By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News
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“We can do more to prevent the problems from getting so great,” Soule told about 50 people at the Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce luncheon Tuesday.
“We want to make stormwater an amenity — because it is an asset, not a liability,” she added.
Soule was hired by the city to spearhead a stormwater master plan that would lay out standards for stormwater management and projects to meet those standards.
The plan ideally would minimize damages from heavy storm events such as the $11 million caused by storm drains backing up and creating the 1997 New Year's Day flood.
“We can do more to prevent the problems from getting so great,” Soule said.
She told the chamber audience that a plan could be ready in a year and a half.
Funding for projects
When the stormwater plan is finished, Soule said, the city likely will have to come up with a source of funding to complete projects.
That may come in a utility fee or a property tax, she said, noting that the decision would be made by the City Council.
The city has budgeted $102,705 for stormwater, with most of that funding labor to sweep streets, clean catch basins and make sure ditches and ponds are free of obstructions.
Another $150,000 has been budgeted this year to pay for Soule's ongoing assessment and to hire consultants to help engineer the master plan.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency requires cities with populations of 10,000 or more to obtain municipal stormwater permits.
Soule, though, noted that a permit may be required of Sequim — which has a current population of 6,606 — even if its population stays below that threshold if the federal agency deems stormwater to be a significant pollution contributor.
“We don't really know if our stormwater is causing any of the problems we do have,” she said.
Many wells in and around the city have elevated levels of nitrates in the water.
“Unfortunately, there's no good way to trace what the source is,” Soule said.
If such a permit was required of Sequim, the city could be required to retrofit the current stormwater system to meet federal standards.
Sequim has advantages in improving its stormwater management, Soule said.
The porous soil that makes up much of the Dungeness Valley allows water to easily filter into aquifers, lessening the amount of water that dumps into the Strait of Juan de Fuca and increasing groundwater supplies, she said.
Irrigation ditches built 100 years ago and improved since also help stormwater from flooding the city's streets, she said.
Soule noted that irrigation companies have built stormwater intakes as they have piped in their ditches over the past several years.
Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at email@example.com.