BBWARM awarded federal grant

Published on Wed, Aug 14, 2013
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Birch Bay Watershed and Aquatic Resources Management (BBWARM) is on track to receive a $94,750 federal grant for storm water retrofit projects after the Whatcom County Council signed off on the funding August 6.

The grant comes from the National Estuary Program and is administered through the state department of ecology. Public works senior planner Kraig Olason said the funding comes at a good time for BBWARM.

“We’d just gone through the process of narrowing down the projects we’ll be focusing on, and this grant allows us to lay the groundwork for those projects,” he said.

Four projects near the Birch Bay waterfront are currently in the pre-design phase, a process that compiles field experiments, survey maps, community input and historical data to decide how best to proceed with watershed management objectives.

“The outcome will be four well-considered projects and a very good level of information to start our design work,” Olason said. The projects, aimed at improving storm water outflows to the bay, are being developed in response to the comprehensive master plan, the sub-watershed plan and incident reports.

“Through the process of modeling, we determine the chokepoints of the water flow,” Olason said. “We also look at water quality through monitoring sites over several years. 

These show us the history of fecal coliform outbreaks, and where water treatment facilities might be necessary.”

Ultimately, the projects aim to reduce the risk of flooding, improve water quality and reduce bacteria levels in storm water entering Birch Bay. The pre-design work is expected to continue over the next year.

The four projects affected by the funds are located in areas near Cottonwood Drive, Beach Way Drive, Wooldridge Avenue and North Bay Park.

BBWARM’s application for the grant was boosted by Birch Bay’s designation as a priority watershed area in the greater Puget Sound region.

“The department of ecology identified the areas we’re studying as areas where storm water retrofit projects would be most effective,” said Ingrid Enschede, public works program specialist.

Enschede said the grant is an example of how local funding of BBWARM is paying off for Birch Bay residents.

“Without that local investment, we wouldn’t have been able to leverage for federal funding,” she said.

BBWARM will host a public meeting later this fall to provide Birch Bay residents with more information about the projects, and to solicit information on the project areas from the community.

BBWARM has also begun construction of the Cottonwood neighborhood water quality and stormwater drainage improvements project, which includes the installation of a storm water redirect and water quality treatment infrastructure. The planned outflow pipe to Birch Bay will run under Cedar Avenue. Most work will occur on Cedar Avenue from Halverson Park to the beach and below Seaview Drive and Maple Crest Avenue.