Oak Harbor's storm water outfall on hold until 2011

The 42-inch storm water outfall replacement project is on hold until next year, City Engineer Eric Johnston announced at a recent public works standing committee meeting.

Oak Harbor Bay’s marine environment has taken its toll of the 40-plus-year-old pipe. A mixture of high tide, wind, rain and sand caused extreme erosion, which dramatically shortened the pipe and increased the amount of city manpower needed to clear the outfall to prevent flooding along Highway 20.

About two years ago the engineering department decided the aging storm water pipe needed to be replaced due to growing maintenance costs, said project engineer Arnie Peterschmidt.

From about October through February, city public works crews visit the pipe several times a week to unclog it and clear sand from the opening. During the summer, crews clear the pipe about once a month.

City officials hoped to start construction this summer; however, there’s no funding available and there’s uncertainty over mitigation measures and how they should be accomplished, Peterschmidt said.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife restricts construction near Puget Sound waters, making shoreline work tricky. The entire project must be completed between July 15 and Sept. 15, according to permit restrictions based on salmon migration.

“That’s also the heavy-use period,” Johnston said. “This project is a major impact to Windjammer Park. ... It’s an area used very heavily in the summertime.”

Johnston estimates the pipe replacement project will take two to three months.

“We want to get in and out of there as quickly as we can,” he said.

Construction is estimated at about $1 million, which covers the cost of moving the 42-inch corrugated steel pipe from its current location to a new spot near the east outfall.

The cost does not include an extension of the waterfront trail, parking lot improvement and parking-stall stripping.

Development Service Director Steve Powers said at this stage, the trail extension is “a blue line on an aerial map” that has great potential.

“This opportunity to rebuild a trail comes along once in a very long while. It doesn’t mean we should go for the Cadillac version, but we should set a standard and think long term,” he said.

Mayor Jim Slowik had also hoped to tackle the outfall sooner than later.

“I want to do it his year for safety reasons, but public works has decided they can do this another year,” he said about the department’s willingness to nurse the aging outfall through another rainy season.

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