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Swifty Creek drainage overflows made lakes

SNOHOMISH — Residents of the Village at Snohomish condominiums along Ford Avenue, and surrounding homes, have dealt with the flooding of Swifty Creek for decades. In February, the parking lot was nicknamed “Lake Snohomish” by condo residents, according to Marcia Hogan, the president of the Village condominiums.
With cars half-submerged, and debris piling up in the parking lot, this past rain season had the worst flooding by Swifty Creek that has ever been. The high water stayed in the condominium complex’s parking lot for a week before water levels began to fall.
Swifty Creek flows along the northern border of the Snohomish Aquatic Center property and the Village condos on Ford Avenue. When this portion of the creek floods it makes life difficult: a neighbor to the condos, Lori Rekow, explained she had to buy sand and bag it herself in hopes that the floodwater wasn’t going to reach her front door. Despite her efforts, Rekow was forced to replace the insulation under her house, due to the rising water table underground. 
As a result of the flooding in February, Hogan’s car was severely damaged along with another car that required a tow truck to remove it.
Along its route from Blackman Lake to the Snohomish River, Swifty Creek runs through a multitude of exposed channels and underground pipelines. It’s been known to cause flooding issues in various spots.
Many believe that Swifty Creek flows to the Pilchuck River, but city engineer Yosh Monzaki explained the creek actually flows through stormwater pipes that lead to the Snohomish River.
Hogan and Rekow said the flooding became a problem when the flow of Swifty Creek was rerouted along the aquatic center’s property line and the Interurban Trail, however the city informed them this was not the case. The creek empties into a retention pond on the northeast corner of the aquatic center property. The pond allows water to collect and drain through an inlet to a pipeline that leads to the Snohomish River. 

Underwater versus normal conditions:

Lori Rekow courtesy photo above, Jake Berg photo below

In February, the parking lot was a lake. At right is what the site usually looks like when it is dry, as seen roughly from the same vantage point in mid-August.


In the dry months, the creekbed is dry with a few puddles here and there, but during the rain season, Rekow said this creek turns into a small raging river. The most obvious issue that all sides seem to agree on is that blockage of the inlet pipe, within the retention pond, is the main factor in the flooding. As the creek and pond collect more and more rainwater, sticks, leaves and other debris clog the drainage inlet, leaving water levels to rise. 
The pond was so overgrown it was hard for maintenance crews to even reach the inlet in order to clear it. 
Rekow states once the pond fills up, the water rises out of the creek, across the Interurban Trail and into a drainage ditch. Already full from rainwater, the ditch begins to flood into the parking lot of the condos, and the yards of the surrounding dwellings. 
According to Hogan, the flooding has clogged the drainage pipes in the parking lot as well. Water that pools in the parking lot should flow through a drain pipe into the drainage ditch, but when the ditch floods as well, the water has nowhere to go. 
Hogan states she spoke with two people from the city and was informed the flooding was caused by debris blockage. She added they told her that the clogged drain pipe on condominium property was not the city’s responsibility.
Rekow explained that she used to be in contact with Mayor John Kartak and he would even call to check in on the issue, but according to Rekow that line of communication tapered off. 
Both Hogan and Rekow said they have tried to explain the issue to the city, the two believe that the flooding has more to do with the sheer amount of water being funneled through Swifty Creek and not as much about the debris clogging the pipes. 
“How are there three pipes that allow water to drain from Blackman Lake and it’s funneled into only one drainpipe here? That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me,” said Rekow. 
During a recent City Council budget meeting, the flooding of Swifty Creek in different spots was briefly discussed. Council members said they were aware of the problem and some suggested perhaps rerouting some of the flow into the Pilchuck River rather than the Snohomish. 
The Snohomish School District owns the aquatic center property, and is responsible for the maintenance of that stretch of the creek as well as the retention pond, although they are working with the city.
According to Snohomish School District spokeswoman Kristin Foley, the creek and pond will be regularly maintained. 
Two weeks ago, the district brought in heavy machinery to clear and remove the brush out of the retention pond. Bushes, trees and tall grasses grow densely during the summer months, taking advantage of the water-soaked soil. This proves to be a problem as the creek system fills with water, the debris creates a blockage, and water is forced over the banks. 
After the maintenance, the pond was cleared all the way to the dirt and all sources of debris in the pond were removed. Rekow was very pleased to see that some action is being taken to fix the problem. 
“So much clearing has happened. ... We are thankful for this progress towards the ability to better manage and keep the grated pipe clear this fall and winter.” Rekow said in an email.

  

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