Friday, March 27, 2009

The City and County need to address stormwater runoff on North Shore Drive

In January, my neighborhood, like many others, was damaged by a major flood event. Four blocks away, Silverbeach Creek (photo on top) destroyed a cement stormwater catch basin, over flowed and flooded three blocks of North Shore Drive, depositing logs, sediment, trash and urban contaminants in yards and the lake. The City closed the road to protect motorists from being washed into the lake and creek.

On the east side of the lake, the ditches on Academy Road overflowed from stormwater runoff from residential development and land clearing in the Academy Road drainage area. (Toad Lake Road, Shepardson Road, Huntington, Academy and all the other city and county roads that have ditches that drain to Academy Road). Most of the ditch water drains directly into the lake through a small culvert that runs underneath North Shore Drive. The volume and velocity of the ditch water exceeded the capacity of the culvert creating a massive surge of water that flooded a number of water front homes. One young mother had to pull her children out of bed and leave her house.

Floods are caused by major precipitation events that cannot be absorbed by the ground. The runoff accumulates in low areas such as creeks, streams and man-made drainage systems, like the ditches along Academy Road.

When rainfall is heavy and significant land clearing has taken place for development and roads, the runoff may be too heavy to be contained by these natural and artificial drainage systems.

The rising waters can overflow, like they did in Silver Beach Creek and on Academy Road causing significant damage to property and potentially harming people caught in the flood path below.

Logging and land clearing for housing developments deforest sections of the hillside leaving behind clear cuts, impervious surfaces and fields. When there is significant rainfall, these denuded and developed areas shed more runoff because of the lack of foliage and ground cover.

This increases the likelihood of flooding for property owners that live below the clearings and development.

What can property owners who live "down stream" do?

First we can approach the City and County and ask them to fix the problem. If they refuse, property owners who sustained damage from the flooding can hire a property rights attorney to sue the City, County and contributing up hill property owners to recover damages to foundations, yards, carpets, walls and driveways.

The City and County Planning Departments are responsible for ensuring that permitted development does not harm existing property owners or the lake.

Last year, the City declared a moratorium on development in the Silver beach neighborhood. But it routinely provides utility services to hundreds of new homes in the Tweed Twenty, Greenville, Hillsdale, Academy and Brownsville housing developments. In turn, the stormwater runoff from these developments is flooding the Silver Beach neighborhood.

Second, we can file a citizen's action suit under the Clean Water Act to force the City and County to address stormwater, point and non-point pollution issues. The flood and yearly drainage from the ditches transports tons of sediment into Lake Whatcom. In fact, after the flood, the water in basin one was muddy for several days.

It is the responsibility of local government to ensure that current and future development is not a threat to the public. When new development is ineffective at controlling and containing stormwater runoff that could pose a danger to the community, there may be irreparable damage to the land, air, soil and the people who live down hill from the threats.

Whatcom County was recently declared a disaster area due to flooding. Both the City and the County requested federal assistance to repair flood damage.

Considering the severity of the flooding, I'm having a hard time understanding why County Council member Sam Crawford (or anyone else) would be opposed to providing adequate funding for the County's flood districts.

I guess the penny pincher's won't be happy until one or more of us is dead from flooding!

No comments:

Post a Comment