Friends of Hicklin Park seek new grant to ‘increase the effectiveness of our Floating Islands’

September 17th, 2013 Tracy Posted in Environment, White Center news 2 Comments »

Two months after Hicklin Lake got its first “floating islands,” its neighborhood advocates are pursuing a grant to make them more effective. Here’s their update:

Friends of Hicklin Lake are a small group of neighbors formed in 2004; our primary goal is to have clean water in our lake for the safety and health of our children, students and the community, including visitors from other areas. The following information shows how we are one step closer to our goal.

Hicklin Lake is located within Lakewood Park, next to Cascade Middle School and Technology Access Foundation Learning Center. This lake has a long history of polluted waters caused by inappropriate diversion of drainage that occurred in the mid 1960’s: all of the Salmon Creek Basin containing 750 water shed acres of drainage was diverted into 4 ½ acre Hicklin Lake, which has no natural outlet. Consequently pumps are required to keep the lake from flooding and unfiltered drainage is being pumped out of the lake and into an old government sewer line that discharges into Puget Sound. Historically, prior to the drainage diversions, water was directed through Longfellow Creek; the reason for the changes is unknown.

This year, 2013, a grant of $50,000 from the State Department of Ecology provided funding for two Floating Islands, (man made wetlands), containing a total of 1200 square feet. One manufacturer recommended 5,000 square feet for a lake of this size and the amount of drainage it receives. However it is at least a start in the recovery of Hicklin Lake’s poor water quality, which suffers not only from poor decisions about drainage, but from the loss of its original natural wetland, paved over to provide the west parking lot of the park. King County is funding research for two years on the effectiveness of the Floating Islands for water clarity and water quality improvement.

Friends of Hicklin Lake discovered this technology, and held meetings with the community and staff of King County to pursue the Floating Island technology project starting in 2011 (Floating Islands were launched July 2013). These Floating Islands also provide shelter and food for fish and the vegetation absorbs Carbon Dioxide and gives off oxygen, a win/win natural system.
We have now applied for a Grant through the Rose Foundation which handles the Puget Sound grass roots Grants for small groups that may be mostly volunteers.

Our purpose is to install three under water air diffusers powered by an air compressor located in the existing pump house. These aerators, strategically placed in the lake, will greatly increase the effectiveness of our Floating Islands by mixing the colder heavily polluted bottom layer of lake water with the upper, warmer water, and pushing a smorgasbord of contaminates toward the microbes, which are actively colonizing the roots of plants on the islands even as we write this. Recall that the microbes are the work horse of the islands, digesting pollutants. Also, aeration provides life-giving oxygen to fish and water creatures, and helps reduce Algae formations. An advantage of this particular system is that air lines are placed in the lake floor, but no electric line is directly in the water, thereby adding a safety feature. The water that is eventually pumped to Puget Sound should be much cleaner by the use of the Islands and the aerators, working in concert.

The Floating Islands require very little maintenance and the aeration system costs for power and maintenance is minimal for the results.

Friends thank all the local organizations that provided approval letters to help pursue the grant for the Floating Islands, proving once again that communities working together can make positive changes.

To help inform our community on various concerns and projects for Lakewood Park / Hicklin Lake, Friends of Hicklin Lake are providing a monthly E-Mail news letter titled Hicklin Lake Informer.

Dick Thurnau and Marcia Wollam
Friends of Hicklin Lake

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‘Floating islands’ now in place on White Center’s Hicklin Lake

July 16th, 2013 Tracy Posted in Environment, White Center news 2 Comments »

After years of work to get Hicklin Lake’s water-quality issues addressed, it’s a triumphant day for Dick Thurnau and his group Friends of Hicklin Lake – its two new 600-square-foot “floating islands” were installed today. As explained by the county, “Covered with native wetland vegetation, the islands are designed so that the plants’ roots extend below the waterline. The roots and accompanying biofilm take up excess nutrients from the water column – one of the main causes of the ongoing algae blooms that bedevil the small lake’s water quality.”

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King County update on Hicklin Lake ‘floating islands’

May 21st, 2013 Tracy Posted in Environment, White Center news 4 Comments »

An update from King County on the Hicklin Lake floating-islands project – which now is described as including two “floating islands” to be installed within the next few months. The big news in this update is that the contract has been awarded:

King County is moving forward with its innovative plan supported by the local community for cleaning up Hicklin Lake by using vegetated floating islands to improve water quality.

Seattle-based Herrera Environmental, representing the international firm Biomatrix Water, will design and install two 600-square-foot floating islands early this summer in Hicklin Lake, which is located in Lakewood Park in the White Center community.

Covered with native wetland vegetation, the islands are designed so that the plants’ roots extend below the waterline. The roots and accompanying biofilm take up excess nutrients from the water column – one of the main causes of the ongoing algae blooms that bedevil the small lake’s water quality.

The project is being managed by the Water and Land Resources Division (WLRD) of the King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks, and was made possible through a combination of surface water funds and a $50,000 grant from the Washington Department of Ecology.

Hicklin Lake water quality has been a concern for years, with a history of harmful algae blooms that have posed potential health threats to people, pets and wildlife.

The plan for installing the floating islands isn’t the only step King County has taken to improve water quality in Hicklin Lake. Staff from WLRD have been tracking down and eliminating illegal and inadvertent sewer connections that discharge pollutants into the stormwater system that flows into the small lake, as well as updating and improving the stormwater infrastructure that serves the area.

The county says installation is likely to happen in July.

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Earth Day in action: Greening and cleaning White Center wetland

April 22nd, 2013 Tracy Posted in Environment, White Center news, Wildlife 2 Comments »

A beautiful Earth Day at the White Center Pond wetlands! Thanks to Gill for sharing photos, including a Washington Conservation Corps member who was out with a group doing cleanup and planting as part of ongoing restoration work here.

Some of the local wildlife posed with the new plantings, too:

The mallards (above) were joined by Canada geese:

The pond is not only a functional wetland, but also helps the area handle stormwater.

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Floating Islands in Hicklin Lake: Informational celebration April 24

March 20th, 2013 Tracy Posted in Environment, White Center news 2 Comments »

Just out of the WCN inbox:

April 24, 6:30-8:30 pm, Friends of Hicklin Lake invites you to a community celebration on Floating Islands technology for Hicklin Lake at Lakewood Park. The event starts at 6:30 PM (refreshments) and at 7 PM we’ll have a discussion and updates on the Floating Island project. We believe that this technology will improve the water quality condition for fish, wildlife and humans, as well as provide beautification to the lake.

The group has been campaigning for years for a solution for the lake’s water-quality problems, and King County recently announced it’s on board to help make the “floating islands” happen. The April 24th event in Lakewood Park is at the Technology Access Foundation‘s learning center.

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Friends of Hicklin Lake’s long-sought ‘floating islands’ finally in sight

February 25th, 2013 Tracy Posted in Environment, White Center news 1 Comment »

In a years-long fight to improve the water quality of the lake they steward, Friends of Hicklin Lake leaders have been most recently working to get King County to procure “floating islands” – and finally everything’s a go, with installation just months away, according to this county announcement:

Help is on the way for Hicklin Lake – the small lake with big water quality problems in King County’s Lakewood Park.

In addition to the ongoing work of finding and eliminating illegal and inadvertent sewer connections that discharge pollutants into the stormwater system that flows into the lake, this year King County will experiment with technology that uses floating “islands” of vegetation to capture excess nutrients in the water that lead to Hicklin Lake’s water quality problems.

Thanks in part to a $50,000 grant from the Washington Department of Ecology Algae Control Program, King County will install four floating islands in Hicklin Lake this summer and measure their effectiveness.

Each floating island is 250 square feet in size and built of a durable polycarbonate, anchored in place.

The islands are perforated with dozens of holes that are planted with a variety of native wetland species. The plants’ roots will reach into lake as they grow, where they will take up excess nutrients.

A bio-film of microscopic organisms that forms along the bottom of the floating islands and the plant roots will also take up nutrients from the water.

King County staff will take monthly water quality samples from locations throughout the lake to test the islands’ effectiveness at absorbing pollutants for three summers.

The project is expected to start this spring and will be completed by June 2015 at a total cost of more than $86,000.

Hicklin Lake water quality has been a concern for years, with elevated levels of fecal coliform bacteria and phosphorus, as well as a history of harmful algae blooms that have posed potential health threats to people, pets and wildlife.

The lake has been treated twice with alum to reduce phosphorus levels – first in 2005 and again in 2011. It is hoped that the floating islands will prove to be effective and will help to reduce the need for alum application or types of in-lake nutrient controls.

According to e-mail shared by Friends of Hicklin Lake, the county hopes to finish the state permit process by the end of April, finalize “location and design plans” with the county Parks department a month after that, and get the installations done by the end of July.

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King County burn ban lifted again; rain returning soon

January 21st, 2013 Tracy Posted in Environment, Weather, White Center news Comments Off on King County burn ban lifted again; rain returning soon

The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency has just announced that the burn ban in King County is over (here’s the proof), which means no more restrictions on fireplaces/woodstoves, etc. As for when the fog will go – the area forecast says we might finally see rain Tuesday night.

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Burn ban ordered countywide to stave off pollution problem

January 13th, 2013 Tracy Posted in Environment, White Center news Comments Off on Burn ban ordered countywide to stave off pollution problem

With dry weather and stagnating air, a Stage 2 burn ban is now in effect King County – and that means no woodburning unless you have no other source of heat. Here’s the announcement:

The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency is issuing a Stage 2 burn ban in King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties to protect residents from worsening air quality. The bans are effective at noon, Sunday, January 13, 2013 and remain in effect until further notice.

Overnight, many areas around the Puget Sound reached air pollution levels of “UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS”, especially in areas where wood burning is common. Agency forecasters expect the current cold, dry, and stagnant weather conditions to extend well into the week. The Clean Air Agency will continue to closely monitor the air quality and weather situation.

During a Stage 2 burn ban:

No burning is allowed in ANY wood-burning fireplaces, wood stoves or fireplace inserts (certified or uncertified) or pellet stoves. Residents should rely instead on their home’s other, cleaner source of heat (such as their furnace or electric baseboard heaters) for a few days until air quality improves, the public health risk diminishes and the ban is cancelled. The only exception is if a wood stove is a home’s only adequate source of heat.
No outdoor fires are allowed. This includes recreational fires such as bonfires, campfires and the use of fire pits and chimineas.
Burn ban violations are subject to a $1,000 penalty.

It is OK to use natural gas and propane stoves or inserts during a Stage 2 burn ban.

The Washington State Department of Health recommends that people who are sensitive to air pollution limit time spent outdoors, especially when exercising. Air pollution can trigger asthma attacks, cause difficulty breathing, and make lung and heart problems worse. Air pollution is especially harmful to people with lung and heart problems, people with diabetes, children, and older adults (over age 65).

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Taking down the tree? Boy Scout Troop 375 can help with that

January 5th, 2013 Tracy Posted in burien, Environment, White Center news Comments Off on Taking down the tree? Boy Scout Troop 375 can help with that

Bring your tree and a bag – leave without tree, with hot chocolate and/or compost! From Boy Scout Troop 375 Scoutmaster Mark Ufkes:

Boy Scout Troop 375 will host its annual Christmas Tree Recycle (today and tomorrow), January 5 and 6 from 9 am to 4 pm at SW 160th and 1st SW (the Herr lumber site) We ask for a $5 donation per tree. Funds go to our scout camp and other troop activities so that all our 28 boys can go to summer camp regardless of their family economic situation.

Free hot chocolate will be served. And our polite boys will remove your tree from your car and share a smile.

Free bags of our “Good Karma Christmas Tree Compost” are available for the asking. Bring a bag!

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King County Parks to start working ‘to restore Hicklin Lake to a more natural functioning wetland’

November 16th, 2012 Tracy Posted in Environment, Lakewood Park, White Center news Comments Off on King County Parks to start working ‘to restore Hicklin Lake to a more natural functioning wetland’

The citizens who have long fought to get some water-quality help for White Center’s Hicklin Lake share word of progress at the county level. Dick Thurnau and Marcia Wollam from Friends of Hicklin Lake received this update from Kevin Brown of King County Parks:

Earlier this year we spoke with many of you about a proposal to make improvements to Lake Hicklin within Lakewood Park. With your support, enthusiasm and a tremendous amount of volunteer assistance we are going to be starting our efforts to restore Lake Hicklin to a more natural functioning wetland. As part of this process we will be working with volunteers on two occasions this coming winter to install new and more appropriate vegetation along the shores of Lake Hicklin. The first event which will take place the last week in November will result in willow stakes being planted along the shore. A second effort will be scheduled in February in which we will again work with volunteers to plant additional plant species via potted stock. These efforts will be led by Tina Miller, a wetland biologist and volunteer coordinator with the Parks Division – and we have AmeriCorps assistance as well.

An additional project aimed at improving water quality in the lake will install floating islands planted with native wetland vegetation in several areas around the lake during the spring and summer of 2013. Although new to this area, such islands have been used throughout the world to control algae blooms and to reduce pollutants. Two to four islands will be installed, depending on the success of a grant proposal to the Washington Department of Ecology. The island project will be managed by Sally Abella, a senior engineer with the Water and Land Resources Division.

We look forward to implementing this community project with your support and we would greatly appreciate your letting others within your organization know about the upcoming work being done. Should you have additional questions or want to see how your organization can get involved please contact Tina, Sally or myself.

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Green Canopy Homes buys ‘Clara, Zelda, Louise’ in White Center

November 15th, 2012 Tracy Posted in Environment, housing, White Center news 2 Comments »

Just announced by the Washington State Housing Finance Commission:

Green Canopy Homes, a Seattle company, purchased three existing homes today to be rebuilt with quality, energy efficiency, and today’s lifestyles in mind. The company has the tradition of naming their homes upon purchase. Clara, Zelda, and Louise are neighboring homes which were up for sale at the same time in White Center.

“This was a great opportunity for us,” says Aaron Fairchild, CEO of Green Canopy, “and our first opportunity to save the character of a neighborhood by purchasing three homes side by side. We will make these homes more efficient, more livable and comfortable as well as lower the carbon footprint.” Green Canopy re-uses and remodels homes in local neighborhoods using leading efficiency methods and materials, while keeping the original charm and character intact. Even though these homes will use 50% less energy, the prices will be at market with no “premium in price” for the energy costs savings.

Green Canopy Homes was able to borrow funds from the Sustainable Energy Trust (“SET”) at an interest rate well below market. “We are glad that Green Canopy Homes was able to borrow from this fund,” explains Karen Miller, Chair of the Washington State Housing Finance Commission. “The legislature created the authority for the Commission to create and administer the SET; however, we received no state or tax-payer money. The Commission was able to raise dollars for the fund to meet the legislative directive ‘to provide financing for qualified improvement projects.’ This is the first of hopefully many projects that will demonstrate the economic benefits of energy efficiencies and renewables.”

The homes to be retrofitted currently average 850 sq. ft. In addition to the improvements of ductless heat pumps, water efficiencies, new windows, and upgraded insulation, all three homes will have “great” rooms added bringing them in line with life-style expectations. Mr. Fairchild adds, “We think long-term about our work’s impact on the environment, and seek to create a community of urban dwellers who care about their neighborhood and their footprint within it. We are happy to partner with the Commission and SET to bring better and more efficient homes to Seattle.”

The Washington State Housing Finance Commission is a publicly accountable, self-supporting team, dedicated to increasing housing access and affordability, and to expanding the availability of quality community services for the people of Washington. The Commission accomplishes this by working with the investment community, nonprofit organizations, developers, first-time homebuyers, and beginning farmers and ranchers to bring private investment dollars to benefit families and achieve public goals in Washington, including energy efficient development and renewable energy resources.

We’re checking to see if we can find out more about where these homes are located.

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Could ‘floating islands’ solve Hicklin Lake’s pollution problems? Thursday meeting

April 10th, 2012 Tracy Posted in Environment, White Center news Comments Off on Could ‘floating islands’ solve Hicklin Lake’s pollution problems? Thursday meeting

Dick Thurnau from Friends of Hicklin Lake invites everyone to come talk about the use of “floating islands to help clean Hicklin Lake waters,” during a meeting this Thursday, 7 pm, North Highline Fire District HQ, 1243 SW 112th. Dick explains, “We were told that a floating Island measuring 16 feet by 16 feet, 256 square feet, is equal to one acre of wetland that encompasses 43,000 square feet.” He adds, “King County’s Managing Engineer and two other engineers of surface water will update us on the White Center Regional Stormwater project started in 2008.”

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Hope for Hicklin Lake? A new chance at cleanup money

February 19th, 2012 Tracy Posted in Environment, White Center news Comments Off on Hope for Hicklin Lake? A new chance at cleanup money

Dick Thurnau from Friends of Hicklin Lake says there’s a new chance at grant funding to “clean up Hicklin Lake’s water condition.” He’s announced a February 28th meeting, 7 pm at North Highline Fire Department HQ, featuring “a discussion on a potential grant opportunity from Puget Soundkeepers Alliance. … This grant, if awarded, may help us in our efforts to clean up Hicklin Lake’s water condition.” Whether you can go or not, he’s also asking community members to fill out this survey by the 23rd.

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Watch for White Center walking maps tomorrow!

February 10th, 2012 Tracy Posted in Environment, Transportation, White Center news Comments Off on Watch for White Center walking maps tomorrow!

You don’t even have to set out (on foot) to find one – it might turn up on your doorstep! The announcement:

Look out, White Center! On February 11th, 2012, Feet First will be distributing 1000 free Neighborhoods on Foot White Center walking maps door-to-door throughout the community. The maps have been known to increase foot traffic in business districts, build understanding of walking and transit routes, bolster neighborhood identity, and raise awareness of vital community resources.

White Center Free Map Distribution
Saturday, February 11th, 2012
12:00 pm to 2:00 pm

If you do not receive a map and would like one, please contact Feet First by calling 206-652-2310 ext. 5 to have one mailed directly to you. This distribution is made possible by community partners Seattle Works, King County Parks and Recreation, and the White Center Community Development Association.

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Recycling your tree: Here are some options!

January 2nd, 2012 Tracy Posted in burien, Environment, Holidays, west seattle, White Center news Comments Off on Recycling your tree: Here are some options!

If you had a one-use tree this holiday season – here’s how to recycle it.

If you have Waste Management pickup service, you can put it out with your yard waste this week, as long as you follow these rules:

Waste Management collects Christmas trees from its residential customers. Be sure the tree is cut into three-foot sections and remove any tree stands, nails, tinsel and decorations.

If you are within Seattle city limits, you can take your tree to the South Transfer Station in South Park, as long as it’s not taller than eight feet (rules here).

Wherever you live, you are welcome to help out local nonprofits with these two tree-cycling events coming up next weekend:

SATURDAY & SUNDAY: Boy Scout Troop 375 Christmas Tree Recycle
January 7 – 8, 2012 (9 to 4)
Five Corners (160th and 1st Avenue in Burien)
$5 per tree
“Good Karma” Christmas Tree Mulch available for $25 donation per yard

SATURDAY, TWO LOCATIONS: The West Seattle Rainbow Girls will hold their fifth annual Christmas tree recycle fundraiser January 7 at the Alki Masonic Hall 4736 40th Ave. SW. and also at the Southgate Masonic Hall located at 1004 SW 152nd in Burien from 10:00 – 2:00. Suggested donation $5.00. No flocked trees please. For more information please contact Jan Hunter at 206-849-7906. Check out the Rainbow Girls by going to

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Wednesday: Learn about building a rain garden!

November 14th, 2011 Tracy Posted in Environment Comments Off on Wednesday: Learn about building a rain garden!

Sustainable Seattle’s “Sustainable Rain” project will be in White Center this Wednesday night with information about how to build a rain garden as part of a “sustainable landscape” – and they’d love to meet you. According to the official announcement, the workshop “will include coffee, food, information about rain garden scholarships, pictures and stories from our rain garden projects, training on how to build a rain garden and Sustainable West Seattle’s presentation on polluted runoff and Puget Sound.” Just RSVP by going here. It’s at Big Al Brewing at 6:30 pm. Find out more here.

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Fight the Tox-Ick Monster – en español – @ White Center Cultural Ctr.

November 6th, 2011 Tracy Posted in Environment, White Center news Comments Off on Fight the Tox-Ick Monster – en español – @ White Center Cultural Ctr.

The biggest threat to the Puget Sound ecosystem isn’t oil spills or other one-time catastrophes … it’s ongoing toxic runoff from homes, streets, drains, and more. But that means we can do something about it – if you know what to do, and what not to do. As a project of Sustainable West Seattle, presentations have been made around West Seattle to explain how to fight the Tox-Ick Monster – and the next one will happen in the White Center area, in Spanish – Saturday, November 12th, 2:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m., White Center Community Cultural Center (aka St. James Annex), 9421 18th SW. $500 in prizes available to participants!

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Tomorrow: Bring your used car seat(s) to WestSide Baby in White Center!

September 16th, 2011 Tracy Posted in Environment, safety, WestSide Baby, White Center news Comments Off on Tomorrow: Bring your used car seat(s) to WestSide Baby in White Center!

(Adapted from an announcement first published earlier this week on partner site West Seattle Blog)
White Center-headquartered WestSide Baby has accepted car seats for recycling before – but usually, just the ones in good enough shape to reuse. Starting tomorrow (Saturday), they will accept ALL used car seats – 10 am-2 pm on Saturday, bring yours to their donation HQ, 10032 15th SW (map) – so if you have one, in any condition, in the basement, the attic, the closet, the garage, bring it over! For the new campaign Re-Ride: Car Seat Reuse and Recycling for Local Children in Need, WS Baby is now partnering with recyclers Total Reclaim to enable acceptance of any and all car seats. If yours can’t be reused, they request a $5 minimum donation to help cover the cost of recycling its materials. WS Baby says they are only able to fill about HALF the requests they currently get for car seats, so widening the recycling program will hopefully help them fill more. P.S. If you can help them dismantle car seats in preparation for recycling, please contact Shana Allen at or 206-767-1662.

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Big Al Brewing goes solar: Less environmental impact, more beer!

June 15th, 2011 Tracy Posted in Beverages, Environment, White Center news 5 Comments »

Story and photos by Deanie Schwarz
Reporting for White Center Now/West Seattle Blog

After three years of successfully operating its production brewery at 9832 14th Ave SW in White Center, Big Al Brewing says it is about to become the first brewery in the state to use solar thermal energy to heat the water for brewing its entire lineup.

(From left, Carl Holzboog, Alejandro Brown, Sean Beattie)

Owners Alejandro (“Al”) and Noelle Brown tell WCN/WSB that Big Al’s will flip the switch today for its new solar thermal heating system to brew the first solar batch (batch #300 overall was brewed Tuesday), which will hit taps in three weeks.

Today also happens to be the rollout of Löwman Bräu, a special summer Kolsch produced in collaboration with West Seattle’s Feedback Lounge, with part of the proceeds benefiting area nonprofits. If all goes well, Big Al’s will continue the seasonal philanthropic offering with a different West Seattle-exclusive brew in the fall. The Löwman Bräu release (with partying venues tonight including Big Al and Company, in WC) is more evidence of what many beer aficionados know about life in West Seattle/White Center and the area at large: Lots of folks enjoy and enthusiastically support well-crafted beers from local microbreweries.

When the Browns made the calculated leap to purchase the former Pacific Rim Brewery Company site in 2008, they did so with great confidence that they could provide local restaurants and pubs with exceptional local beer. But the brewery was built more than a dozen years ago with little consideration of sustainable design or efficiencies in production.

Of the approximate 80-plus breweries in our state and the 30-and-counting in the Seattle area, most rely exclusively on traditional heating sources — either natural gas or electricity — to heat their brewing process. Big Al’s has made the visionary move to reduce the brewery’s depletion of nonrenewable natural gas. The brewery holds sustainability as a part of its mission and responsibility as an artisanal brewer. Big Al’s conversion to solar echoes the innovation in their lineups. They take advantage of unique creative collaborations and do so often and very successfully, whether flavor-matching restaurant menus or participating in community charity tasting events with specials.

The integration of solar thermal heating into the production process with system installer Net Zero Impact is the boldest and most recent innovative collaboration, this time of artful technologies that over time will realize cost savings, reduce the carbon footprint and conserve nonrenewable energy. The system is constantly monitored online and data will be logged to determine the rate of the return on their investment over time.

They are using a 32-year-old solar thermal technology that advocates claim is more efficient than solar photovoltaic cells in capturing energy. The solar energy is captured and the water heats up, whether the ambient temperature is 30 degrees or 70 degrees; it involves a series of tubes and the heating of water, rather than the generating of electricity. (See the explanation on NZI’s website.)

Sean Beattie, chief operating officer and founder of Net Zero Impact, says that the savings from reduced natural gas expenses will allow the brewery to begin double-brewing. “Right now we are producing about 150 barrels a month, with each barrel being 31 gallons, “ Al explains. “Our previous direct-fire natural gas burner had to be left on all night just to get the water temperature up. That part of our process is gone (and the costs with it). We will be able to come in in the morning and the water will still be retaining the heat from the sun from the previous day, up to about 150 degrees. We will use the new boiler to bring up the water the rest of the way in a very short amount of time with very little gas used,” Al says, clearly excited about the new system.

“The beauty of this system for Big Al’s,” Beattie suggested, “is that they will be able to turn two full cycles of brewing in the time it previously took to do one.”

“Double brewing makes sense because it saves on labor. We will be able to brew twice the amount because there are now 500 gallons of water available daily rather than 200, yet [we incur] the same labor costs,” Al adds, “Previously, it took about nine hours to brew one batch and we did that every two days, which is 18 hours total. We can do a double batch in 12 to 14 hours. We like those savings.”

Most microbreweries, just like Big Al’s, regularly evaluate sustainability efforts. But there’s one speed bump along the path to reducing carbon footprints and conserving natural gas – the initial investment. In the last two years, incentives from federal tax credits and grants has provided an opportunity to recoup 65 percent of the initial costs, according to Beattie. However, the state of Washington does not yet provide incentives or grants for solar thermal commercial applications, though Oregon does. A handful of counties in Washington provide some kind of incentives, but King County is not one of them.

Beattie says his company has been working with Puget Sound Energy on the installation of new high-efficiency boilers by accruing data collected from projects like Big Al’s and three schools where he has recently installed solar thermal systems where the numbers are exceeding the expected rate of savings by 300%.

For Big Al, reports indicate the savings will take effect within a few years. Money-wise, that is – nonrenewable-energy savings will be immediate. So hoist a glass and realize it’s truly liquid sunshine.

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Duwamish Alive! tomorrow, HP3, and Westcrest Park tree-planting

April 15th, 2011 Tracy Posted in Environment, White Center news Comments Off on Duwamish Alive! tomorrow, HP3, and Westcrest Park tree-planting

Tomorrow, the weather just might not be so bad. Even if it is a little challenging, you’re going to want to be out and about. It’s Duwamish Alive! day – 10 am-2 pm, restoration and cleanup parties at a variety of sites in the area. See them here.

Then, there’s the HP3 environmental run – details on this, here. Related to that, from Westcrest Park forest steward Mike Shellenberger:

In conjunction with the HP3 runners’ event that starts at Big Al’s Brewing this Saturday April 16th, the Green Seattle Alliance (GSA) Volunteers will be planting hundreds of native evergreen trees in Westcrest Park. The intent is to begin to replace the older deciduous trees, like maples and alders, that are reaching their life span with native longer lived evergreens like fir, cedars, pines etc…We can use as many volunteers as we can get. The more folks that volunteer, the more we can plant. Just show up at the Westcrest Park main parking lot on the west side of the Park near the Kids Play area at 9:15 AM Saturday and we’ll put you to work on this important project..While volunteering people can also walk the Park’s trails and view Spring’s new arrivals. For instance, the beautiful native trilliums are in full bloom..See you Saturday.

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