on water bodies.

While some folks criticize the rules for failing to sufficiently protect existing forests and green spaces from development, they’re still pretty ambitious in their attempt to make enviro-friendly stormwater solutions the norm—and not the exception.

But faster than a rain barrel fills in a downpour, cities and counties from around the regionchallenged the rules as:

“unlawful, unjust, unreasonable, impracticable, vague, ambiguous, economically infeasible and/or set forth mandates of unknown effectiveness in ameliorating, treating and/or controlling municipal stormwater;”

and also:

“beyond the authority of Ecology to impose, contrary to the Washington State constitution, contrary to the United States constitution…”

In October the board issued a slew of summary judgments, mostly supporting Ecology and the environmental groups that backed the department (see my earlier blog post on the case).

In the ruling released in March, the board continued to come down almost entirely on Ecology’s side.


Three main objections

Stormwater fail: a non-green gutter pours polluted stormwater into Puget Sound.


Stormwater fail: a non-green gutter pours polluted stormwater into Puget Sound. Image byLisa Stiffler (Used with permission)

Last summer Ecology issued two municipal stormwater permits: Phase I, which applies to Seattle, Tacoma, King, Pierce, Snohomish, and Clark counties, and Phase II, which regulates dozens of smaller counties and cities around Western Washington (the Phase II municipalities are listed here, as well as a list of “secondary permittees” such as ports and universities). The permits run from August 1, 2013 until July 31, 2018.

The case against the permits was brought by municipalities and private entities including King, Pierce, Snohomish, Clark, and Cowlitz counties; Auburn, Bainbridge Island, Bremerton, Burlington, Des Moines, Everett, Kent, Issaquah, Lynnwood, Mount Vernon, Renton, and SeaTac; and the Building Industry Association of Clark County.

Those supporting Ecology include Puget Soundkeeper Alliance, Washington Environmental Council, and the Rosemere Neighborhood Association.

In its ruling, the board broke the plaintiffs’ concerns into three main categories:

  1. Objections to the requirements that municipalities mandate the use of green stormwater solutions, also called low-impact development or LID. They basically said the technology cost too much and was not proven to work.
  2. Objections to the requirement that the four counties do large-scale, watershed analysis and planning. The challengers said the requirements were unlawful, unjust, unreasonable, or impracticable.
  3. Lacking an opportunity for “meaningful review” of the new rules.


LID deemed workable


On the first point, the board already has ruled that green stormwater solutions are workable. When municipalities challenged Ecology’s 2007 stormwater permit—which preceded the 2013 permit—the board concluded that LID provides “a known available method to address stormwater runoff” and that the strategies “are technologically and economically feasible and capable of application at the site, parcel, and subdivision level.”

In fact, the board told Ecology “to require greater application of LID at the parcel and subdivision level, where feasible.”

In the most recent ruling, the board again upheld the LID requirements. It ruled that while the permits tell folks to use green solutions as much as possible, the regulations also give them plenty of options for scuttling LID in situations where it won’t work.

Or as the board explained:

“…the permits provide significant flexibility to the permittees in the application of LID at the parcel and subdivision level, offering a complex array of alternative methods of compliance, exceptions, criteria for application of an infeasibility standard or consideration of other competing needs, among other items. While the Permits allow such flexibility, the overall approach of the Permits is to move the municipalities further toward compliance with water quality standards.”


Permeable pavers in West Seattle. Imageby Lisa Stiffler (Used with permission)



Folks challenging the permit also raised concerns about requirements describing how the super-charged rain gardens are built. In particular, they questioned instructions on the soil used in the bioretention facilities. More than a year ago, researchers found that new rain gardens built in Redmond following current guidelines were releasing significant amounts of pollution. That has scientists hustling to figure out the best soil mix to use in the bioretention facilities to soak up water, remove pollutants, and grow plants.

In response, the board said not to worry. Phase I municipalities have until July 1, 2015 to update their stormwater codes and Phase II jurisdictions have until the end of 2016.

“Ecology has sufficient time to gather more sampling data and, if necessary, refine the prescribed soil mix before its usage is required under the Permits,” wrote the board.

The board did order Ecology to make a change regarding the use of permeable pavement. Porous concrete and permeable asphalt have primarily been used in areas with less or slower moving traffic such as parking lots, driveways, and sidewalks. Given that there is more limited experience using these materials on busy roads and freeways, the board instructed Ecology to restrict the use of permeable pavement to “very low-volume roads and very low truck-traffic areas.”


Watershed moment


Regarding the watershed component, the permit requires King, Pierce, Snohomish, and Clark counties to conduct watershed-scale stormwater planning.

To do this, they must estimate how the water flow in a select watershed has changed from its historic conditions, and predict what will happen with water quality and plants and animals when an area is fully developed according to land-use plans. The municipalities use computer modeling and in-the-field testing to accomplish this analysis.

One of the sticking points for this provision is that the watersheds can often include land owned by cities, counties, or tribes outside of the four counties covered by the rules. To get a complete picture of what’s happening, these counties need the help of the other landowners, but the permit doesn’t require them to participate. It’s a legitimate hurdle.

But instead of scrapping the watershed rules, the board took a bold turn in the other direction, ordering Ecology to:

“obligate permittees to participate in the watershed-scale stormwater planning process, provide the data necessary for that planning process, and develop and evaluate stormwater management strategies to meet water quality standards in the portion of the watershed that is within their respective jurisdictions.”


A green-leaning board


Pollution Control Hearings Board


On the third matter of whether municipalities had enough time to review the rules, the board said they had, noting that many of the governments even helped develop the permits.

So with some relatively minor revisions here and there, the board gave an unambiguous thumbs up to the new stormwater regulations.

In fact, after spending a few hours with the 92-page ruling, I was left wondering who in the heck the permit-embracing board members are. To close this post, let’s take a quick look.

The Pollution Control Hearings Board has three members who are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the state Senate. They serve for six years and hear appeals to environmental rules and orders issued by Ecology and other state agencies. The board is not affiliated with the agencies that enact the rules.

Current members:

Joan Marchioro: Marchioro was an administrative appeals judge with the Environmental and Land Use Hearings Office, which the board is a part of, before Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee appointed her to the board in June 2013. Before then, she served in the Washington State Attorney General’s Office for 22 years where she represented Ecology and the Department of Revenue.

Tom McDonald: McDonald is a former environmental attorney who was appointed by former Gov. Chris Gregoire, a Democrat. He took the position in December 2011 to fill a seat vacated by a resigning member and his term ends this summer. He previously worked in Olympia for Cascadia Law Group and Perkins Coie. Before that he also worked for Washington’s Attorney General, as well as the Attorney General for Colorado.

Kathleen Mix: Mix was appointed in December 2005, also by Gregoire. She was reappointed to her post in 2011, and her term ends in two years. She worked from 1993 to January 2005 as Chief Deputy Attorney General for Gregoire when she was serving in the role of the state’s Attorney General.



Seattle Tree Map has taken flight

One of the many trees along Greenlake

One of the many trees along Greenlake

On March 1 Seattle Audubon officially launched the Seattle Tree Map, a website that allows users to contribute to urban forest monitoring and conservation through a shared inventory of our city’s trees.

They rely on people like us to help document and care for Seattle’s trees.

At Seattle Tree Map you can:

Find a tree

Add a tree

Update a tree

Learn more about the urban forest around you by exploring the tree map today!


The Seattle Tree Map is part of Canopy Connections, a project by the Seattle Audubon Society. Our urban forest is critically important to the health and well being of our entire region.