MAKING IT WORK
Seattle City Councilmember Richard Conlin
The purpose of this newsletter is to provide information, inspire involvement, and make things work in this great city.
Aprol 1, 2006, Volume VIII, Special Edition
CITY DESIGNATES LAKE WASHINGTON AS EMERGENCY WATER SUPPLY
The City of Seattle Emergency Preparedness Office has announced a new community-based initiative to provide healthful water to residents in emergencies. Drinking water comes to Seattle via miles-long pipelines from the Cedar and Tolt Rivers, and a major earthquake could fracture one or more of those pipelines. Any disruption in major transportation systems could make it difficult to assemble material and repair these pipelines. A bioterrorism attack could also potentially contaminate supplies, although Seattle officials stressed that the risk would be low, since the large quantity of water in the system would speedily dilute chemical or biological agents. However, taking pipeline systems off-line for quality testing to verify that could still take considerable time.
Seattle, however, has a huge supply of fresh water literally at its doorstep in Lake Washington, and officials have developed a creative new strategy that involves partnering with the backpacking community to make this water available for consumption. The City plans to launch a registry of backpackers who own portable water filters, and match each such person with a team of pumpers and porters who will assemble at the lake shore and then take on the responsibility for ensuring the water supply for specific blocks.
Surveys show that Seattle residents own an estimated 45,000 backpacking water pumps, although many of them are currently collecting dust in attics and basements, having been shelved by their owners in favor of purification tablets because of the labor involved in pumping significant amounts of water. Emergency Management staff emphasize that this is taken into account by the program that matches pump owners with people who will rotate the difficult chores.
While some problems remain to be ironed out, such as how to cross the Duwamish River if the bridges are knocked out, or what to do if the disaster happens on Labor Day weekend when all of the backpackers are in the mountains, Seattle is confident that this creative partnership can be made to work.
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GLOBAL WARMING MAY BENEFIT FREIGHT MOBILITY
As new research indicates that sea levels are rising faster than previously thought, Seattle Transportation staff members are exploring ways to mitigate the potential problems for moving goods and services around the city. Focusing on the possible twenty foot rise that may happen before the middle of this century, planners are working with topographic and soils experts to design a canal system that can carry freight between key destinations.
While hilltops are usually filled with view residences, most of Seattle's industry is near sea level in the Duwamish and Ballard-Interbay areas. Rising sea levels are projected to turn the Duwamish Valley into a series of islands, while the Interbay area will once again become a channel isolating Magnolia from the rest of Seattle.
The good news is that this opens unprecedented opportunities to use low cost water transport for freight that currently relies on trucks (major users of soon-to-be-scarce fossil fuels). Planners believe that with judicious dredging, as was used to create Harbor Island, new islands can be sculpted in the Duwamish with shores geometrically designed for maximum transport efficiency (star forms are likely to be favored). The Interbay canal could open access from the shores of Ballard directly to ocean going vessels and freight ferries to the Duwamish estuary. Planners recommend that this option is taken into account in planning for the future of the Alaskan Way Viaduct, as it will no longer be needed to carry freight.
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NEW RECYCLING PROGRAM INVOLVES 'REVERSE GARBAGE PICKUP'
Seeking new ways to reduce garbage and increase recycling, Seattle Public Utilities has announced a dramatic new initiative that will return the responsibility for solid waste directly to households.
Under the new program, called the "Seattle Waste Incentive Targeted Collection Harvest", or "SWITCH", trucks will begin returning collected materials to residents in their garbage cans. Residents will have the choice of either burying the returned waste in their backyards, or keeping it in the can for pickup the following week, presumably with their newly generated waste added to it.
A spokesperson pointed out that this will provide a unique financial incentive to reduce the amount of waste generated, as residents will either have to pile up waste in their homes until they can fit it into the cans, or change to a larger can. The change to a larger can will bring additional revenue to the utility, and collection workers can easily adjust to it by increasing the amount of waste left in succeeding weeks. The City's disposal costs will drop dramatically, as will the need for a new multi-modal transfer station.
If the program is successful, the City's future plans include further reducing costs and protecting the environment by digging up previously landfilled garbage and returning it as well.
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PLATE TECTONICS MAY END SR520 PROJECT
Seismologists have discovered what they describe as smaller versions of the gigantic continental plates underlying Lake Washington. These new small plates (affectionately nicknamed 'dinner plates') are much closer to the surface and have much more active fault lines than the major fault lines charted in the past, and the plates under the east side of the Lake appear to be diving under those on the west side. A stress analysis suggests that the continued movement is rapidly leading to the eastern shore of Lake Washington folding to end up right next to the western shore.
Scientists note that one professor at the University of Washington Bothell Branch has for many years been pointing out the parallel shaping of the two shores of Lake Washington, much like Alfred Wegener kept insisting that Africa and South America looked like they fit together. However, rather than drifting apart, it looks like the movement is bringing these two shores smoothly together.
Political observers have long noted that the near-eastside cities are becoming more and more like Seattle in their social and political behavior, but until these measurements were made, there was no awareness of the fact that they are moving physically closer as well. This newly-discovered process, dubbed 'municipal drift', was recently profiled in a journal article in Science.
The article projected that the two shores will come together in as little as 1500 years. Transportation engineers have suggested that this means that the region no longer needs to pursue the project to replace the SR520 Bridge, as the Environmental Impact Statement is unlikely to be finished until after that time.
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EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS PROGRAM TO STOCKPILE ESPRESSO BEANS
Recognizing the unique character of the survival requirements of Seattle households, the Emergency Preparedness program has begun a project to ensure that residents will still be able to get quick energy in the event of a major emergency. The new Strategic Latte/Espresso Reserve Program ("SLERP") will store enough espresso beans to supply the City for at least two weeks, along with a collection of battery and solar-powered espresso machines adequate to generate up to two million doses of espresso per day.
The City has designated Key Arena as the location of the SLERP, since it apparently is about to become surplus. Sub locations will be placed at newly-closed Seattle Schools when the District completes its downsizing process.
Although the City has faced some criticism for planning to supply what some describe as a luxury good, City officials defended the practice, noting that a deprived workforce is projected to suffer a 65% decline in productivity. City officials also noted that Health officials project that the loss of espresso would result in the need to administer up to 10,000 CPR actions per day in households all over the City. Starbucks has agreed to provide the City with a trained cadre of emergency baristas, who would patrol the City on skateboards, making it possible for them to travel even in areas where roadway structures have been damaged or collapsed.
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Citizen participation and engagement are critical for maintaining democracy -- fostering it is a key task of elected officials. It's my hope that this newsletter will inform you about issues, inspire you to get involved, and that together we can make things work better in this great city. Please send me your feedback, so we can keep things lively, interesting, and useful. And please forward it along to friends who might be interested. You can get more information or send me feedback through the City Council website at http://cityofseattle.net/council/
Your Seattle City Councilmember
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