The upland meadow seed mix planting including ‘farewell to spring,’ enjoyed the 2020 spring rains and came up in profusion. The California poppies – the bright orange flowers – provide pollen, not nectar for bees. Other native plants include: Oregon sunshine and western buttercup in the upland meadow mix and hall’s aster and tufted hairgrass in the downhill stormwater seed mix.
Landscaping is not explicitly called out in the Bonneville Power Administration’s mission. But when you are responsible for hundreds of thousands of acres across the Northwest, you learn a few things about how to manage the land responsibly and sustainably. And when your land is in the hands of environmental specialists and other conservation-minded individuals? Lifeforms of all sorts reap the benefits – from people to pollinators.
That’s what happened when George Wespi, project manager, was assigned to manage the replacement of several aging buildings and improve vehicle traffic and pedestrian safety in the heart of the Ross Complex in Vancouver, Washington. The sprawling complex includes office buildings, warehouses and laboratories. This particular project focused on the area around the Fleet Services Building.
As the design progressed, Wespi read an article on BPA’s intranet about native pollinators, their habitat and the important ecosystem services they provide. The article highlighted the work of BPA’s pollinator workgroup – an employee-driven effort to educate BPA staff members on best-management practices for pollinators and their habitats.
After reading the article, Wespi was inspired to plant a meadow with native flowers instead of traditional large grassy areas around the complex. He enlisted the help of BPA’s environmental group, including Mike O’Connell, the environmental lead for the project, and Kimberly St. Hilaire, an expert botanist and founding member of the pollinator workgroup. They reviewed the early landscape plan and offered suggestions for annual and perennial native seed mixes, shrubs and trees that would provide successful short- and long-term vegetation cover and pollinator friendly habitat.
Wespi’s team developed a multi-tasking landscape plan that included 40 native herbaceous plant species for the new development. Click here to see the complete seed mix list. These plants would help meet stormwater management requirements by taking the water from hardscapes (which may include oil drops from vehicles and garbage) and slowly releasing it into the sewer system instead of allowing the runoff to drain directly into the sewer system. This helps immensely with improving water quality, fish health and erosion. Plants and soils in this type of a stormwater design will help with filtration, water seepage rates and erosion control. The new native plants will also minimize landscape maintenance and costs by preventing the need for watering, mowing and fertilizing, and provide habitat for native pollinators.
Last spring marked the completion of the landscaping portion of Fleet Services Building project, which brightens the heart of the Ross complex with a colorful and functional landscape that is practical, sustainable and beautiful. It is a welcome sight for both BPA staff and native pollinators – two populations that are absolutely essential to the vitality and wellbeing of life in the Northwest.