Surface Drainage Management
Whatcom County Public Works Maintenance & Operations (M&O)
Surface Drainage Management division serves the public and ensures
that all drainage structures are maintained and in good working
condition. This includes all drainage ditches, culverts, catch
basins, and manholes.
The Drainage Division is responsible for maintaining the stormwater
and managing the 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. Recently the Drainage Division
has replaced culverts in need of maintenance on fish bearing streams
in accordance with Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
(WDFW) fish passage standards.
Other activities include checking drainage structures (ditches,
culverts, catch basins, and manholes) to make sure that they are
in good working condition. There are approximately 3000 culverts
in Whatcom County inventoried into the County Road Inventory System
(CRIS) with many requiring cleaning, reset, or replacement (replacement
usually requires an upgrade in order 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. Often these replacement activities 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). Specific
stream and drainage basin permits may require a shorter window
of July 15 to July 31. 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.
activities include a program to inventory all the drainage structures
in Whatcom County, such as culverts, catch basins, and manholes
using GPS. This will help in future replacements while upgrading
CRIS and allowing workers computer access to information rather
than field retrieval. Inventory of the Lake Whatcom Watershed,
as the highest priority, will occur first. There are 28 basins
to inventory. The next highest priority is the Lake Samish basin.
M&O received 376 Citizen Inquiry Reports in 2001; representing
a significant amount of the work performed each year by this
division. Selective ditching (removal of silt and other debris
that may impact property damage or flooding) is an ongoing
activity, which is often the result of a citizen inquiry report.
The citizens of Whatcom County lend their knowledge and expertise
of their neighborhood and regularly traveled avenues to complete
the picture of required maintenance activities. Their assistance
to the road crew greatly expands the area reached by the crew.
Another modern piece of equipment is the new Vactor truck. This
piece of equipment will enhance the existing program of culvert and
catch basin cleaning. The Vactor truck collects waste from the
catch basins and manholes more efficiently and with less impact.
Updating the M&O Surface Drainage Program occurs regularly for
changes made by the National Marine Fisheries Service, Washington
Departments of Ecology, and WDFW on water quality and Endangered
Species Act issues.