Safer streets and cleaner water in Walla Walla

Award-winning project uses Ecology grants to help meet community needs

Congratulations to the City of Walla Walla for receiving the American Public Works Association’s “Washington State Chapter Project of the Year for Transportation Award” for the completion of reconstruction along Isaacs Avenue. 

The city’s award-winning project showcases a number of great upgrades for the community, including bike lanes, improved safety for pedestrians, and stormwater management and treatment. 

We think this project is award-winning for a lot of reasons. And, you guessed it, we are really excited that we could provide financial assistance to help the city install a first-rate stormwater treatment system as part of this award-winning plan!

Cleaner stormwater = healthier fish

Before the City of Walla Walla took on this project, there was essentially no treatment for the stormwater flowing off of the road and into Mill Creek. This is particularly concerning because the creek is federally listed as habitat for endangered bull and steelhead trout, which rely on cold, clean water to survive.

“The Walla Walla River watershed really benefits from infrastructure projects like this one. Better stormwater management means cleaner water in the river and improved habitat for fish.”

- Brook Beeler, Ecology’s Eastern Region Administrator

Untreated stormwater is a leading cause of "nonpoint" pollution to lakes, rivers, streams, and marine water bodies in urban areas of Washington. As rain and snowmelt runs off buildings, paved streets, highways, and parking lots, it increases in speed and volume, picking up pollution such as leaked oil, fertilizers, pesticides, soil, trash, and pet waste along the way. These pollutants flow down storm drains untreated into rivers and creeks, settling in soil sediments and compromising water quality that support fish and other aquatic life.

Fortunately, there is a wide range of treatment options available to clean the stormwater before it goes into a creek. Along Isaacs Avenue, the city is using bioretention facilities and infiltration galleries to collect, filter, and treat the stormwater through special soil and drainage systems.  

view of Isaacs ave intersection with traffic cones blocking parts of it

Before construction on Isaacs Avenue — the city determined there was unnecessary pavement. 

A bioretention pond with plants in a grassy depression

Now, the same intersection has a bioretention facility that is helping to clean the storwater.

Supporting Walla Walla’s stormwater upgrades

Infrastructure projects address important community needs and are often major financial investments. The City of Walla Walla used multiple funding sources to make their upgrades to Isaacs Avenue a reality, including grants from Ecology. Of the $1.4 million in funding provided by Ecology, $934,000 was from the Stormwater Financial Assistance Program, which is a special pot of money available for local governments to use on stormwater projects. This unique funding program helps communities meet the requirements of the state municipal stormwater program.

“I am thankful for Ecology’s partnership in multiple grants to make this multi-phase, multi-year project a reality, and now an award winning project.”

- Monte Puymon, City of Walla Walla Transportation Engineer

Ecology’s Municipal Stormwater Permit requires local governments to manage and control stormwater runoff so it does not pollute downstream waters. Under the permit, local governments address stormwater runoff through infrastructure planning, retrofit construction, source control techniques, and site-specific adaptive management strategies.

Since 2008, we've provided nearly $400 million to implement more than 550 municipal stormwater projects through our Stormwater Financial Assistance Program. These projects, like the Isaacs Avenue project, re-engineer the built environment to replenish groundwater and remove pollutants transported by stormwater. And, in the case of Isaacs Avenue, the project will help protect and restore the endangered salmon runs in the Walla Walla River watershed.

Incorporating stormwater treatment projects at the same time as other construction projects is often the most efficient, cost-effective way for communities to make investments.

The full story of this project is available in the APWA project award write up. Congratulations again to the City of Walla Walla! 

aerial view of Isaacs Ave