City Light Hosting Strategic Plan Discussion Session

City Light wants to hear from you.  On Wednesday, June 8, from 10:00 am through noon, co-hosts McKinstry Company and the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce invite you to join Seattle City Council Member Bruce Harrell, the Seattle City Light Review Panel and Seattle City Light officials in a discussion about the utility’s six-year strategic plan and how to shape the utility’s future.

The location is at McKinstry Company’s SoDo headquarters at 5005 Third Avenue South, near Lucile.  See map below.

City Light is looking looking for comments on these areas:

  • Rate stability and predictability
  • Power reliability
  • Infrastructure maintenance and up-grades
  • Conservation and energy efficiency
  • New technologies

As a means of saying “thank you,” a hand-crank, energy efficient flashlight will be yours for participating.  If interested, please RSVP to and let them know if you will be a part of the planning discussion.

For information about the strategic plan, visit

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Parks Hosting Dinner to Discuss Lifelong Recreation Programs

Seattle Parks and Recreation is interested in hearing from West Seattle residents about Parks’ Lifelong Recreation Programs for Seniors and Adults.

Staff from Seattle Parks and Recreation’s Lifelong Recreation Program will be on hand at a community dinner at 6:00 pm on Wednesday, June 8 to gather input from key West Seattle leaders on programs for adults and seniors.

The dinner takes place at Delridge Community Center, 4501 Delridge Way SW.

Parks would like to hear from leaders and citizens about the types of programs they would like to see for West Seattle adults and seniors, and to talk about potential partners and challenges.

The public is invited, and the simple, nutritious dinner is limited to 75 people. For more information, please call Mary Dalzell at 206-935-2162, or email her at

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Spain’s bike paths a model for West Seattle?

Grade separated bike paths in Barcelona

By Nicholas Smith

I just returned from a wonderful trip to Spain and snapped this photo in Barcelona of a great example of grade-separated bike lanes. Enormous walking path, followed by well-marked bike paths and then the roadway for cars. Beautiful, efficient and, best of all, safe. All integrated with a robust subway system.

One thing we’re really good at in America is laying down lots of cement. Perhaps with some rule changes we can begin putting that hard surface down in layers and make getting around safer for everyone.

As an added benefit, the (skinny) Spanish often take long walks in the evenings, chatting with friends and family along the way. There may be benefits to this approach that can’t be captured in a government planning study.

I can imagine several roadways in West Seattle where this approach would work well. All the way down 35th? Along Delridge? In the shopping zone of California? Others?

Tools To Help Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle for Earth Day, Everyday

In honor of Earth Day 2011, here’s some useful tools to help you assess your carbon footprint, determine if there are ways you can cut down on energy use, help you find ways to contain storm-water runoff, and other useful items from a wide variety of organizations including King County and Seattle public utilities.

How big is your footprint and what can you do to make a difference?

You can also help reduce your use of paper and therefore save in the conversion of trees into pulp and the attendant issues associated with that process.  Here’s some ways you can reduce your use of paper.

You have a choice when it comes to how much junk mail, credit card offers, catalogs and phone books arrive at your home and workplace.

Help your recycling reduce bulk by opting-out of phone books and taking your name off catalog and junk mail distribution lists.  Here’s links to ways to do this:

Reduce, Reuse what you can, and then Recycle.  It’s pretty easy. Do you have a question about recycling, composting or reducing waste? Ask Charlie, CleenScapes online inquiry and question form.

Seattle ecycling stations are open from 8:00 am to 5:30 pm seven days a week except major holidays.

  • North Station: 1350 North 34th Street (located in the Fremont/Wallingford area at North 34th Street, near Carr Place North)
  • South Station: 8105 5th Avenue South (located south of the First Avenue South Bridge)

You can even see the waiting lines on-line at this link:

For other recycling options in the Puget Sound area, visit the Take It Back Network.

Energy Blog: NW Wind Power – Too Much of a Good Thing?

By Andy Silber

Too Much of a Good Thing?

The Challenges of Wind Development in the Northwest

It was recently reported that the Northwest power grid operators (primarily the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA)) plan to instruct wind farm operators to turn their turbines off occasionally this spring, because our grid can’t handle all of the power. Why are we turning off wind farms now and not shutting down Washington’s only coal power plant until 2025?

We often hear that the problem with wind power is that it is an “intermittent” source: the turbines generate electricity when the wind blows, not when the demand is high. This is also true of solar, but it’s less of a problem because it is more predictable (they tend to generate more electricity during the day than at night) and that power generation is high when demand is high. This is especially true in areas where solar energy is plentiful and the peak demand is caused by air conditioning, like LA and Phoenix.

What we don’t often hear about is the intermittency of hydro. Most of us imagine a dam holding back water, waiting until we need it. The truth is a bit more complicated. I’ll take Seattle City Light’s (SCL) situation as an example. SCL has 4 main dams, 3 on the Skagit River (Gorge, Diablo and Ross) and the Boundary project on the Pend Oreille River in Northeast Washington. For 3 of these dams, the amount of water flowing into the “lake” behind the dam in a given day is about equal to the amount of water flowing out of the lake that day: there is very little storage. SCL does turn most of the generators down at night, saving the water for the time of day when demand is highest. The other complication is the salmon in the Skagit River. The salmon runs are very healthy on the Skagit, in part because of SCL’s salmon first policy in running the hydro facilities. The output of the most downstream dam (Gorge) is relatively constant when the salmon are in the river, because that leads to healthy salmon runs. Ross Dam and Lake are the exception. Ross can hold enough water to run for months. So the level of Ross Lake is lowered during the late winter, waiting for the spring run-off. When that happens Ross Dam is turned way down. There’s still enough water from the melting snow nearby to keep Diablo and Gorge producing a lot power.  Meanwhile on the Pend Oreille, the Boundary dam is producing huge amounts of electricity. Even with Ross producing much less energy that it can, our other dams produce more than we need during the spring melt.

The same thing is happening with all of the dams and rivers across the region, including the big federal dams that make up the BPA. There are very few big lakes like Ross that can store much water. In a wet year, like we’re having right now, the wholesale price of electricity plummets for months. We can export some of that power to California via the Pacific DC intertie (which was built as a federal project, not a state or private one), but not all of it. The key to operating the Northwest Grid during the spring run-off is to reduce generation. One way to do that is “spill” water over the dams (i.e. pass water over the top of the dam, rather than through the turbine/generators). This does happen, but it mixes air into the water, which is bad for the fish. Another way is to take a few big plants off-line for awhile. For instance, at the moment the only nuclear plant in Washington State is down for re-fueling.

So when the wind starts blowing in the spring, the grid operators get nervous. The amount of electricity being put into the grid must exactly equal the amount being used. If the dams are already as low as they can go given the constraints of flood control and fish habitat and the Pacific Intertie is at capacity and everything else that can be turned down already has been, they’re in a pickle. Wind operators have an extra inducement to sell their power; they only get their federal production tax credits if they sell the power. They can sell the power at a negative price and still make some money. That actually happens; the wholesale price of electricity can go negative. If you have a power plant that you can’t turn down you need a place for that electricity to go and if needed, you’ll pay someone to take it.

If you’ve been reading my blog much, you know what the solution is: a National HVDC Grid. If we had a larger market to sell into, those wind turbines could be replacing power produced with natural gas or coal outside of our region. Basically there is no transmission capacity heading east from Seattle that connects to the big loads in Chicago and points east. We could also be buying wind power from the plains during our peak winter loads.

For Seattleites this would have another advantage. Our electricity rates our subsidized by selling excess power on the wholesale market: high wholesale prices are actually good for Seattle. A big part of the reason our rates have gone up recently is that the recession has depressed electricity demand and prices, so we aren’t making as much as we usually do selling power. Since our costs are fixed, ratepayers make up the difference. If during the spring, when we have the most excess power, we could sell power at $60/Mhr, rather than the $20/Mhr that is currently typical, the result would be lower rates. Also our dams could help smooth the ups and downs of wind power across the country, if we had the transmission capacity.

The Pacific Intertie lowers the cost of electricity both here and in California. We just need to build a network of transmission lines so that we can keep the wind turbines generating electricity here and turn off the coal plants across the country.

Take Survey: Parks Needs Your Walking Trails Input

Seattle Parks and Recreation seeks input from trail enthusiasts on how to preserve and develop Seattle Parks and Recreation soft surface walking and hiking paths. In April, Parks hosted two public meetings to gather input on park trails, and now asks the public to take the short survey located at and provide us with additional information.

Trails and related activities rank high on the list of activities that Seattleites enjoy, and the public survey will provide essential direction in how Parks protects and improves these assets.

Seattle Parks and Recreation is using its trails inventory not only to plan work for the next five years, but to create an opportunity to work with stakeholders, citizens, and community organizations to develop partnerships and a longer term vision for our trail system through 2020 and beyond.

For more information on Seattle Parks and Recreation Trail system, please visit: or contact Chukundi Salisbury, Trails Program Coordinator, Seattle Parks and Recreation, 1600 South Dakota Street,  206-684-4122, or email at



Help Determine How Transportation $$$ Should Be Spent

It’s no secret that there are more transportation needs than funding.  Attend a public workshop to help the Citizens Transportation Advisory Committee III (CTAC) prioritize needs and evaluate funding options including a potential ballot measure.

Public workshops are being held Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. Each workshop will have the same agenda with presentations by CTAC members and Seattle Department of Transportation Director Peter Hahn.

  • 5:30 to 6:00 pm – Open House
  • 6:00 to 6:30 pm – Presentations buy CTAC members and SDOT Director Peter Hahn
  • 6:30 to 7:30 pm – Break-out group discussion

The schedule of briefings is as follows:

  • May 23, Monday, Southwest Library Meeting Room, 9010 35th Avenue SW
    • City Council Member Tom Rasmussen in attendance
  • May 24, Tuesday, Fremont Library Meeting Room, 731 N. 35th Street
    • Mayor Mike McGinn in attendance
  • May 26, Thursday, Washington Middle School Cafeteria, 2101 S. Jackson Street
    • Mayor Mike McGinn in attendance

For questions about CTAC III or other opportunities to provide input, contact Dawn Schellenberg at or 206-684-5189.  More information is available at:

The Citizens Transportation Advisory Committee III consists of the following:

  • Karen Braitmayer— Accessibility Consultant
  • Tim Gould – Sierra Club
  • David Hiller – Cascade Bicycle Club
  • Kate Joncas – Downtown Seattle Association
  • Ref Lindmark– Citizen Activist
  • John Littel – Carpenters Union Local 131
  • Brice Maryman – SvR Design Company and Seattle Great City chair
  • Rob Mohn— Columbia City Business Association
  • Paulo Nunes-Ueno – Seattle Children’s Hospital
  • Estela Ortega – El Centro de la Raza
  • Shefali Ranganathan – Transportation Choices Coalition
  • Lyn Tangen– Vulcan, Inc.
  • Keith Weir— Seattle Building & Construction Trades Council
  • Barbara Wright – Public Health and Transportation Advocate

Sustainable Seattle Training: Raising Eco-aware Kids

Sustainable Seattle is holding a workshop on Raising Environmentally Conscious Kids May 26, from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm at the Phinney Neighborhood Center, Room 6, 6532 Phinney Avenue N.

This is a workshop to empower parents, teachers, and guardians to help children embrace their connection to the Earth and make choices that are compassionate, sustainable, and respectful.  For more information check out the course description at

This dynamic and interactive workshop is designed to empower parents, teachers, and guardians to help children embrace their connection to the Earth and make choices that are compassionate, sustainable, and respectful. Participants will be asked to reflect on how they do and can model the principles of living consciously, while learning the four elements of humane education and how they can be applied to successfully raising the next generation of planetary citizens.

This workshop is taught by Gina Diamond—a mom and an eco lifestyle coach—who is dedicated and passionate about teaching people how to parent intentionally so they can co-create a healthy, sustainable, and peaceful future for all.

Gina has over 15 years experience working as a creative environmental educator and a compassionate life coach. She is passionate about bringing out the best human qualities in her clients and she enjoys helping people make the connection between personal health and global healing. Using a holistic approach, her work combines environmental sustainability principles, best educational practices, and human development strategies.

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City Fruit Offering Low-Sugar Jam Class

City Fruit is offering a class in Low-Sugar Jam, Saturday, June 4, 10:00 am through 12:00 noon at  the Phinney Ridge Lutheran Church, 7500 Greenwood Ave N.  Registration is required and can be accomplished at this link

Many jam recipes call for lots of sugar in order to ensure fruit preservation, but the outcome is not only unhealthy, it often obscures the true taste of the fruit.  This class will cover techniques to safely make low-sugar jams, and in the process you’ll learn basic canning and jam-making techniques.  Shannon Valderas is a Seattle Tilth Master Food Preserver with many years of canning experience.

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Friday Forum Looks at Seattle’s Transportation Future

Transportation Choices Coalition’s June Forum features Citizens Transportation Advisory Committee (CTAC) III & the Future of Seattle Transportation.  TCC is holding this forum at the King County’s Chinook Building, corner of Jefferson Street and 5th Avenue in downtown Seattle.

Join TCC this Friday for an exciting forum on the important work of the CTAC III committee and the future of transportation in Seattle including a potential ballot measure. TCC will be joined by the co-chairs of Seattle’s CTAC committee and representatives from SDOT and the Seattle City Council to discuss the work of CTAC III and how we fund road maintenance, transit, cycling and pedestrian infrastructure needs in the City of Seattle.

Could this mean a ballot measure in 2011 or 2012? Ask the TCC panel. The demands for investments in Seattle’s transportation infrastructure are immense and this discussion features some of the brightest thinkers around as Seattle tries to figure out where we go from here.

Speakers for the June 3 Future of Seattle Transportation panel:

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