County OKs funds for Birch Bay watershed study

Published on Thu, Apr 21, 2011 by Jeremy Schwartz

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Plans that would eventually improve stormwater management in the Birch Bay watershed are in motion after a Whatcom County Council vote last week.

The council unanimously approved a list of contracts last Tuesday that included $156,458 for Seattle-based Tetra Tech Inc. to complete a comprehensive study of six specific regions in the Birch Bay watershed. The regions, called subwatersheds, stretch from east Birch Point through the uplands of Cottonwood Beach to Blaine Road.

The project cost will be funded through the Birch Bay Watershed and Aquatic Resource Management District (BBWARM) budget. The district will receive about $107,000 in grant funds from the Environmental Protection Agency.

The project, which is slated to start in May, will inventory existing drainage systems in the six subwatersheds and determine where water flows when it rains, said Kraig Olason, a senior planner with the county public works stormwater division. County public works will use the information gleaned from this work to determine where additional county-built drainage ditches may be needed, Olason explained.

Moderate flooding has occurred in the Birch Bay watershed over the years mostly due to the lack of sufficient public drainage, Olason said. Most of the existing drainage systems are privately owned and can span multiple properties, so whose responsibility it is when they overflow can be hard to determine, he added.

Public works will start to seek public comment on the project in June and will provide periodic updates throughout.
The study of the six subwatersheds will take about nine months.

The procedures Tetra Tech uses to study the six subwatersheds will eventually be applied to other areas in Birch Bay to learn where improved stormwater handling is needed, Olason said. The entire Birch Bay watershed comprises about two dozen subwatersheds.

The Tetra Tech study is part of a larger list of watershed studies in the Birch Bay Comprehensive Stormwater Plan, Olason explained.

The comprehensive plan, which was completed in July 2006, provides a broad framework for watershed management projects in Birch Bay while Tetra Tech’s work represents one of the first detailed studies of specific subwatersheds in the area.

For more information on Tetra Tech’s work, call Olason at 360/715-7450 ext. 50782 or email at
To view the comprehensive plan visit: and click on “Birch Bay Comprehensive Stormwater Plan."