Prioritizing a watershed for managing stormwater: Council committee gets an update

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

Stormwater — and steps required for the city to manage it and stay in compliance with state and federal requirements — was a major discussion point for the Edmonds City Council’s Parks and Public Works Committee virtual meeting Tuesday night.

Why does managing stormwater matter? The Center for Watershed Protection defines stormwater runoff as “rainfall that flows over the ground surface. It is created when rain falls on roads, driveways, parking lots, rooftops and other paved surfaces that do not allow water to soak into the ground.”  Stormwater runoff, the center says, “is the number-one cause of stream impairment in urban areas.”

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

For the past year, the city has been working to develop a Stormwater Management Action Plan (SMAP) that includes a water health assessment, selecting a priority watershed and developing an implementation plan. Earlier this year, the city hosted two virtual workshops — with a total of 10 people attending — along with a story map and survey that drew 23 responses.

Rebecca Dugopolski of Herrera Environmental Consultants, which the city hired to oversee the plan’s development, explained that the city completed the required water health assessment at the end of March 2022; now the focus is on selecting the priority watershed. The Department of Ecology requires that the watershed be selected by the end of June.

The intent of the process, she said, is “to find that basin where you can have the most bang for your buck and then direct resources toward that to start getting projects in place and see those water quality improvements.”

While there are many watersheds in the city that could benefit from that process, the city had to prioritize one of them, Dugopolski said. The final choice —  Perrinville Creek — was picked from a list of nine candidate watersheds that was narrowed to six, and then four, before being selected.

Among the factors used to evaluate the candidates: What percentage of the watershed’s 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 mainly due to the relatively small amount of acreage in the city. “The goal here for Ecology was a basin size of one 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 looked at three factors: water use importance including things like public recreation access, whether there were any wellhead protection areas, presence of fish and pocket estuaries; development and growth, including the current percentage of paved impervious area; and water quality and habitat, including water quality impairments and concerns documented in local studies and fish passage criteria.

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

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

Council President Vivian Olson asked if the process should have placed a heavy weight on public input given small response rate (23) to the survey.

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

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

Both Dugpolski and Mike De Lilla, the city’s senior utilities engineer, said that selecting Perrinville Creek for the SMAP process does not mean the city can’t work in other watersheds as well. “The permit really is just more trying to make sure…that we are doing at least one basin in meeting whatever their (Ecology’s) minimum qualifications are,” De Lilla said. “It does not stop us or preclude us from doing anything else that we know needs to be right.”

A full presentation on the process will come before the council during a future meeting.

Related to the SMAP presentation, the council approved a supplemental agreement with Herrera Environmental Consultants to cover additional work performed on the stormwater planning effort — necessary because the city was without a stormwater engineer during the timeframe to meet the deadlines.

Among other items of interest during committee meetings Tuesday night:

During the Public Safety-Planning-Human Services-Personnel Committee meeting, councilmembers learned more an opioid settlement agreement that will benefit the city. Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a lawsuit against McKesson Corp., Cardinal Health Inc. and AmerisourceBergen Drug Corp. for their role in helping to fuel the opioid epidemic. As part of a settlement agreeement, the three opioid distributors will pay the state a total of $518 million, which will be distributed to participating jurisdictions. Edmonds’ share will be an estimated $1.3 million, paid over 17 years. This item will appear on the council’s consent agenda Sept. 20.

During the Finance Committee meeting, Administrative Services Director Dave Turley presented an update on a letter the city sent to businesses in Edmonds’ downtown Business Improvement District (BID) that are behind on their dues. Approximately $35,000 is owed by active businesses and about the same amount from businesses that have closed, Turley said. Since the letters went out, active businesses “have caught up their late dues by about $9,700.” However, there are a handful of members who are still in arrears by $33,600 — most of them owners who have refused to pay their assessments since the Business Improvement District was created in 2013.  Another $40,000 is owed by businesses that are either closed or inactive, Turley said.

— By Teresa Wippel

  1. Social equity, really? The minute a watershed is treated as a park based on who deserves it most through the lens of social equity you lost me.
    Are you trying to create division between groups of people? Put the watershed where it makes the most sense as watershed.

  2. I hope some funds can be found for individual projects such as the repair of the Yost weir on Shell Creek. It would be a shame to lose this part of the city’s historic infrastructure.

  3. A response rate of 23 to the survey is considered “actually a fairly good response rate”. so, the process should place a heavy weight on public input? That’s 0.00054, more or less, of the population of Edmonds. Chucklesome and lame.

    1. I agree; I knew nothing of the public workshop or survey. Many scientists or citizens usually contact me to provide comments about these “city’s surveys”.

      The 2022 PROS plan update (of 2016) was example of a “bias” survey that did not even update the environmental issues outlined in the 2016 PROS.

      Of course, Perrinville is most time sensitive as the creek was plugged by the City over two years ago and a watershed plan from the Mayor never came forth. With legal & regulatory issues, (the Tribes and WDFW) the City is designing the lower portion and not address the upper reach which is just as important, if not more.

      All our watersheds need to be on city planning documents as density has caused watershed havoc & coupled with the extreme weather events is eroding away banks and causing large amounts of sediment.

      The Marsh restoration work by volunteers led by Joe Scordino is an educational way citizens can learn about the methodical way to restore or understand our watersheds. Remember the Students Saving Salmon have been water sampling our watershed areas for over five years. These reports are well written and having glaring information – so listen to locals.

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