Outgoing King County District 2 Councilmember Larry Gossett championed a $114,500 grant award that will fund the design of the Alder Creek to Arboretum Creek restoration project.

The Friends of Arboretum Creek filed the application, with support from the King County Wastewater Treatment Division (WTD). The goal of the project is to divert Alder Creek and other surface waters in the Arboretum Creek watershed out of a combined-sewer overflow system. This will help lower demand on the West Point Treatment Plant and keep clean surface water from being mixed with sewage.

FOAC received a grant from King County in 2017 to conduct water-quality testing in Alder Creek and Alley Creek, which is what the group calls the stream that flows between East Aloha and Ward streets at 26th Avenue East.

The King County Council unanimously approved a suite of WaterWorks grants totaling $4.5 million on Dec. 11, $2.4 million of which were direct allocations by councilmembers.

“We have incredible thanks to Larry Gossett for approving this and getting the council to approve this grant, because it was through the council approval that we got it. It wasn’t as part of the budget for the wastewater treatment division,” said Friends of Arboretum Creek member Larry Hubbell.

Helping guide work on the diversion project is an advisory group of stakeholders that includes the Arboretum Foundation, Seattle Parks and Recreation, the University of Washington Botanic Gardens, Seattle Public Utilities, the Seattle Department of Transportation and Seattle Parks Foundation, which is FOAC’s fiscal sponsor.

FOAC had also counted Michael Galvan, water quality planner and program manager for the King County Wastewater Treatment Division, as a partner in the project, but Galvan is no longer with WTD, so Hubbell is hopeful another representative from the department will join the advisory group.

Hubbell said FOAC will look for an engineering firm in early 2020 to help the group reach a 30-percent design for the project, and he expects more fundraising to occur in the future. The group has also applied for a Neighborhood Matching Fund grant with the City of Seattle.

Part of the engineering work will include evaluating a 19-inch pipe near the low-hanging Wilcox Bridge in the Washington Park Arboretum, which Hubbell said is a chokepoint for Arboretum Creek.

“Bringing the stream to life, that’s really what we’re about,” he said, “is maximizing the quality of life in the stream.”

Any leftover funding will likely be used to build out the FOAC website and enhance community outreach. People wanting to track the project’s progress can visit the Friends website.

This was the fourth cycle for the grants, which originally were decided by King County WTD and a ranking committee that included community stakeholders. The process now allows councilmembers to identify projects in their respective districts. The department and council WaterWorks grants are split 50/50.

King County Council chair Rod Dembowski defended the new process before the Dec. 10 vote, saying councilmembers are rooted in the communities they serve and should be able to respond to requests from partner agencies in their district. He lauded the grants as a way to continue the vision of civic leader and Lake Washington advocate Jim Ellis by investing in water quality and making sure the lake is safe for people and salmon to swim in. Ellis, who was known as “the father of Metro,” died in late October at the age of 98.