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Bioswales and sewer repairs slated for Brooklyn

by: RITA A. LEONARD - BES Community Advocate Rhetta Drennan chats with Brooklyn neighbors at the second Lower Powell Green Street and Sewer Project open house.A January 14th open house at Sacred Heart Villa on S.E. Milwaukie Avenue was the second of three meetings scheduled in Brooklyn to invite discussion of upcoming sewer repair work, and the installation of 52 green street facilities in the neighborhood.

As part of a plan to reduce fees for Portland sewer ratepayers, Portland’s Bureau of Environmental Services will begin work this summer on the Lower Powell Green Street and Sewer Project.

The work is a continuing part of the Tabor-to-the-River program, which combines bioswales with pipe repairs to save ratepayers over $60 million long-term, by diverting about 3.8 million gallons of stormwater annually from the city's sewer system.

BES Community Relations staffmembers Rhetta Drennan, Kate Hibschman, and Brian Wethington were three of the facilitators who helped explain to attendees the placement of green facilities, choice of new plantings, and types of trenchless pipe repair methods proposed for the project.

“We’re still taking comments on the project,” assured Drennan. “If you have any viable ideas that we could try, we’d love to hear about them. Some people look forward to green street structures in front of their homes, and others do not. There are all sorts of choices to minimize storm water overflows – and, through the matrix we work with, we endeavor to choose the solutions that would best suit the area.

“Most complaints from homeowners are related to the loss of street parking spaces,” she admitted. “We understand this concern, but a property owner does not have a ‘claim’ to street parking, even if they have no driveway. While there has been some talk of creating a greenway or bikeway along S.E. 9th Avenue in the neighborhood, at this time there doesn’t appear to be enough bike traffic to warrant such a project.”

“Green” facilities are considered to increase property values slightly, while loss of parking spaces may reduce values by a similar amount.

Drennan indicated that 4,000 feet of public sewerpipe work would occur largely in three areas: S.E. 9th Avenue from about Franklin to Taggart Street; S.E. Franklin and S.E. 11th Avenues north to Woodward Street; and a short section of S.E. Powell Boulevard encroaching upon S.E. 13th and 14th Avenues. Instead of a lot of digging and trenching, three trenchless pipe repair methods are being considered.

The “jack and bore” method pushes a large drill and new pipe underground from one place to another. The “pipe bursting” method pulls a bursting head through old pipe to break it apart, simultaneously pulling a new pipe into place behind it. And the “cured-in-place pipe” method, which is usually used just for smaller-diameter pipes, involves inserting a flexible resin liner or “sock” inside older pipes, which is then allowed to harden and form a new interior pipe surface.

Hibschman fielded questions about the design and placement of different types of green street storm water planters in the neighborhood, most of which will be located along S.E. 8th and 10th Avenues in Brooklyn Heights, and around S.E. 14th and Franklin Street in lower Brooklyn. “Generally, these range from about thirty to fifty-five feet in length, and may be located in parking strips or ‘bump-out’ facilities,” she explained. “They can include such plantings as grasses, trees, bulbs, and native plantings, and they should serve as extra habitats in the neighborhood. If we’re adding a street-corner facility, we would also upgrade pedestrian access at that point.”

Wethington pointed out different tree species that could be chosen for planting in the green street facilities. These offer a variety of color and shape, and berries that could also provide food for wildlife. “Urban street-tree choices vary as to whether or not there are overhead power lines at that site,” he commented. “We keep detailed records of the needs and limitations at each bioswale facility, keeping in mind the factors of public safety, storm water runoff design, and the potential for increasing wildlife habitat. “Appropriate design of these facilities should help divert excess storm run-off from entering nearby basements and causing flooding problems as well.”

Sewer repairs are also scheduled this year for a large section of Sellwood and Westmoreland, as well.