Rain, rain go away

By Leslie Moriarty

Herald Writer

SNOHOMISH — Like many folks, Dick Stephens wasn’t too happy to see more rain this week.

But Stephens has his own reason why.

Stephens spent the Thanksgiving weekend trying to keep his home and all his belongings from floating away. He’s not in a flood area. But he claims water from a city detention pond is running downhill and flooding his yard.

"It’s been wet in my yard ever since August," he said. "But now it’s really wet."

It’s so wet that he’s spent $8,000 in the past few days having a deep trench dug all the way around his property to keep water from his home. He’s hired contractors to assess what’s going on.

"They all tell me it’s puzzling," he said. "But they all agree, the only source of water around here is the city’s detention pond."

Coupled with that, the city built a ditch along his street to carry excess water away from the area. But now that ditch is overrun with water, and that water is backing up on Stephens’ and his neighbors’ properties.

City officials, however, deny that the city is to blame for the water on Stephens’ property.

"The city has tested the area around the detention pond and there is no drainage from there onto Mr. Stephens’ property," said Jack Collins, interim city manager. "We’ve found no evidence that the pond or the ditch are creating the problem."

Others who know the history of the area disagree.

Local historian Bob Hierman has studied the area and thinks residential development is contributing to the problem.

"This is all payback (from development)," Hierman said. "Too many houses have been built on wetlands, and now the water is running downhill."

And downhill from the recent addition of the Casino Royale housing development is just where Stephens lives, at 606 19th Ave.

It was just about three years ago when more than 90 homes were built on the hill above Blackman’s Lake after city approval.

Stephens bought his home in June 1998.

"When we bought, there was a little wet area in the corner of our yard," Stephens said. "But it was never an issue, not until the past few months."

In August, when Stephens first began to see his backyard getting wetter by the day, he said city engineers came out and told him that the city had installed a water drainage system on his property two years ago to help remove excess water.

But Stephens found that the system was no longer enough and he had to call in his own construction crew to dig a deeper trench.

"The water was reaching the foundation of my house on Thanksgiving," he said. "I had to do something immediately."

He will also have to pay for foundation repairs, and he knows he’s lost trees and landscaping in his backyard.

When Collins and city engineer Bob Hanson were on the property this week, they concluded that it was the way the lot was configured that caused the excess water problem.

The soil also is thick clay that doesn’t absorb water well, Collins said.

Mayor Doug Thorndike, who spent part of the Thanksgiving weekend at Stephens’ place, said he doesn’t think the water is anything the city caused.

"There’s nothing deficient in the city’s infrastructure contributing to this," Thorndike said. "It’s a consequence of a lot of minor reroutings of water."

While the city is telling Stephens it’s a "private problem" for him to solve, Stephens and others such as Hierman are still researching.

"What the city has there isn’t a detention pond," said Hierman. "It’s a reservoir.

"It’s not detaining anything. It’s an area where the city has dammed flowing water and created a reservoir. The development should never have been allowed, and now this guy — Stephens — is paying for it. He’s the victim."

Stephens hopes that the buried pipes will help his property dry out.

If that fails, he plans to continue to contact the city.

"I’ve got a lot better things to do with my life than fight City Hall," Stephens said. "But this is my house. This is where my family lives. There has to be a solution."

You can call Herald Writer Leslie Moriarty at 425-339-3436

or send e-mail to moriarty@heraldnet.com.

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