Groundbreaking for new bioswales on SW 4th outside the Portland Building—another piece of Mayor Charlie Hales' limping plans to perk up city government's front lawn (and, y'know, maybe also move along a longstanding protest and homeless camp...)—could start as soon as October, the Mercury has learned.

And Hales' office hasn't yet ruled out adding the sidewalk planters outside Portland City Hall, spokesman Dana Haynes says, despite intense political opposition this summer from Commissioners Steve Novick and Nick Fish. Though Hales' staff has said the plans for bioswales outside city hall weren't linked to the sweep of campers, emails obtained by the Mercury show the preparations for both explicitly linked in internal discussions.

The focus moved to the Portland Building amid the controversy, a development first reported by the Oregonian. Hales' office also promised not to use any stormwater or transportation money on the bioswales, tapping facilities money instead.

Haynes says that cash could come after the city finishes its quarterly budget adjustment process next month.

"They have to wait and ask to rejigger some money to make it happen," Haynes says.

If there aren't any problems, Haynes says, a "multi-year" plan calls for building them outside other city-owned buildings, including city hall.

"The earliest possible you could imagine [bioswales outside city hall] is 2014," he says. "But that's certainly not written in asphalt."

Why bioswales at all, you might be asking? When they're not standing in as a potentially convenient means of moving campers, or being tied to bike lanes, the plant-and-soil-filled bioswales actually save the city big bucks. They suck up dirty water that would otherwise flow through the city's aging, taxed sewer system or the Willamette River—and they do that work for way less than the cost of building all the pipes we'd otherwise need to handle that extra capacity.