American Society of Landscape Architects ASLA 2005 Professional Awards
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Regional Wastewater Services Plan (RWSP): The Brightwater Siting Project was initiated by the Regional Wastewater Services Plan (RWSP), which was the result of ten years of county and regional planning.
Project Team Organizational Chart: The Brightwater Siting Project was a coordinated effort involving County staff and consultants at all levels of the project. The Executive Advisory Committee, representing the many jurisdictions and stakeholders in the project area, provided project oversight and insured that the process was open, fair and inclusive.
Brightwater Siting Decision Process: This diagram displays the overall concept of the site selection process. It shows the equally important Technical & Environmental Analysis and Public Involvement activities coming together to inform the final decision.
Brightwater Siting Project Flow Chart: This diagram shows the process in greater detail.
Land Area Search Results: In Phase I, the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) study, industrial/commercial land search, and community nominations process identified 95 land areas as potential treatment facility sites.
Proposed Candidate Sites & Outfall Zones: Through applying Phase I Environmental and Engineering Constraints, the Screening Analysis, and Detailed Evaluation Questions, the original 95 sites was narrowed down to six for more detailed review in Phase II.
Surficial Geology in the Project Area: This map shows surficial geology along possible conveyance corridor routes. It illustrates one small portion of the comprehensive scientific analysis conducted.

Brightwater Siting Project, King & Snohomish County, WA
King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks - Wastewater Treatment Division, Woodinville, WA
CH2M Hill, Bellevue, WA
Environmental Science Associates, San Francisco, CA

"Extraordinary facility. . . very complete site analysis. . . clear how process and system works. . . very unusual in its recreational components. . . multi-use project that tells a compelling story as cities become more compressed and compacted."

— 2005 Professional Awards Jury Comments

In the late 1950s, untreated wastewater flowed into the Seattle area’s Lake Washington and Puget Sound, contaminating the water and making the beaches unusable. To address this problem, citizens voted to build a regional wastewater treatment system which, by the late 1960s, resulted in dramatic improvements to regional water quality. By the 1990s, the regional system was reaching its design capacity. In response, the local county initiated a long-range planning effort, termed the Regional Wastewater Services Plan (RWSP), to meet the demands of continued population growth and to protect the environment for the next several decades. The RWSP was adopted by the County Council in December 1999. The largest single component of the RWSP was a proposal to locate and construct a third regional treatment plant and its associated conveyance tunnels and outfall, collectively termed Brightwater.

The Brightwater Siting Project was the first phase in the site selection, design and construction of the wastewater treatment facility, conveyance system and marine outfall. The geographic scope of the project study area covered 200 square miles and encompassed 11 municipalities in two counties. The complexity of technical, social, environmental and financial information analyzed in the various jurisdictions within the study area was extraordinary. Additionally, since many people have considerable fear about how such facilities could affect property values, groundwater and air quality, it challenged the project team to develop a process that was clear, inclusive, comprehensive and rational.

It was necessary to choose locations for each element of the system that were technically and economically feasible, which would also benefit the natural environment and surrounding communities. To meet those goals, the project’s biologists and engineers collected and evaluated data on a wide range of topics including the geologic profile, hydrology, and ecological and biological resources on land and in the marine outfall zone. In addition, planners, landscape architects, architects and artists studied a wide range of social and cultural information, which would allow the project team to select a site that would allow the facility to blend well with the context and become a community amenity. This study included current land use patterns, population density, transportation networks, social and economic nodes, history, cultural identity, growth management plans and the character of the surrounding landscape and architectural styles throughout the project area.

At the beginning, the county formed an Executive Advisory Committee, which included representatives from two tribal governments, eleven cities and towns, three utility districts, and several environmental, labor, business, community and economic development organizations. This committee provided input on site selection criteria, reviewed decisions made by the project team, and provided feedback on a variety of issues throughout the process.

The strategy developed for the project was designed to support unbiased decision-making at three increasingly detailed phases of analysis. Site selection criteria were developed with input from key project staff, the general public and the Executive Advisory Committee. Each criteria item was formally approved by the County Council. Key siting criteria ensured the selection of a treatment facility, conveyance and outfall location that would:

  • support the Growth Management Act, which was designed to balance social uses with environmental protection by maximizing developable urban land while respecting natural systems.

  • provide adequate area for proposed facilities, buffer, and future upgrades.

  • not displace an existing use that provides for law enforcement or public safety training.

  • protect municipal drinking water wells and potable groundwater.

  • fully comply with all regulations and protect public health.

  • be feasible within the County’s financial security and bonding capacity.

To administer the policy siting criteria at each phase, detailed-evaluation questions (DEQs) were developed and applied to each site. As the process advanced, and better candidate sites emerged, greater detail and complexity were built into the DEQs. That way, the initial wide-ranging search area could be evaluated with a relatively coarse filter, dropping from consideration those sites that failed to meet fundamental requirements. This strategy allowed the project team to steadily refine the analysis until one final system was selected.

The project team began with a list of 100 sites, which were found through a geographic information systems (GIS) study, commercial/industrial land search, and community nominations process. At each phase of analysis, the list of sites was reduced by applying the DEQs. While computer software helped organize and process the information, the evaluation was carried out in interactive workshops, allowing engineers, environmental planners, landscape architects, and other key team players to actively discuss the issues from multiple points of view. This allowed the project team to integrate the various perspectives into one unified process.

The public participation program played a central role in the planning effort. Throughout every phase, the project team sought feedback from citizens. Members of the public had opportunities to nominate sites for consideration, help develop site selection criteria, comment on sites, conveyance and outfall locations, suggest mitigation measures, help develop guidelines for facility designers, and comment on the EIS. During the siting process, there were approximately 400 meetings and briefings and 50 large public workshops. The team also interviewed community, business and organization leaders; distributed newsletters, booklets and pamphlets; distributed several videos on different formats; and constantly updated the project website. Between January 1, 2000 and December 31, 2003, the project staff documented approximately 2600 calls, letters, e-mails, faxes, and one-on-one interactions between project team members and the public. Such opportunities allowed in-depth public exploration of the issues to an extent that far exceeds most public participation programs.

At the end of four years of the above activities, the project team was able to identify one system that was most suitable in engineering, community and environmental areas, for the following reasons:

Engineering: The treatment site itself, dubbed Route 9, will be easier to build on than other sites because it is larger and flatter. In addition, groundwater levels won’t cause problems during construction, and soils on the site are not prone to liquefaction. For those reasons, it does not require special engineering solutions such as terracing or pilings. Because of its size, there is more space on-site for construction staging, materials storage and worker parking.

Community: Because of the large site, the main facility structures can be set back several hundred feet from the closest houses. This extra space will provide a buffer for construction noise and dust. Once construction is complete, the facility will offer a large step forward in community renewal. A landscaped buffer will screen the facility from view, replacing auto yards and restoring the rural and natural qualities of the surrounding area that much of the community has been sad to see disappear over the years. In addition, the community/education building and outdoor plaza spaces (proposed by the public as elements of mitigation) will be open for a variety of programmed community activities. Because of its large size, a significant area of the overall site will be open for public use.

Environment: While most other sites would have imposed damage on local ecological systems, the Route 9 site provided opportunities to restore and enhance them. Little Bear Creek runs adjacent to the site. It is a salmon-bearing stream that has been steadily losing the battle against the effects of urbanization. Additionally, there is a small wetland on-site. Eleven streams and water courses flow across the site, feeding into Little Bear Creek. One of the biggest problems associated with the creek is the damaged hydrological regime caused by the large amount of impervious surfaces on the existing site. The selection of this site provided the opportunity to protect and enhance those vital habitat features. It allowed for over 60 acres of reforestation, and an even larger area of new pervious surfaces. Additionally, all on-site stormwater will be conveyed into the wetlands, after being treated naturally. This increased supply of water will allow the landscape architects to increase the size of the existing wetland, allowing for more habitat for salmon and other native wildlife. From the wetland, the water can be released at a steady rate into Little Bear Creek, providing a fresh supply of clean water into the creek year-round, reversing the long term process of ecological degradation caused by current industrial uses.

In addition, the project team analyzed and planned for opportunities to distribute reclaimed water from the candidate sites. Reclaimed water is defined as sewage that has been treated to the extent at which it can be used for irrigation or industrial use. Its production at Brightwater would significantly reduce our reliance on fresh water from local sources. Early in the process the project team took an inventory of large-scale water consumers, such as cemeteries, golf courses, wildlife parks and other such lands. The Route 9 site scored high in this category because of its rural location and longer conveyance corridor that would provide for a much larger geographic area possible for the distribution of reclaimed water.

The Brightwater Siting Project was an important piece of the Regional Wastewater Services Plan. The comprehensive, participatory process laid the foundation for its successful implementation. The project is currently in the design phase, and construction is scheduled to begin in 2006. When Brightwater opens in 2010, this third treatment plant in the regional wastewater treatment system will be a significant investment in our future, protecting public health, the environment, and providing the infrastructure needed to encourage economic investment as our region continues to grow. In addition, the process itself contributed to all communities involved in the project area. It sparked interaction among elected officials, project staff and the public at-large, fostering the healthy civic debate that is an elemental component of the democratic society in which we live.


Potential Water Reuse Sites: This map shows the potential reclaimed wastewater customers of each of the final two treatment sites. It depicts why the Route 9 site was determined to be stronger in this area of analysis: reaching more potential reclaimed water customers.
Brightwater Treatment System: This image shows the final selected treatment plant site, 15-mile conveyance tunnel, access portals and outfall location.
Existing and Future King County Wastewater Treatment System: This image shows King County’s wastewater treatment system flows before and after Brightwater is in operation.
Aerial Photograph of Final Selected Site: This aerial photograph faces northeast, showing the final selected site and surroundings.
Watercolor: This is a conceptual watercolor of the treatment plant, facing north.
Site Plan: This site plan shows the conceptual site plan of the treatment plant site.
Wetland Rendering: View looking north to enhanced wetland habitat at the north end of the site.
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