Sewer fixes coming to flood-prone area next summer
EVERETT - The city will make its first big step in separating its problem-prone combined sewer and storm water pipes in north Everett next summer.
Flood-affected neighbors elsewhere in north Everett, though, say the city needs to accelerate its work to cover them too. Their request is something the city says it can’t raise enough money to do.
The upcoming $13.5 million Sewer “M” project separates sewer and storm water pipes under 30 blocks of the Northwest and Bayside neighborhoods. Construction is set to start August 2014.
To do the separation, the city will be proposing to convey the storm water to Puget Sound by building a bridge over West Marine View Drive with the pipe on it. The $6 million bridge would also be a pedestrian crossing.
The entire project would reach $20 million.
Everett has two other separation projects in the pipeline: One separates pipes around Everett Community College, called Sewer “N,” and another along East Grand Avenue. Sewer “N,” which is bigger, is set to start construction in 2016 or 2017. The city is just starting pre-design work on Sewer “N.”
The city’s lengthy construction timeline upsets Northwest Neighborhood chair Shelley Weyer.
“Project N needs to be urgent,” Weyer told Everett City Council members last week. When it rains heavily, her neighbors brace themselves for flooding, she said.
“When it rains, I want you to think of your neighbors,” Weyer said.
Quite simply, there isn’t enough money in the budget to build Sewer “M” and Sewer “N” at the same time, public works director Dave Davis said.
The city’s utility rate fund pays for these projects, but also everyday utility maintenance.
Public works typically budgets $5 million for projects such as Sewer “M” from the fund. The fund has $30 million in it, but almost $26 million pays for everyday utility maintenance and repaying construction bonds issued for big projects.
In the meantime, the city will start installing backwater valves at 150 buildings in the Sewer “M” area to the tune of $525,000. The valves prevent pipes from backing into homes.
The city also will encourage people across north Everett to install rain gardens and divert roof downspouts out of storm water pipes with incentives totaling more than $75,000.
“We will be aggressively working with these folks,” Davis said on the backwater valves.
The East Grand Avenue project is set to start in 2015 to separate pipes along East Grand between about 22nd and Everett Avenue. The Sewer “N” project covers the area west of Legion Park.
City leaders acknowledge that separating all of north Everett’s combined sewer pipes will be arduous and costly.
The combined system in north Everett serves an area of about 6,500 miles and consists of 145 miles of pipelines, not including side sewers, city spokeswoman Meghan Pembroke said.
Sewer “M” will separate a small fraction of that.
Davis estimated it may cost $600 million to separate all the pipes.
A utility rate analysis that considers the cost of separating pipes is due this spring. The issue could prompt council members to discuss modifying utility rates.
The City Council sets utility rates on a four-year cycle. The council last locked in the rates in 2012.
The city estimates the Aug. 29 and Sept. 5 floods could cost $3.5 million in flood damage claims. It’s reviewing almost 200 damage claims.
A separate $18 million reserve pays for damage claims and system emergencies.
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