Urge Metro to fund Tigard street retrofit project
(Soapboxes are guest opinions from our readers, and anyone is welcome to write one. Brian Wegener is the watershed watch coordinator for the Tualatin Riverkeepers.)
As local elected officials gather to redistribute federal transportation funding to worthy local projects, Tualatin Riverkeepers urges Times readers to support Tigard's Main Street Retrofit Project.
When it rains, stormwater washes over streets, roofs, lawns and parking lots. On its way, stormwater picks up oil, sediment, bacteria, grease and chemicals that can pollute our local streams and rivers. Stormwater runoff in the Tualatin Basin does not flow into the sewer and to the wastewater treatment plant for treatment (cleanup). Polluted stormwater flows directly into our fresh water creeks and river.
This street-to-stream connection is problematic:
n Four quarts of oil can cause an eight-acre oil slick if spilled or dumped down a storm drain.
n Just one quart of motor oil can contaminate 250,000 gallons of drinking water.
n Pet waste is a major source of bacteria that ends up in our streams. It contains as many as 75 diseases and viruses that may make our water unsafe for fishing, swimming and other types of recreation.
n Leaves and grass clippings that get blown into storm drains deplete the oxygen levels in our rivers, streams and lakes harming aquatic life.
n Litter not only looks bad along our streams and rivers but also can be ingested by fish and waterfowl.
n Water runoff from washing cars on pavement carries detergent and chemicals directly into our storm drains and our water sources, harming our water quality, wildlife and recreation areas.
Polluted stormwater runoff has been identified by the Environmental Protection Agency as the nation's main cause of water-quality problems. Locally, 274 miles of streams in the Tualatin Basin fail to meet federal water quality standards due to storm water pollution.
As the metro area grows, increasing impervious area impacts streams negatively. Jurisdictions throughout the area encourage low-impact development techniques that slow the growth of effective impervious area, but opportunities for reducing the impact of existing developments are harder to come by.
Tigard's Main Street Retrofit Project is a significant opportunity to reduce impervious area, reduce water pollution and restore natural hydrology to a small part of Fanno Creek. This project is consistent with Metro's Nature in the Neighborhoods program to reduce impacts of urbanization on streams and wildlife habitat.
Main Street in Tigard is an old street which drains directly into Fanno Creek. Stormwater running off of Main Street gets no treatment. Retrofitting Main Street into a 'green street' will prevent pollutants from entering Fanno Creek and help infiltrate stormwater to recharge the groundwater system that feeds the creek in the dry season.
The Main Street retrofit project provides engineering and construction of the southern half of Main Street in accordance with Tigard's new Downtown Streetscape Plan. The project redefines Main Street as a pedestrian-oriented street. Key features include wide sidewalks, new street lighting, landscaping, new parking layout and natural treatment of stormwater as part of Metro's Green Street Standards.
Main Street 'green' features include redirection of stormwater runoff from a piped system to use of infiltration and detention devices adjacent to the curb. The green street design is part of Tigard's overall sustainability/nature theme throughout the downtown.
The strength of green street design is that it addresses multiple dimensions of stormwater management including
n Removal of pollutants through natural filtration and biological processes.
n Recharging of groundwater system to provide cooling flows to streams in the hot, dry season.
n Slowing of flows and ground storage to reduce downstream flooding.
n Enhanced aesthetics in an urban environment.
Acceptance of green street design standards in the Tualatin Basin has been slow in coming. Skepticism about maintenance costs, durability and performance in areas of difficult soils has slowed acceptance. The very few projects employing these techniques, such as the Clean Water Services Operations Center, are showing success and answering concerns about performance. Tigard's Main Street Retrofit Project will be a catalyst to encourage other jurisdictions to take steps to reduce impervious area for the benefit of our neighborhood streams.