Water conservation is priority at zHome, WaterSense honoree

March 6, 2012

The carbon-neutral zHome townhouses in the Issaquah Highlands receive most attention for steps to reduce energy use.

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Councilman Fred Butler joins Cascade Water Alliance board

March 6, 2012

Fred Butler

Cascade Water Alliance leaders chose longtime Issaquah Councilman Fred Butler as a board member on the regional group Feb. 22.

The organization also elected Redmond Mayor John Marchione as chairman, Covington Water District Commissioner David Knight as vice chairman and Tukwila Mayor Jim Haggerton as secretary-treasurer.

Issaquah Councilwoman Stacy Goodman serves as the city’s alternate representative to the board.

The regional Cascade Water Alliance includes the Sammamish Plateau Water and Sewer District, Issaquah and Bellevue, plus other Eastside and South King County cities and water districts. The agency serves about 400,000 residents and 22,000 businesses.

The members own, operate and maintain individual water distribution systems. The alliance operates the Bellevue-Issaquah Pipeline, a 24-inch transmission line in operation since 2006.

Cascade Water Alliance outlines long-term regional water supply

January 3, 2012

Cascade Water Alliance leaders outlined a plan Dec. 30 to secure water for Issaquah and the region in the decades ahead.

The nonprofit organization purchases water from Seattle Public Utilities, but the water bought from the utility is due to start declining in 2024 as the Cascade Water Alliance switches to other sources. Then, in 2030, officials plan to start drawing water as needed from Lake Tapps in Pierce County.

The information is contained in the transmission and supply plan — a document outlining the water systems in alliance member jurisdictions and plans for the future. Residents can also weigh in, as the plan is open for public comment until Jan. 31.

The regional alliance includes the Sammamish Plateau Water and Sewer District, Issaquah and Bellevue, plus other Eastside and South King County cities and water districts. The agency serves about 400,000 residents and 22,000 businesses.

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City Council hikes water rate 9 percent to offset conservation-related decline

November 15, 2011

Issaquah customers should start paying more for water soon, after city leaders increased rates to offset conservation-related declines in usage.

In a unanimous decision Nov. 7, City Council members OK’d a 9 percent increase in the municipal water rate. The average residential customer should pay about $3 more per month after the updated water rate goes into effect Dec. 1.

“What we end up paying and the revenues that the city brings in are due to reductions in revenue and usage,” Councilman Joshua Schaer said before the decision. “I find it interestingly perverse that the more we conserve, the more we have to pay.”

The council, although reluctant to increase the rate, said the increase is essential to shore up funding for the municipal water utility. The city provides water to more than 6,500 businesses and homes.

“This will keep our water fund — maybe not as healthy as it could be — but certainly from dipping below zero,” Schaer said.

Officials initially proposed a 10 percent rate increase to replace aging pump stations and water mains, address increased operating costs related to increased charges from Cascade Water Alliance and provide debt service coverage required in bond agreements. Council Utilities, Technology & Environment Committee members reduced the proposed increase to 9 percent.

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Council allows Issaquah Highlands gas station despite concerns

October 11, 2011

Opponents raise questions about groundwater contamination

City Council members, eager to attract more retail options to the Issaquah Highlands, decided a gas station can open in the neighborhood, but only if groceries accompany the fill-ups.

The council agreed in a 7-0 decision Oct. 3 to change the agreement between the city and highlands developer Port Blakely Communities to allow a gas station in the community. Concerns about possible groundwater contamination led city officials to ban gas stations in the highlands before construction on the neighborhood started in the mid-1990s.

Safeway outlined plans for a gas station to accompany a proposed highlands store, and city officials and gas station proponents said the rule change is a crucial step to attract the grocery chain. The gas station is proposed for a funnel-shaped lot between Ninth Avenue Northeast and Highlands Drive Northeast, next to a future Safeway.

The debate before the council decision exposed a split among highlands residents eager for more amenities in the community, and residents from elsewhere concerned about potential groundwater contamination from gas station leaks.

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Safeway proposes highlands store, council OKs gas station

October 5, 2011

Safeway planners proposed a modern Issaquah Highlands store (above) in a permit application to the city. Contributed

NEW — 4 p.m. Oct. 5, 2011

The plan to open a grocery store in the Issaquah Highlands — a still-unmet target from early goals for the community — reached a milestone Monday, as Safeway submitted a proposal for a store in the neighborhood.

Meanwhile, City Council members adjusted longstanding development rules Monday to allow a gas station in the highlands — a critical factor in Safeway’s proposal to build the store.

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Education opportunities grow in student gardens

August 23, 2011

Sunny Hills Elementary School first-grader Digant Dash (left) plants flower bulbs in the school’s first-grade garden with fourth-graders Derek Chao and Spencer Bernsten. By Jane Ulrich

Inch by inch, row by row, students are planting lettuce, herbs and broccoli in their school gardens.

This fall, teachers are transforming gardens into outdoor classrooms as students pick up trowels and learn about drip irrigation systems.

Dozens of schools incorporate gardening into their curriculum or have gardening clubs, including Apollo, Cascade Ridge, Challenger, Clark, Creekside, Discovery, Endeavour, Grand Ridge, Issaquah Valley, Maple Hills and Sunny Hills elementary schools; Issaquah and Pine Lake middle schools; and Liberty and Tiger Mountain Community high schools.

“I think the outdoors is just a natural place that kids want to be,” Sunny Hills fourth-grade teacher Jane Ulrich said.

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City Council mulls 10 percent water rate hike

August 2, 2011

Issaquah customers could start paying more for water by early next year.

The city is proposing a 10 percent rate increase to replace aging pump stations and water mains, address increased operating costs related to increased charges from Cascade Water Alliance, and provide debt service coverage required in bond agreements.

The average residential customer should pay about $2.91 more per month, if the City Council approves the hike. Plans call for the increase to take effect starting with the December billing cycle.

The city last increased water rates in 2009. However, last year the city cut water rates and adopted a dollar-for-dollar utility tax in order to pay for municipal fire hydrants. The change came after a state Supreme Court decision regarding hydrants.

The proposal will be discussed by the Council Utilities, Environment & Technology Committee. The proposal is expected to return to the full council by mid-September.

Come behind the scene at zHome to meet the experts

April 19, 2011

What is zHome?

When it opens this September, zHome — just east of the Issaquah Highlands Park & Ride — will be the first multifamily, production, zero-energy, carbon-neutral community in the United States.

Brad Liljequist

ZHome is a template for what 21st century, carbon-neutral housing looks like. It will use:

Zero net energy by balancing out its carbon emissions during the course of the year.

70 percent less water than a typical home.

Materials that come from some of the greenest sources possible.

Who is behind this project?

The city is spearheading the project. ZHome, however, is also a collaborative effort of several organizations and companies, including Ichijo USA, Built Green, King County, Port Blakely Communities, Puget Sound Energy and the Washington State University Energy Program.

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Customers can receive rebate on ‘green’ showerheads

April 19, 2011

Puget Sound Energy and Cascade Water Alliance have teamed up to offer instant rebates on high-efficiency showerheads.

PSE customers can receive a $10 instant rebate off several WaterSense showerhead models. The after-rebate price to customers ranges from 95 cents to $27, depending on the model.

WaterSense showerheads use no more than 2 gallons of water per minute; standard showerheads use 2.5 gallons per minute or more.

Customers can receive the rebated showerhead by ordering online or printing a coupon to redeem for qualifying models at participating Lowe’s stores through May 15. Print the coupon at PSE’s website.

In order to qualify, customers must live in a single-family property or attached housing of four units or less, and use PSE electricity or natural gas to heat water. The rebate is limited to two showerheads per household.

Bellevue-based PSE serves more than 1 million electric customers and almost 750,000 natural gas customers in Western Washington, including Issaquah.

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