Tacoma may recruit downtown businesses to help keep an eye on the new rain gardens that are being installed along Pacific Avenue.
City officials are considering a pilot program that would entice businesses to adopt city-owned rain gardens — starting with the 14 now being added on Pacific Avenue — by offering a discount on their stormwater bills.
Rain gardens consist of plants and soil that help absorb and filter stormwater runoff from surfaces such as roofs and roadways.
As part of the adopt-a-rain-garden program, downtown businesses would be asked to help remove trash from the Pacific Avenue rain gardens and report issues such as vandalism and erosion, said Geoff Smyth, environmental services division manager for the City of Tacoma.
In exchange, the businesses would be charged stormwater rates normally reserved for less-developed plots of land, according to a presentation delivered to a Tacoma City Council committee earlier this month.
“It’s just kind of taking a little more ownership of what is in front of your storefront,” Smyth said. “And it helps us, and it may be able to get you a rate reduction.”
Another part of the proposed rain garden pilot program would apply to residential homeowners in Tacoma. About 40 residents in the Wapato area have expressed interest in building rain gardens on their properties if the city agrees to kick in a rebate of up to $2,000 per homeowner, Smyth said.
Smyth said the city wants to start offering the residential rain garden rebates in the Wapato area due to the need to reduce storm water flow in the Flett Creek Watershed, but ultimately the hope is to expand the rebate program citywide.
Tacoma City Councilman Ryan Mello said that encouraging residential rain gardens could help the city avoid costly improvements to its stormwater management infrastructure, which could keep residents’ surface water fees lower over time.
The Tacoma City Council will decide whether to authorize the rain garden pilot program at its meeting Tuesday.
If the rain garden pilot program proves successful between now and the end of 2014, city officials hope they can find money to expand the program and make it permanent, Smyth said.Melissa Santos: 360-357-0209 melissa.santos@ thenewstribune.com