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Maintenance and Operations (M & O) Division

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 drainage systemsDrain pipe 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.

Drain pipesCurrent 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.