Sometimes it can take years to see change happen in your own backyard. Over 5 years ago when I worked at The Lands Council, a local conservation organization, the Spokane community began exploring the concept of low-impact development techniques. People were asking the questions: Why are we requiring developers to take all the trees off a property to meet stormwater requirements when trees can actually retain the stormwater? Why do we continue to create more impervious surfaces when alternatives exist, like pervious concrete? Can’t we use native plantings and rain-gardens instead of grassy swales to retain stormwater?
Years later, and under threat of a lawsuit to reduce PCBs entering the Spokane River, the City has finally moved forward to provide some of these alternatives. On August 26th, City Council approved changes to our stormwater management ordinance on a 5-0 vote (CP Stuckart and Allen were absent). Now, developers will be able to manage stormwater onsite either through traditional methods like swales OR choose rooftop gardens, rainwater collection or rain gardens on their properties. These will be optional, but it is a start for Spokane. The City government needs to continue to model good examples of low-impact development over the next few years so we can also “walk the walk.” I wholeheartedly support using these more natural or green solutions to keeping dirty stormwater out of our River.
Also last night, Council approved on a 5-0 vote using $350,000 in reserves to study and identify upkeep and rehab needs for 11 bridges over the Spokane River, mostly in/hear Riverfront Park. Many thanks to Councilman Jon Snyder for putting the consensus together and doing the necessary research to make this happen. These studies will be very helpful for the Task Force that is working on a Riverfront Park Master Plan and identifying the right resources to take our Downtown jewel to the next level!!