Chico Way resident with water, water everywhere may have an answer

It looks as if there may be a solution to all the storm water that's flooding Barbara Wilhite's backyard.

But Wilhite, who lives downhill from Highway 3 in the 7000 block on Chico Way, won't believe it until she sees it.

"I'm not convinced that this plans going to work," she said. "It sounds to me like it might actually bring more water on my property."

It was last month that Wilhite began talking to officials at the State Department of Transportation about the water that was pouring into her backyard from off Highway 3 which towers over her property.

Wilhite said she knows it's been really wet lately. She's aware there's been more rain so far in March and April than the area usually gets in the entire month of March.

But there's been wet times before and she's lived on her property since 1988. She's never seen her back yard like it's been.

"You just can't go out there," she said a few weeks ago. "There's water everywhere. Sometimes it's actually cascading over the edge of hill and down my steps like it was a river."

After looking into the problem, state DOT officials informed her last week that they plan to install a pipe in the ditch that runs along the highway.

"It will run past her place and be taken down the way to avoid any water running on her property," said Doug Adamson, DOT spokesman. "The excess water will then be dispersed along a greater length and will be naturally absorbed along the way."

He said after talking with engineers, he was certain that the placement of the pipe would correct the situation for Wilhite and would not create a storm water runoff problem for any other property owner.

Wilhite moved into the house in 1988 when she married her husband who has since died. He bought the house in 1974 and she knows the history of the property quite well. During the years, she's added a number of raised beds in her backyard which backs to Highway 3. She has a covered trellis, a patio, a rock garden and a shed in the yard.

It was last month when she decided to begin planning for her spring planting that she really began to notice the water. Her first call was to Kitsap County.

"They sent someone out, but he told me that it wasn't a county matter," she said. "He told me the water was all coming from highway and that I needed to call the State Department of Transportation."

So she did. She also called the Kitsap Health District and asked that they come out and test the water to make sure it wasn't contaminated water. She was worried about whether she'd be able to plant her gardens if the area was covered with water that was bad.

In all, Wilhite has more than 20 pages of notes from the calls that she's made to government agencies since Feb. 19.

Niels Nicolaisen, an environmental health specialist with the Kitsap Health District, was able to test the water and confirmed that there was no bacteria in the water.

In mid March, officials of the State Department of Transportation came out and took a look. "They said its storm water runoff overflowing out of the gully," she said.

At that time, State DOT officials confirmed that there was a catch basin in the median of Highway 3 which is routed underneath the highway and onto her property. They suspect that because of the recent heavy rain, the water has overflowed the catch basin and is causing the problems.

But Wilhite said she saw state crews digging in the easement prior to the heavy rains and she thinks that caused the water to be diverted onto her property. The real problem is that she can't get to the location to observe what's going on, due to how wet it is and the slope from the highway to her yard.

Jacques Dean, road superintendent for Kitsap County, said country crews have been out to inspect and indeed, the water is coming from the highway, so the county can't do anything.

He did say that a neighbor of her's recently paved the shared driveway both residents use which was forcing rainwater onto Chico Way. Crews had sandbagged the bottom of the drive to divert the water into drainage ditches alongside the road.

The pipe is expected to be placed by DOT within the next week.

Wilhite said she'll be watching and hoping that it's the right fix.


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