|SR 14 and I-205 in Vancouver, July 2015|
The green grass of home in the northwest is turning a different color with the unusually hot and dry weather. Lawns and areas along state highways are a pale-brown, which is a stark contrast to our nickname of the “Evergreen State.” WSDOT uses mostly native grasses along the roadsides that naturally go dormant in the summer after setting seed, but this has happened earlier this year due to the hot and extremely dry weather.
Vegetation plays an important role in keeping the soil in place along sloped areas, filtering stormwater runoff, and absorbing pollution, among other things. When designing a transportation improvement project, we use native plants that require little maintenance. This helps reduce staff and equipment costs. Many native shrubs go dormant in the summer and may lose some of their leaves. Some new planting areas are irrigated the first few years so they can firmly take root.
|SR 529 Ebey Slough in Marysville, Feb. 2013|
|I-5 at Mill Plain in Vancouver|
This summer the brown along our roadways has come early with the extreme and early heat we’ve experienced. Further, expect this to be an especially brown summer as we are currently experiencing a statewide drought. Allowing our roadsides to ‘go brown’ follows the natural life cycle of native plants and conserves limited financial and water resources.