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County focused on Freeland floods
By GAYLE SARAN
Vernon Burt has two words for Island County: Sump pump.
The Freeland resident offered this advice to county officials recently when his garage floor was under 2 inches of water from the overflow in Freeland Park.
One lot separates Burts property from the parks drainage basin, which overflowed during last weeks high tide, rain and windy weather. Several other nearby properties were also flooded.
Water came up to the floor of my neighbors house, Burt said. Its fortunate they werent here at the time.
Burt has set up a heater in his garage to dry things out.
During the winter, the public beach park on Holmes Harbor resembles a lake when rain, wind and high tides combine with Freelands downtown runoff, piped in via a drainage culvert.
Burt says he is accustomed to some front yard flooding, especially during the winter, but this time it was a little much.
Its troublesome the county hasnt done anything to control the problem, Burt said.
A sump pump in the drainage basin at the park would be an ideal solution, he thinks.
Island County Public Works officials are concerned about the problem and are about two-thirds finished with a hydrology study of the area. A pump may not be in the plans, but a new outfall to Holmes Harbor is.
The $118,000 study focuses on the amount of surface water runoff, its source and its quality.
Monitoring equipment set up alongside the open culvert that flows from Freelands business district to the park measures and records the flow. To determine water quality, samples will be taken by hand from various locations.
Both Island County and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife are interested in improving the quality of water going into Holmes Harbor.
The study will help us determine the sources of surface water flow and the quality of the water itself so that appropriate systems can be put in place to clean runoff before it goes into Holmes Harbor, said Bill Oakes, Island Countys public works director.
The new outfall is expected to be installed this summer.
The present outfall pipe on the Freeland Park beach contributes to the flooding problem because it is fairly high and uncovered at high tide, slowing the progress of water flowing into the harbor.
Another issue is the tide gate at the end of the culvert near the beach. When high tides coincide with heavy rains and runoff the water backs up behind the gate into the park.
In theory, once the tide recedes, the gate opens and allows the runoff to flow into the harbor. County officials admit the tide gate doesnt always operate as well as it could.
The tide gate could be in better repair, and it leaks when debris gets caught in the gate, said Phil Cohen, surface water manager for Island County.
Cohen said the county does check periodically for debris. But crews can't always get to the gate in time to clear it before high water arrives again from storm flows on the freshwater side or flotsam and jetsam comes from the saltwater side.
Permitting issues have delayed or suspended immediate repair of the gate, he said. If it is ever replaced, a modern, fish-friendly version will be installed.
For Burt and his neighbors, all this means is more delay and more flooding.
The last several days have been cold and dry, but Burt knows he will be sloshing through water in his yard again this winter.