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Rate hike could fix highway flooding

Flooding along Highway 20 slowed rush-hour traffic Monday evening. City officials hope to fix the problem this summer. - Jenny Manning/Whidbey News-Times
Flooding along Highway 20 slowed rush-hour traffic Monday evening. City officials hope to fix the problem this summer.
— image credit: Jenny Manning/Whidbey News-Times

A section of Highway 20 from Beeksma Drive to Barlow Street looked more like a small body of water than a roadway Monday night.

The Oak Harbor Police Department placed cones along the pavement and flashed their patrol cars’ red and blue lights to alert rush-hour traffic of the flooded highway.

“We’re just trying to slow it down,” said Sgt. Sean Magorrian.

This stretch of road is known for its tendency to flood, said Oak Harbor Public Works Operations Manager Steve Bebee. Storm drains in the area flow to a 42-inch storm water pipe that empties near the boat ramp on the west side of Windjammer Park.

“It’s in bad shape,” he said of the heavily eroded pipe.

“There’s not a whole lot we can do when there’s high tide and heavy rain,” he said. “The water has no place to go because that outfall gets plugged up with sand.”

According to AccuWeather.com, eight-tenths of an inch of wind-whipped rain fell Monday in Oak Harbor.

Oak Harbor Public Works waited until the tide was low enough to get a back hoe on the beach and clear the sand, which was around 6 p.m. Monday. Afterwards, the water came gushing out, Bebee said.

Now there’s a plan in motion to fix the more than 50-year-old storm water pipe.

City officials have a completed design and are currently in the permitting process.

“We don’t have the money to pay for the project. We just have the money to sustain it,” Bebee said. “If funding is in place, it’ll get done next summer.”

City officials may raise funds through a rate increase to pay for the project that’s estimated to cost between $700,000 and $1 million.

The City Council will hold a special meeting to discuss a recent utility rate study and proposed rate increases to fund future projects and operations. The public meeting will take place Thursday, Nov. 19 at 6 p.m. at Oak Harbor City Hall, 865 SE Barrington Dr.

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