Rainy days: from sprinkles to storms | Guest Column

By Ed Hale, manager of SJ County Public Works Stormwater Utility

Special to the Journal

What is storm water and why does it matter to you? In the coming weeks, the San Juan County Surface and Stormwater Assistance Program will present a series of articles that describe how the rain water running off our yards, pastures, and streets and drains onto or off your property.

The series opens with a description of stormwater and the services we provide. In the coming weeks you will read about causes and solutions to seasonal standing water on your property, how to identify and address septic system failure, how to manage pastures for healthier livestock and improved water quality, and what we are finding in the water running off our land and into our marine waters.

We live in the maritime Northwest and rain is a part of our lives. It grows our crops, recharges our aquifers and reservoirs, feeds our streams, and provides sustenance to the plant and animal kingdoms, including the residents of San Juan County.

Water is a defining factor in our region and may be our most important resource.  Water can also be a significant problem.   Uncontrolled surface runoff can damage both public and private property.  In extreme cases it erodes our land, damages our roads, and threatens our homes.

We were reminded of the impact stormwater can have last September when a significant rainstorm moved through Eastsound dumping nearly two inches of rain in a two-hour period. This overwhelmed some stormwater systems and caused flooding that resulted in property damage. For many, they were aware of some problem areas, but this was the worst flooding they had seen.

Are you aware of problem areas on your property?

Some people experienced this type of flooding for the first time, while others were aware that a recurring surface water or stormwater problem existed, but it wasn’t bad enough to worry about. The issue may be minor flooding, erosion from the driveway or a private road, or ponding from downspouts. Or the less obvious flooding over your septic system can cause a sewage back-up into your home.

If you own or manage agricultural land, you are probably aware that flooding can cause pastures to become unusable during the winter. These types of problems are not something that you need to just live with. There are methods to improve surface runoff and prevent the impact of uncontrolled runoff. And there are technical experts that can help.

Services are available today that can evaluate your situation and offer free advice on how to improve management of your surface water.  The Surface and Stormwater Assistance Program (SSWAP) is a group of experts from local agencies that deal directly with surface water and stormwater issues related to development, agriculture, and on-site sewage systems on private property.

SSWAP members can work with you on site to evaluate your situation and offer advice regarding potential solutions. SSWAP can also assist larger agricultural operations and homeowners associations.




Do you have a surface water or stormwater concern? Would you like some help dealing with it?

Contact one of the SSWAP partners below for free assistance.

Surface and Stormwater Assistance Program contacts:

San Juan County Public Works

Contact: Ed Hale




Technical Assistance

Town of Friday Harbor Public Works

Contact: Wayne Haefele



Technical Assistance

San Juan Islands Conservation District



Technical Assistance

Low Impact Development

Rain Gardens

On-site Sewage Systems

San Juan County Health and Community Services



Technical Assistance

Financial Assistance

Low-interest loan program

Agricultural Flooding and Water Quality Concerns

Washington State University Extension



Technical Assistance


We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.

Read the Oct 19
Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Browse the archives.

Friends to Follow

View All Updates