Sequim City Council approves $121,335 consultant contract to develop stormwater plan

By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News

SEQUIM –– A Seattle consulting firm will develop a long-range plan for handling stormwater, though some City Council members fear the plan will be a precursor to a new utility fee.

The council voted unanimously to approve a $121,335 contract with Herrera Environmental Consultants of Seattle.

Concerns from Councilmen Ted Miller and Erik Erichsen prompted the council to say that a grant from the state Department of Ecology will pay 75 percent of the cost.

Miller said managing stormwater should be the lowest priority of Sequim’s government, since the city’s 18 inches of annual rain rarely produces flooding.

“What problem are we solving?” Miller asked.

“There is no city in Western Washington that has a lower concern over rainwater dissipation.”

Erichsen agreed, noting that a stormwater utility would be “way too premature and also inappropriate at this time.”

Miller said he feared the plan would be just the first step in forming a city stormwater utility, which cities typically fund through fees charged to utility users.

“There’s nothing that says we would have to start charging a utility. There are a number of options we could consider if we had to,” City Manager Steve Burkett said.

Miller and Erichsen eventually voted in favor of the contract, saying the plan could provide useful information at a minimal cost to the city.

“There’s nothing wrong with finding out what’s going to happen,” Miller said.

“I think we have to think carefully, though, about what we are going to do after this study is complete.”

City Engineer David Garlington said Ecology has offered the city a grant to help pay for 75 percent of the study.

He noted that the contract had to be approved soon, or the grant could be pulled back by Ecology after the state’s current fiscal year ends this month.

Herrera is expected to return to the council with information on a long-range plan next spring.

The city has budgeted $102,705 for stormwater management this year, 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 fund a stormwater assessment by water resource specialist Ann Soule 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.

If such a permit were required of Sequim — which had a population of 6,669 in 2013, according to latest estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau — the city could be required to retrofit the current stormwater system to meet federal standards.

Port Angeles is currently the only city on the North Olympic Peninsula that charges a monthly stormwater utility fee, which was instituted in 2003 and generated $1,105,000 in 2013, according to that city’s website.

“We want to be proactive and make sure we have good data about our drainage and our stormwater before we get any mandates or requirements from the state government or the federal government,” Burkett said.

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Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at jsmillie@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: June 11. 2014 7:47PM
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