Breaking Barriers for GSI Projects

Here at Stewardship Partners we do our best to help get as many green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) projects in the ground as possible. Unfortunately, while most landowners love the idea of a beautiful rain garden or cistern going in their yard, there are barriers to getting these projects installed. Many great incentive programs exist for installing GSI, like RainWise Rebates, but cost continues to be one of the biggest barriers landowners face.

Newly installed rain garden getting its finishing touches.

We are working hard to address this issue by creating new incentive programs and expanding the financial assistance offered through the RainWise Program. Our recently launched GSI Mini Grants offer up to an additional $1,500 for landowners within the King County Wastewater Treatment Division (WTD) service area that are not eligible for other incentive programs. The goal of the GSI Mini Grant is to help provide both guidance and financial assistance for communities that are in areas of ineligibility for other incentive programs and may otherwise be unable to install GSI projects. Our RainWise Access Grants help income-limited and underserved communities by providing an additional $1,000 for RainWise eligible homeowners and nonprofit community organizations, bridging the gap between the RainWise rebate amount and actual project costs. Without this tool, even relatively small out of pocket costs for GSI projects could pose a barrier to landowners otherwise ready to install GSI on their property.

The creation of these tools comes from actively listening to and discussing with key partners like and community members. With a little out of the box thinking, the Stewardship Partners team was able to create a whole organizational infrastructure that didn’t exist before, all because we listened to communities sharing their experiences and barriers with us. After many tweaks and improvements to both of these tools, we now have Mini Grants and Access Grants flying off the shelves. We have a great sense of pride and gratification knowing we are able to give communities a hand in their work to protect Puget Sound.

You can find out more about these financial tools and other incentive programs at www.12000raingardens.org.

What’s Working & Who’s Missing?

Conversations of equity and youth pathways for green infrastructure

“I was shy, I was quiet, I would never be able to [speak to an audience like this]… Paulina gave me a voice… gave me a sense of purpose, gave me a safe place to do what I love to do which is to be an environmental activist for my community… in South Park and Georgetown.” These were the words of Daniella, a youth leader from the Duwamish Valley Youth Corps, speaking about her mentor, Paulina Lopez (who later received an award for youth mentorship from the City Habitats network). Voices and stories like Daniella’s took center stage at this year’s 3rd Annual Green Infrastructure Summit as we continued the quest to turn green infrastructure into a force for equity and environmental justice. A big part of that quest involves ensuring that as the green infrastructure sector grows, new jobs and career pathways are accessible and attractive to brilliant, diverse minds in communities disproportionately affected by pollution and environmental degradation.

On February 9th, Stewardship Partners reached another landmark in our leadership role of turning our region’s cities and towns from #GrayToGreen. As we convened the Puget Sound Green Infrastructure Summit, a City Habitats event, it was amazing to hear different perspectives from innovators across the region and sectors. Being mindful to “connect the dots” (.com, .org, .gov, and .edu), we are seeing more and more collaboration between public and private sectors, evident through the case studies and breakouts that day as well as research and implementation. The vision that inspired us to create this event in 2016 is beginning to turn into reality: the Puget Sound region is taking flight as a “Silicon Valley of Green Infrastructure.”

Photo credit: The Nature Conservancy/Courtney Baxter

As with the two previous summits, we intentionally centered and highlighted equity within the agenda and speakers throughout the day. The main theme of this year’s summit was green infrastructure jobs and youth pathways. With the understanding that host committee members and summit attendees are not youth in the community, we held a companion event, The Youth Forum on Green Infrastructure Jobs and Youth of Color, to ensure the youth voice was accurately represented. Held in January, this event brought together 20 young people of color together to discuss what they saw as barriers to entry into the green infrastructure field. This eye-opening discussion allowed us to bring new voices and faces into the conversation, informing workforce decision-makers who were in attendance at the summit.

To see the presentations, Youth Forum video, and other resources shared at the summit visit the summit webpage at: www.12000raingardens.org/summit

Sustainability Super Heroes: Inspiring young environmental stewards

Elizabeth Wing, third-grade teacher, is our Sustainability Super Hero! On a daily basis she inspires her third-graders to become great stewards of the environment at Carnation Elementary School, about 30 miles from Seattle, in the Snoqualmie Valley. We met Elizabeth in 2015 at a Snoqualmie Indian Tribe Earth Day event at Tolt McDonald Park in Carnation. Her students were working with the Tribe to restore salmon habitat along the Tolt River. Elizabeth came up to our information table, picked up a rain garden pamphlet and declared, “I want our third-graders to build a rain garden at our school!” It just so happened that Stewardship Partners recently learned about a new grant program that would provide funds to do just that. We let Elizabeth know that we’d be interested in partnering on a project with her students and the rest is history.

The school now has a brand-new rain garden as of January 2018. Students helped to install the rain garden with the Stewardship Partners’ Snoqualmie Stewardship restoration crew and the Snoqualmie Tribe’s Environmental and Natural Resources program staff. A team from Aspect Consulting, who designed the rain garden, volunteered to help with the install.

         Snoqualmie Stewardship crew with 3rd grade students and Ms. Wing

The goal is for generations of students to learn about, care for, and maintain the rain garden. An additional part of the vision was to connect students with mother nature’s larger rain gardens; habitat buffers. As part of their science program, the students that installed the rain garden later joined Stewardship Partners and Nature Vision at Oxbow Farm and Conservation Center to help maintain and plant native trees and shrubs in our beloved “Alder Grove” buffer.

“The rain garden and restoration opportunities allowed students to develop a connection to the community, unique ecosystems, and to develop a sense of place. Elementary students learn best and remember important learning targets through project-based learning and inquiry field studies. They take their stewardship learning and share their insights with their families. All students see themselves as citizen scientists with powerful voices.”
— Elizabeth Wing