Prioritizing a Watershed for Stormwater Management: Council Committee Receives Update

Rebecca Dugopolski of Herrera Environmental Consultants (top right) speaks to the Edmonds City Council Parks and Public Works Committee and city staff Tuesday evening.

Stormwater — and the steps the city needs to manage it and stay compliant with state and federal requirements — was a major talking point for the Edmonds City Council’s Parks and Public Works Committee virtual meeting. Tuesday evening.

Why is stormwater management important? The Center for Watershed Protection defines stormwater runoff as “precipitation that flows over the surface of the ground. It is created when rain falls on roads, driveways, parking lots, rooftops, and other paved surfaces that do not allow water to seep into the ground. According to the center, stormwater runoff “is the number one cause of watercourse degradation in urban areas.”

The City of Edmonds has a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. The Washington State Department of Ecology administers the permit, which is on a five-year cycle. Washington State has two main categories of stormwater permits: Phase 1, for jurisdictions with more than 100,000 residents, and Phase II, typically those with more than 10,000 residents. There are 88 Phase II permissions in Western Washington.

Over the past year, the city has worked to develop a Stormwater Management Action Plan (SMAP) which includes a water health assessment, selection of a priority watershed and developing an implementation plan. Earlier this year, the city held two virtual workshops — with a total of 10 people in attendance — as well as a story map and survey that drew 23 responses.

Rebecca Dugopolski of Herrera Environmental Consultants, whom the city hired to oversee the development of the plan, explained that the city completed the required water health assessment in late March 2022; now the focus is on priority watershed selection. The Ministry of Ecology requires the watershed to be selected by the end of June.

The intent of the process, she said, is “to find the pool where you can get the most bang for your buck, and then direct resources to that to start putting projects in place and seeing those improvements in water quality”.

Although there are many watersheds in the city that could benefit from this process, the city had to prioritize one, Dugopolski said. The final choice – Perrinville Creek – was chosen from a list of nine candidate watersheds that was narrowed down to six, then four, before being selected.

Among the factors used to assess applicants: what percentage of the watershed jurisdiction was under Edmonds’ control, social equity, public feedback and whether it promotes other plans/projects.

Of the first nine watersheds to be considered, three—Deer Creek, Lund’s Gulch Creek, and Southwest Edmonds—were eliminated primarily due to the city’s relatively small land area. “The goal here for the ecology was a basin size of 1 to 20 square miles, which starts at about 640 acres,” she said, although Dugopolski later noted that the chosen watershed – Perrinville – was slightly smaller than that – 541 acres.

In the next phase, the consultant and city staff considered three factors: the importance of water use, including such things as public access for recreation, whether or not protection of wellheads, the presence of fish and pocket estuaries; development and growth, including current percentage of paved impermeable area; water quality and habitat, including water quality alterations and concerns documented in local studies and fish passage criteria.

Through a scoring system, Perrinville Creek has been identified as a restoration watershed, meaning it has “high significance for water use and lower development and growth, and good water quality and habitat conditions,” said Dugopolski. “These are better suited to implementation plans because short-term waterway improvements are more likely to be due to less degradation.” Moderate restoration, the category in which Edmonds Marsh, Shell Creek and Hall Creek-Balllinger fell, was defined as moderate restoration, i.e. “high or moderate importance of water use , high development and growth and poor water quality conditions. These could potentially have greater challenges in achieving short-term waterway improvements due to higher levels of development and higher degradation compared to other watersheds,” she explained.

This process narrowed the list down to four watersheds, which were then evaluated based on public input received, social equity considerations, and projects and plans that would impact stormwater runoff. Perrinville Creek came out highest in terms of public inquiry and workshop contribution, and in ongoing or planned projects which included a Seaview Infiltration Facility Phase II project and modernization and recovery Perrinville stream. Hall Creek-Ballinger was ranked first for environmental health disparities (environmental exposures and effects, socioeconomic factors, and susceptible populations), followed by Perrinville in second place.

Council Chair Vivian Olson questioned whether the process should have placed much weight on public input given the low response rate (23) to the survey.

Dugopolski replied that this number was “actually a pretty good response rate” compared to other jurisdictions she has worked with.

“With all of these considerations in mind, it appears that Perrinville Creek in terms of where it is in the city, the public support behind it and the other factors we looked at…was a good fit for this project. “, she said.

Dugpolski and Mike De Lilla, the city’s senior utility engineer, said Perrinville Creek’s selection for the SMAP process doesn’t mean the city can’t work in other watersheds as well. “The permit is really more trying to make sure…that we do at least one pond meeting their minimum (ecological) qualifications,” De Lilla said. “It doesn’t prevent us or prevent us from doing anything else that we know should be right.”

A full presentation of the process will be presented to the board at a future meeting.

In connection with the SMAP presentation, the board approved an additional agreement with Herrera Environmental Consultants to cover additional work being done on the stormwater planning effort – necessary because the city was without a stormwater engineer during the period to meet delays.

Other items of interest at committee meetings on Tuesday evening include:

During the PPublic Security-Planning-Human Services-Personnel Committee meeting, council members learned more about an opioid settlement that will benefit the city. Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson has filed a lawsuit against McKesson Corp., Cardinal Health Inc. and AmerisourceBergen Drug Corp. for their role in fueling the opioid epidemic. As part of a settlement agreement, the three opioid marketers will pay the state a total of $518 million, which will be distributed to participating jurisdictions. Edmonds’ share will be estimated at $1.3 million, paid over 17 years. This item will appear on the board consent agenda on September 20th.

During the Finance Committee Meeting, Director of Administrative Services Dave Turley provided an update on a letter sent by the city to businesses in the Downtown Edmonds Business Improvement District (BID) that are behind on their dues. About $35,000 is owed by active businesses and about the same amount by businesses that have closed, Turley said. Since the letters were sent, active businesses “have caught up about $9,700.” However, there are a handful of members who are still behind by $33,600 – most of them are homeowners who have refused to pay their dues since the Business Improvement District was established in 2013. Another $40,000 is owed by closed or inactive businesses, Turley says.

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