McGinn vs. Mallahan: As Seattle mayor, what would either do to save Puget Sound?
Puget Sound is our region’s greatest natural gem. However, despite what most citizens assume based on its surface appearance, the Sound is in serious trouble. The city must adopt an outcome-based strategy that limits sewer overflow and the discharge of heavy metals from vehicles. We need to bring Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) street-sweeping pilot project to scale to reduce non-point source pollution. We also must work in concert with SPU to reduce impervious runoff through the use of green roofs and natural-drainage swales. Over the long-term, Seattle must enhance its infrastructure to manage the city’s maxed-out sewer-overflow basins.
“The impact of street runoff is well documented, carrying thousands of tons of pollutants into Puget Sound each year. Over the past decade, the City of Seattle has been a leader in pioneering low impact development practices, but we need to move these techniques beyond the pilot stage if we are serious about protecting the Sound. Investing in these facilities will not only provide good paying construction and trades jobs, but will also lower our long-term infrastructure costs.”
* Require low impact development techniques for all new right-of-way construction.
* Develop a public-private partnership program to build out porous pavement sidewalks and raingardens to fulfill the city’s promise to bring sidewalks to all neighborhoods.
* Allow buildings with green roofs a reduction in stormwater utility rates.
Yes, say Erika Schreder, a scientist at nonprofit Washington Toxics Coalition, which recently released a study suggesting that everyone pollutes the Sound when they wash clothes. (She and other environmentalists stressed their organizations’ nonprofit statuses forbid them to endorse candidates.)
“It’s great to see both candidates focusing on stormwater—Puget Sound’s No. 1 problem, and an issue where city government can have a huge impact,” says Kathy Fletcher, founder and executive director of People for Puget Sound.
“It is increasingly obvious that if we are serious about saving the Sound, that our urban areas will have to change, and change quickly,” Fletcher says. “Saving rural watersheds and restoring estuaries and shorelines will not bring salmon and orcas back unless we also retrofit our cities to coexist sustainably with the Sound. It’s nice to see both candidates’ literacy about ‘impervious surfaces,’ and that they both are aware of low-impact building strategies like green roofs. I also like their sense that now is the time to move beyond pilot projects to large-scale solutions.”
The positions also seem to promise some of the tough solutions desired in the fiery blog-post complaint of Mike Sato, spokesman for People for Puget Sound, who was dismayed by the recent launch of a Puget Sound Starts Here ad campaign that focused on four simpler acts — like getting the public to scoop dog poop.
After reading Mallahan’s and McGinn’s brief positions, Sato responded that “both have their heads in the right direction on stormwater and runoff pollution control— it will take infrastructure changes to reduce the flow of pollutants to streams, rivers and the Sound and it will take reducing the amount of impervious surfaces to allow water to percolate into the ground and not run off. These are the real and hard measures that have to be done. Seattle can take a true leadership position in Puget Sound and the nation with the right leadership on this and other environmental issues.”
Now, readers, what environmental questions do you have for the mayoral candidates? Let us know and we’ll see if we can get answers.