New project aims to reduce flooding near Beachway Drive

By Ian Ferguson

A stormwater drainage improvement project is making headway in the Beachway Drive neighborhood in Birch Bay, as construction crews rush to finish work before the rainy season.

Construction began August 18 on the Birch Bay Watershed and Aquatic Resources Management (BBWARM)-funded capital improvement project. New stormwater catchment basins and pipes were installed on Park Lane, Fern Street and Birch Bay Drive. Two stormwater outlets have been replaced with outlets that discharge stormwater farther out into the bay.

Similar to another project in the Cottonwood neighborhood last year, the goal of the project is to reduce flooding and drainage problems while improving water quality in Birch Bay by filtering out contaminants from stormwater runoff.

“Our major goal is to reduce flooding, so we’re taking the high-level drainage and putting it out in Birch Bay,” said Kraig Olason, project manager for Whatcom County Public Works. “At the same time, we’ve upgraded the outfall of the low-level system to improve flow. Combined, the improvements should alleviate the worst of the flooding issues.”

Flooding regularly occurred in the area during king tides and heavy rain events, with pools of water forming along Birch Bay Drive and near the beach two to three times per year.

Olason said the improvements to the Cottonwood neighborhood have worked so far.

“That area used to flood two to three times per year, and it hasn’t flooded since the project was completed,” he said.

Engineers are already learning from the previous project and fixing design flaws. The original outflows in the Cottonwood project were easily clogged with seaweed. Those have since been replaced and the new designs will be incorporated into the Beachway Drive project.

Along with improving drainage and reducing flooding, the project will improve water quality by channeling stormwater through a series of seven filter cartridges.

Olason hopes the work will be completed by October 20. “That could be a challenge as the rain becomes more frequent,” he said. “Everything can get wet in a hurry.”

BBWARM is in the process of planning several other similar projects around Birch Bay. The next project is in the Cottonwood Court area. Design will take place over the next few months, and construction could occur in 2017.

For more information about the projects, visit bbwarm.whatcomcounty.org.

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