Rain garden project in Port Angeles aimed at easing flooding, stormwater discharge concerns
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With his house in the background, Port Angeles resident Gene Erickson stands in the intersection of Sixth and H streets near a storm drain located in the lowest point of the immediate neighborhood a drain that often backs up and floods during heavy rains. Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News

By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — Officials hope a $1.26 million project in a west city neighborhood will improve the quality of stormwater discharge into Port Angeles Harbor.

Along with those living in the neighborhood, they also hope the project, the city government’s first rain garden installation, will combat flooding.

Work is expected to begin in July on the rain gardens, and they will be built along the sidewalks of eight intersections in the area boarded by South M and South H streets to the west and east and West Fourth and West Seventh streets to the north and south.

“I’m looking forward to this a lot,” said Betsy Bauman, who has lived for 10 years along H Street.

“I think it’s going to be very nice in the neighborhood.”

Bauman, 84, said her front yard, which sits slightly lower than the street and sidewalk, typically acts as a basin during heavy rains and regularly accumulates water.

The worst was in January 2007, when the 3-foot crawl space under her home flooded and about 4 inches of water pooled in her garage.

“My yard was just totally underwater,” Bauman said.

The water left no lasting damage to her home, and no rainstorm since has equaled the 2007 flood, she said.

The project is the city’s first that will use green infrastructure, such as rain gardens, to improve the quality of stormwater discharged into Port Angeles Harbor from a specific neighborhood, city stormwater engineer Jonathan Boehme said.

The rain gardens, to be maintained by the city, will intercept stormwater through sidewalk curb cuts before it reaches existing storm drains, Boehme said, and help remove contaminants from the water as it flows through the soil of the garden.

“[The city] will use this as a test site for similar future low-impact development in other areas of the city,” said Craig Fulton, the city’s public works and utilities director, at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

The work also will increase the size of a stormwater pipe running under South H Street between West Sixth and West Fourth streets to reduce flooding in the neighborhood during heavy rains, Boehme said.

That’s good new for Gene Erickson, 65, who lives at the intersection of H and Sixth Streets.

Although his house has never been flooded, his front yard accumulates water during heavy winter rainstorms, and he regularly sees flooding along neighborhood streets in winter.

The neighborhood never experienced flooding when he was growing up there in the 1960s, Erickson said.

He blames the flooding seen since he moved back in 2002 on the addition of new homes without increasing the stormwater line capacity.

“[The city] never enlarged the pipes,” he said.

Boehme attributed the flooding to a combination of factors, including undersized stormwater pipes and the poor permeability of the soil.

On Tuesday, the City Council voted 4-0 — Deputy Mayor Patrick Downie and council members Dan Gase and Cherie Kidd were attending the Association of Washington Cities’ annual conference in Spokane — to approve a $1.13 million contract with Jordan Excavating of Port Angeles to complete the work.

Boehme expects work to begin in early July and wrap up by the end of October.

A $1 million state Department of Ecology grant will pay for up to $869,438 worth of the project cost in 2014, with the city paying up to $387,561 from its stormwater fund, according to city figures.

The remainder of the grant paid for $167,736 worth of design in 2013, Boehme said.

The stormwater pipe work will be funded completely through the city’s share, he added, since it is not eligible to be funded through the Ecology grant.

“I commend staff and the neighborhood for undertaking this, and I appreciate the support we’ve received from the state and the Department of Ecology,” Councilman Brad Collins said before the vote.

Since initially discussed in 2009, the project has gone through a few different design iterations, Boehme said.

Earlier ideas included building small roundabouts at some intersections that would have held the rain gardens and installing the gardens between the sidewalks and street along the straight portions, rather than at the corners.

The roundabout idea was dropped after Ecology told the city that grant funds would not cover the needed intersection changes, Boehme said.

The rain garden configuration was changed after residents expressed concern that streetside gardens would take up parking space and limit access to mail boxes, he said.

“This has been fully vetted with the neighborhood,” Fulton said.

“They are fully informed and support the project.”


Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at jschwartz@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: June 19. 2014 7:42PM
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