Which Communities Stood Out for Their LID Code Updates?
Four communities emerged as LID leaders between 2017 and 2019. These cities made green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) the norm, ensuring walkable, livable, and resilient communities for generations to come. To recognize their achievements, Puget Soundkeeper and Washington Environmental Council have awarded each of these four cities a Green Star for outstanding work.
Green Stars are awarded to cities and counties that have embraced LID and reached above and beyond the Municipal General Stormwater Permit requirements. These cities and counties worked with, and sought feedback from, residents to make sure code updates were well-received in the community and prioritized stormwater management to protect Puget Sound.
2019 Green Star Leaders
Lynden was not reviewed for the 2017 Scorecard because they had a later deadline from the Department of Ecology for completing their LID code updates. However, when our team initially reviewed Lynden’s codes for the 2019 Scorecard, it looked like they would only earn one of five checkmarks. We reached out to city staff and asked if they would be open to working with us to identify improvements they could make to their codes, and the city promptly alerted the Department of Ecology that they would be making further changes. In just a few short months, Lynden implemented significant code changes to multiple areas of their local regulations, which have since earned them all five checkmarks on the Scorecard. This is a clear indication that Lynden is dedicated to protecting our waterways and prioritizing LID. See Lynden’s development codes here.
Thanks to a Stormwater Capacity Grant from the Department of Ecology, Monroe was able to install permeable pavement at many locations throughout the city. The effect is especially noticeable downtown, with pavers used in parking spaces, pervious sidewalks, and even permeable roads. Ecology’s Capacity Grant also helped the city purchase a specialized machine for keeping these permeable pavements clean, which is essential to maintaining their effectiveness. Monroe is also going to great lengths to restore native vegetation in streamside buffers and critical areas important to salmon, with several local projects completed and more underway. Despite all this, the city didn’t originally receive many checkmarks on Nature’s Scorecard because they were missing key code updates necessary to solidify their commitment to LID and protecting water quality. After meeting with Soundkeeper and WEC, Monroe city planners made further updates to their code, and the city is now on its way to earning all 5 checkmarks. See Monroe’s development codes here.
Puyallup has long been a regional leader in stormwater management. Home to the Washington Stormwater Center—which includes a research facility dedicated to permeable pavement— and also a proud “Bee City,” Puyallup is no stranger to thinking about sustainability. The city worked hard to ensure that its code meets Ecology’s guidelines and the rubric for Nature’s Scorecard. The city integrated creative requirements into local codes to further enhance watershed protection, such as requiring native vegetation buffers in small alleys between businesses, which not only serve as pollinator pathways but also help filter pollutants out of stormwater and improve infiltration in highly-developed commercial districts. After learning that they did not earn all 5 checkmarks in 2017, Puyallup reached out to the Nature’s Scorecard team to learn more about what gaps existed in their code. The team worked together with city staff to identify existing areas of their code that could be strengthened, such as references to their already-extensive native tree and plant list, and new ideas that could be implemented, such as requirements for permeable pavement in off-street parking areas. Puyallup has also recently installed one of the region’s first permeable major arterials. See Puyallup’s development codes here.
Bellingham earned 4 of 5 checkmarks in 2017, but was determined to receive all five for the 2019 update. We worked with city staff to ensure that new language in their development codes not only covered their final checkmark (Softening our Footprint), but also discovered that their intensive inspection procedures before and after construction, as well as their investment in low-impact development for low-income housing, made them a strong leader in LID principles.
2017 Case Studies
In many places, we discovered that city and county staff were working on ways to incorporate LID principles into development outside of the rubric used to evaluate performance on the Scorecard. Below are a few case studies demonstrating additional ways communities are working toward LID, even though they may not have earned all five checkmarks.
Sedro Woolley did not have the specific language in their building codes to earn a check for “Building with Care.” However, after talking to city planners, Soundkeeper and Washington Environmental Council learned that the City’s permit process for new construction projects has strong, specific requirements for protecting trees and native topsoil, as well as other best practices. Building permits are another way that cities and counties can ensure new development is protective of our watershed.
Shoreline did not earn a checkmark for “Improving Filtration” because their municipal codes did not require the use of permeable pavements and other infiltration techniques where feasible. However, Shoreline is not ignoring this important LID opportunity. Shoreline’s City Hall has recently adopted pervious pavement, planting beds and stormwater filtration systems along major roadways as a part of the city’s overall sidewalk enhancement prioritization plan. Shoreline has also welcomed feedback from a group of students at the UW Evans School, who presented the city with recommendations for further best practices.
While the Scorecard rubric graded cities and counties on LID code updates, Marysville focused its efforts on other ways to protect its watersheds from polluted stormwater runoff. Marysville was an early adopter of LID in 2006, and is already retrofitting several developed areas. Since 2006, Marysville has permitted approximately 350+ infiltration facilities to better protect local water quality. The City started construction of two projects in 2016, retrofitting nearly 3000 feet of roadway that had previously discharged untreated stormwater to the Snohomish River. In 2017, the City was awarded a $5 million grant for the design and construction of a large regional treatment facility along the waterfront to treat 114 acres of their historic downtown., with a project start date of 2020. Marysville is also designing a new retrofit project called the Downtown Historic Green Retrofit.
King County is working on some innovative projects that might serve as a model for other smaller municipalities. King County continues to advance “Our Green Duwamish,” a watershed-wide strategy designed collaboratively, by stakeholders, to improve stormwater-related water quality and quantity dynamics in the Green/Duwamish watershed. As part of this strategy, King County is building an implementation plan and mapping tool to help identify, prioritize, and locate stormwater retrofits, including GSI retrofits throughout the watershed.
Further, King County’s GSI incentive program is implementing stormwater retrofit projects on private properties throughout King County to improve water quality in local streams.