Green Infrastructure

New green approaches to managing stormwater on site are becoming popular across the nation and in Spokane. In Washington State, these approaches are often called low-impact development.

Low-impact development (LID) is an emerging practice that mimics nature's management of stormwater. It emphasizes site conservation and uses natural landscaping features to filter and retain stormwater close to where it falls.

These techniques can remove pollutants from stormwater, reduce flooding, preserve open space, and replenish wetlands. Depending on the technique, they also can provide for more cost effective development, take up less developable area, reduce construction and maintenance costs and improve the appearance of neighborhoods.

Storm gardens installed on South Lincoln Street and the stormwater planters and pervious pavement on West Broadway are examples of low impact development.

As the City moves ahead with plans to improve the health of the Spokane River, the use of low-impact development techniques is one strategy to reduce the amount of stormwater that flows into pipes that discharge directly to the River.

Interest in green infrastructure is growing in our community. About 90 people attended a full-day seminar at Spokane City Hall recently, to share best practices and innovative ideas for using green infrastructure in both private and public projects. Kari Mackenbach, a national green infrastructure leader with URS Corp., gave us a glimpse at how other communities are incorporating these techniques and getting great results.

The video of her talk is below:

Learn more about low-impact development:

Working with The Lands Council

The City of Spokane and The Lands Council, a local nonprofit, have partnered to bring information to citizens about green stormwater management and the benefits of such facilities.

The City contracted with The Lands Council to reach out to neighborhood residents and businesses to talk about stormwater and the benefits of using green strategies, including "storm gardens." Outreach has occurred in both the Chief Garry Park and Shadle Park neighborhoods.

Additionally, in the Shadle Park neighborhood, The Lands Council and the City partnered on a pilot project to add a few storm gardens in the Shadle Park neighborhood. The Shadle Park Neighborhood was selected because it is part of a combined sewer area that's a good candidate for green technologies because of its smaller size and better, free-draining soils.

The Lands Council worked to identify property owners interested in having a garden installed to capture stormwater and filter it on site. The gardens include native plants and special soils, including a layer of biochar, a charcoal-like material that is a by-product of biomass facilities.

This outreach is part of the City's work under its Integrated Clean Water Plan to manage stormwater and wastewater that impacts the Spokane River. The integrated plan prioritizes projects based on their positive environmental impact to the river. It includes projects to reduce untreated discharges to the river from both separated storm sewers and combined sanitary and stormwater sewers. One of the goals of the plan is to incorporate new cost-effective, green technologies for managing stormwater on site and reducing the amount of water flowing into pipes that discharge directly to the river.

For more information, visit The Lands Council.