Why you should care about stormwater | Editorial

The county has asked islanders to alert them to stormwater problems. And with the recent rains, the submissions have been plentiful.

On the county website, residents on Orcas, Lopez and San Juan have written about flooding, personal property damage and overflowing ponds. Here are some of the problems recorded in Eastsound.

“Water unable to cross road without flooding downstream. Recent road work in Jan. 2014 has exacerbated the problem.”

“Water ponds on the north side of Mt. Baker Road between the covered bridge and Dr. Bailey’s office whenever there is heavy rain or snowmelt. The water sometimes extends out into the roadway.”

“Significant financial damage caused by blocked stormwater drains.”

The San Juan County Stormwater Utility is in the middle of a two-year assessment that will provide additional guidance for stormwater management efforts already underway.

Why is this so important? It will help keep our waters clean.

Stormwater is rain and snow melt that runs off surfaces such as rooftops, paved streets, highways, and parking lots. As water runs off these surfaces, it can pick up pollution such as: oil, fertilizers, pesticides, soil, trash, and animal waste. From here, the water might flow directly into a local stream, bay, or lake. Or, it may go into a storm drain and continue through storm pipes until it is released untreated into a local waterway.

To keep local waters clean, stormwater Manager Ed Hale says the county should strive to exceed the minimum state requirements.

In addition, stormwater can erode streambed channels, instream sedimentation, create loss of habitat and cause major property damage.

Hale is asking islanders to help, and he and the staff have developed a computer-based reporting application. It is available to anyone with computer access to identify and report stormwater problems.

The application can be accessed at sjcgis.org/StormwaterIssueReporting.

The siye has a map of the county that can be toggled to an aerial photo. Zoom in, mark the spot where you feel there is a problem, and provide a short description. The site also provides access for anyone to look at descriptions of stormwater problems submitted by other citizens and county staff.

This data, and other environmental and development data, will be used to create stormwater management plans in cooperation with the Citizen Stormwater Advisory Committee, which was formed in 2010 to provide a citizen perspective to the San Juan County Council.

If you are interested in ongoing stormwater management issues, you can attend the monthly committee meetings, which are generally held on the second Thursday of the month, beginning at 8:30 a.m. in the Legislative Building council chambers.