Surface Drainage Management
Whatcom County Public Works Maintenance & Operations (M&O) Surface Drainage Management division serves the public to ensure that all drainage structures are maintained and in good working condition. This includes drainage ditches, culverts, catch basins, and manholes.
The Drainage section is responsible for maintaining stormwater drainage systems and managing stormwater runoff on road right-of-way to provide proper drainage and prevent flooding, road damage, and guarantee proper environmental measures. Typical work includes ditching to establish or re-establish flow lines, maintaining, replacing, and installing culverts and catch basins, installation of temporary soil erosion and sediment control devices, inventorying culverts and catch basins using Global Positioning System (GPS), and providing emergency response to flooding. The Drainage section often replaces culverts in need of maintenance in fish bearing streams in accordance with Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) fish passage standards.
Many of the culverts in our county drainage system require cleaning, resetting, or replacement to meet the standards of the WDFW fish passage program. Catch basins can also require replacement because of failure or being undersized (restricting flow) and many need annual maintenance for debris removal and cleaning. Many of our projects require permits from state and federal agencies with maintenance activities specifically occurring during the "fish window", usually June 15 to September 30 (time of least impact to recovering populations of salmon, bull trout, and other native species of fish). These permits can take up to two years to secure before we can proceed with our work. Specific stream and drainage basin permits may require a shorter window of July 15 to September 30th. When dealing with this type of high-impact maintenance, best management practices (BMP's) are required and can include silt screens, straw bales, diversion dams, and fish screens. In order to maintain a fish friendly work area, the crew relocates any fish upstream and screens off the work site.
A significant amount of the work performed each year by the Maintenance and Operations Division is drainage related. Selective ditching (removal of silt and other debris) to reduce property damage or flooding is an ongoing activity and is often the result of a citizen reporting the problem. The citizens of Whatcom County lend their knowledge and familiarity of their neighborhood to complete the picture of required maintenance activities. Their assistance to the road crew greatly expands the area reached by our crews.