Dayton Street flooding, library repairs focus of Tuesday council committee meetings

When it comes to flooding, the area of Dayton Street near the Edmonds ferry holding lanes has been particularly problematic — and this was the case again when heavy rains pummeled the Puget Sound region in late December. The city’s new Dayton Street Pump Station, which came online in summer 2021, was hailed as a way to address the problem — although some wondered if it was working properly during the most recent storm.

The answer, Edmonds Public Works Director Oscar Antillon told city councilmembers Tuesday night, is that yes, the pumps were operational. But the new pump station couldn’t keep up with what Antillon described as a perfect storm — literally — of factors: An extremely high tide of 17 feet, low atmospheric pressure, heavy rain during a short period of time, and saturated ground conditions caused by melting snow and ice from a winter storm the week prior.

“The result…is the perfect combination for something like this,” Antillon said. “The runoff, most of it, went into into streets and into our storm system.”

“We’re basically pumping the bay (Puget Sound),” Antillon continued. “So the bay is pushing water into our system and we’re pushing it back. Mother Nature is going to win in that case.”

In addition, Antillon told the Council Parks and Public Works Committee, the new pump station is just one of several projects needed to address flooding in the area. Past city studies have focused on a range of recommendations, including the daylighting of Willow Creek as well as projects planned by the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), indicated in blue on the map below).

Willow Creek currently flows through the Edmonds Marsh, then enters a 1,600-foot piping system, to Puget Sound. The Willow Creek project has been delayed due to cleanup efforts on the nearby Unocal property — which the city needs to cross to complete the daylighting between the marsh and Puget Sound.

City Engineer Rob English added that the Dayton Street Pump Station “was just one set of improvements to solve the flooding and issues down in that area. The daylighting of Willow Creek…is a critical part of solving the flooding issue because right now there’s just a pipe that goes out to the sound, so when that water level backs up into the (Edmonds) Marsh, it takes a long time for that water to drain now,” English said.

Given the effects of climate change and sea-level rise, Councilmember Dave Teitzel asked if the city would have to learn to live with these type of storm events or if there was something that could been done to address them. Antillon said the city will need to examine possible solutions as part of its long-range planning process.

Councilmember Vivian Olson wondered if there was a way for the city to have a conversation with WSDOT about planned flood-mitigation projects “to let them know how much we are being impacted in these weather events.” Antillon agreed that such discussions would be possible — either directly or through the city’s lobbyist.

Antillon noted that WSDOT has raised the height of its toll booths in the ferry lanes to mitigate flooding issues, after which Olson observed that such a measure doesn’t solve the problem of ferry-bound vehicles not being able to navigate the flooded roadways in the first place. Highway 104, which runs to the ferry terminal, is a state highway, and “I would think for the access of using 104 that they would want to be doing something,” she said.

Council committee members also received a few other updates from Antillon.

Regarding the ongoing question about who is — or should be — responsible for shoveling snow on city sidewalks, Antillon reiterated that city code specifically states that residents are responsible for sidewalk snow removal. Councilmember Dave Teitzel said he is researching the idea of a  “neighbor-helping-neighbor” approach — he is calling it Snow Angels –and has contacted a couple of volunteer agencies to see if such an effort could be coordinated.

Antillon also said he plans to address another concern of residents: When snow plows leave a berm of snow on the sides of streets and sidewalks, making it even more difficult for those who are walking or shoveling. “That’s something that I plan to discuss with the (plow) operators,” he said.

And finally, Antillon provided an update on the city’s carbon recovery project at the wastewater treatment plant — a gasification process that is replacing the aging sludge incinerator. According to Antillon, 90% of proect is completed. Next comes the commissioning process, which is expected to take six months, after which the system will begin operations.

The public works director will deliver a report on the carbon recovery project to the full city council soon.

City of Edmonds Facilities Manager Thom Sullivan, middle row-far right, talks about library repairs via a city council committee Zoom meeting Tuesday.

During the Council Public Safety-Planning-Human Services-Personnel Committee, councilmembers received an update on the repairs being made to the Edmonds Library, which has been closed since an irrigation pipe burst in June 2022, flooding the 17,000-square-foot library and leaving 2 inches of standing water.

Edmonds Planning and Development Director Susan McLaughlin said the city has been working with Sno-Isle Libraries to coordinate the repairs.

Edmonds voters agreed in 2001 to approve annexation of the city-owned Edmonds Library, located at 650 Main St., into the Sno-Isle Libraries system. As part of that agreement, the city maintains ownership of the library building and is responsible for outside maintenance, while Sno-Isle maintains the building interior.

The leak damaged library furniture and partitions but the book collection was spared. Damage to the building included walls, flooring, bathrooms and the elevator. Both the city and Sno-Isle are “working through insurance claims,” McLaughlin explained. “The repair and restoration gets complex as they are shared responsibilities” that are outlined in the annexation agreement, which McLaughlin said was “quite dated.”

“We will want to look at an amendment to our annexation agreement on some of the anticipated costs and how we’ll cover those as part of this renovation work,” she added.

Meanwhile, the city provided space in the rooftop Plaza Room to launch a pop-up library, where customers are able to browse and check out materials, and also offers printing services.

McLaughlin said the city and Sno-Isle are balancing the desire to open the library as quickly as possible with a desire to make some improvements to library interior, with an eye to “resiliency, accessibility and sustainability.”

Sno-Isle has hired a professional public library architect, Johnston Architects, to determine the scope and design.

The plan is to open the library by summer 2023, in time to accommodate an eager group of young summer readers fresh out of school.

City of Edmonds Facilities Manager Thom Sullivan explained the work completed so far, noting the city has concentrated on ensuring the library elevator is operational and both public restrooms “to a remodeled state.” Both restrooms had to be gutted due to water intrusion behind the tile, and some updates have been made, including updated countertops, touch-free fixtures at the sinks and toilets and new lighting. The city is aiming for the week of Jan. 16 to open the library lobby and elevator as well the restrooms, Sullivan added.

“We’re already teaming with Sno-Isle to look at their options for renovation,” Sullivan said. “It’s going to be a little bit of a dance between contractors — between restoring it to pre-event conditions and accommodating the upgrades…The time frame is going to be tight.”

Sullivan and McLaughlin also noted that the library building has ongoing issues with a leaking roof that must be addressed.

Councilmember Jenna Nand asked whether it would be possible to provide computer and printer access to “more modest income people” who rely on the library for those services — if not in the library itself, perhaps in the pop-up space.

Susan Hempstead, Sno-Isle’s assistant director for strategic relations, replied that the pop-area doesn’t have room for those services, but noted that in the interim, libraries in nearby communities do provide them.

What happens next? “We’re looking to see where the costs will settle,” McLaughlin said, adding she anticipates that 90% of the city’s expenses will be covered by insurance. However, staff plans to come before the city council — perhaps in February — to address possible amendments to the annexation agreement, which will affect the scope of work for architectural services.

Sno-Isle Libraries noted that is has added a project update section to its website so community members can monitor the progress of reparis.

— By Teresa Wippel

  1. So… it has been flooding for years… the new station was suppose to stop that. It didn’t. And we get, “it was a perfect storm?” Isn’t that what you plan for in the beginning? Were you not guaranteed up to a particular level of flood it would protect? I’m not totally buying into this. Whatever new equipment you purchased for a new scenario….it didn’t work. Reminds me of the pump that was supposed to work when Lake Ballinger was flooding regularly. Put in a total new system but it didn’t work…

  2. In hindsight putting a rooftop irrigated garden on top of the library does not seem like the brightest idea. Certainly, this shouldn’t have been a core mission of the library. Looking forward to the “re-imagination” of the new library and that it’s up and going soon

  3. Basically what Mr. Antillon told the Council is that we were trying to pump Puget Sound back into Puget Sound which all the pumps in the world could not accomplish. Simple physics. Isn’t it about time to try working with nature in Edmonds, instead of trying to defeat nature? Sea rise and flooding are not going to go away. A tribe on the Olympic Peninsula is having to move their entire village inland or it will be under water. Everything on and near our waterfront is in nature’s bullseye right now and that is how we need to look at all future actions regarding the area.

  4. We have NEVER had a high tide of 17 feet. The highest recorded tide in December 2022 was 12.4 feet (on the 25th, 26th, and 27th). Yes it was high but 17 feet would put pretty much the entire area to Edmonds Way under water. The high (12+ foot) tide was aggravated by strong winds that created big waves and a storm surge.

    A high (12+ foot) tide is not uncommon, particularly in December. We had a similarly high tide (12.4 feet) on December 7 2021.

  5. So, my conclusion would be that we will need to factor in natural things like frequent high tides, high winds and big waves into all future decisions about anything we do or build at the waterfront. Maybe it’s time to think about making Dayton St. near Harbor Square an elevated roadway over the tracks to keep it open and usable during times like we just had and the emergency full time access to the waterfront that we think we need? Is anyone conducting studies about how potential and almost assured sea level rise will impact this area in relation to the Port, Harbor Square, the WFC, Ferry Terminal and its future parking and traffic needs? Maybe doing nothing for awhile would be a much better approach than doing something and getting it wrong.

    1. Clinton,

      Not following your rationale for suggesting an “elevated roadway over the tracks” given the following in the article:

      “The daylighting of Willow Creek…is a critical part of solving the flooding issue because right now there’s just a pipe that goes out to the sound, so when that water level backs up into the (Edmonds) Marsh, it takes a long time for that water to drain now,” English said.”

      Clearly, the next focus of the City of Edmonds should be on the daylighting of Willow Creek.

      1. Joan, I’m not necessarily advocating anything or being opposed to anything. I’m advocating figuring out what mother nature is going to do, as best we can, and making our decisions, as best we can, based on that. If daylighting Willow Creek is going to mitigate or shorten the flooding time of the area then lets do it for sure. It sounds like the periodic flooding is never going to go away no matter what we do. So, lets not build anymore permanent type structures (roads, apartments, ferry parking lots, public meeting places, public walkways etc.) in what will continue to be a flood area. It also sounds like, even daylighted, Willow Creek will continue to stop flowing out to sea when the sea comes flowing in on a King tide backed by high winds, rain and snow melt and a rising sea level.

        1. Clinton,

          All of what you say is exactly why the focus should be on daylighting Willow Creek, which is about expanding the Marsh Estuary and creating free flow of water to the Sound and access of salmon to return upstream to spawn. Simplistic explanation but my point is it will not require any of the structures that you list. And yes, it will cost a lot of money, but from a stewardship of the environment for future generations perspective, which frames my thinking, it is the best and only choice we have.

          Here is a link to a myedmondsnews article (sent to me by Ken Reidy) of a Council meeting when the flooding issue was discussed during my term on Council. It’s worth a read if you want to better understand the issues:
          https://myedmondsnews.com/2013/05/9-million-to-address-dayton-street-flooding-and-daylight-willow-creek-city-council-told/

  6. I’m going to question the assertion that daylighting Willow Creek is a solution for the flooding on Dayton St.. If one simply looks at the watershed map for the area, Willows Creek and the Marsh do not flow towards Dayton. Hence, improving their flow to the Sound will have no effect on the flooding on Dayton. The flooding is a byproduct of a local low point and an inadequately sized stormwater pipe under Dayton. The watershed which feeds this pipe is rather large, so a fast and heavy rainfall will quickly overwhelm the system, as we’ve seen multiple times now. I’m not sure how the recently installed pump is supposed to solve this problem. Obviously, it hasn’t. Perfect storm or not, is it money down the proverbial drain?

  7. Shoveling snow is a physically strenuous task. The combination of the physical strain and cold temperatures can increase the risk of heart attacks, particularly in older individuals, not to mention the risk of injury from slips and falls.

    Should Edmonds city government be pushing this? I also question whether the related Edmonds City Code would stand up in Court, especially when the snow is pushed onto sidewalks by snowplows.

    Furthermore, the city did not comply with its own law during the last snowfall. For example, the city failed to remove snow and ice from the sidewalk to the east of Civic Park.

    The city claims it enforces its code “generally through a complaint-generated system”. I find this to be very arbitrary. I also know that the city will ignore a code enforcement complaint and not provide the citizen who submitted the complaint any information about the status of the complaint.

    The Edmonds City Code states that the mayor shall see that all laws and ordinances are faithfully enforced.

    My experience informs me that code enforcement in Edmonds comes down to the choices and willpower of city officials, choices which can be all over the board.

    1. I got an idea convince the ferry to move the landing then that whole area could be redeveloped and eliminate the flooding. Or maybe we can use it for recreational kayaking during storm events and just deal with the rare flooding.

  8. I agree with Joan Bloom on Willow Creek because it is something that works in concert with nature, as opposed to futile attempts to control what nature does and will continue to do. Convincing the decision makers that this is the right course of action and the place to spend public funds will be another story. The clean up and transfer of property from the state to the city should probably have happened long ago but we have various special interests dragging their feet a bit on this I suspect.

  9. Jim O points out some interesting data. Where does the water come from to get to the low point at Dayton. And where does the water come from to the Marsh? Are they connected in any way? It looks like we have a way to get water from the low point on Dayton with the pumping station to PS.?? And we have a way to get the water from the Marsh to PS, the creek that is mostly in a pipe. Each have a way to get water to PS.

    Did anyone test the water at Dayton? What it salty? If not then we need a pumping station to handle the volume at Dayton.

    For the Marsh, I have not seen any data showing that it overflowed except for the water coming down Hwy104.
    Where does the water go that goes into drains along the road? I recall it goes to the Marsh??

    We can lower the level of the Marsh any time we want with the gates?? If a weather event is anticipated, then we could lower the Marsh at low tide and make room for more water.

    There must be more to this story. What is missing??

  10. The salt water intrusion from Puget Sound probably only occurs with the extremes of King tides and sustained high winds and wave action. The pump or pumps are probably quite adequate to obtain the needed drainage most of the time, but there will always be a time frame periodically that will negate the ability of the pumps to function with any purpose. When the Puget Sound level meets or exceeds the fresh water level, Puget Sound incoming force will stop all water flow out. The unknowns are how much is climate change going to raise Puget Sound and are these more frequent and longer lasting snow and torrential rain events going to continue to alter the water tables, both fresh and salt? Another issue is, if you daylight Willow Creek, a naturally meandering delta type stream, do you try to make a permanent channel for it; and then the question becomes, will nature let it stay permanently fixed? Dayton St, harbor area flooding goes way back before climate change was a thing which should be kept in mind too, in terms of can we fix it?

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