Two large water mains – essential for supplying downtown Bellingham with water for fire suppression and for daily use – are more than 80 years old and require maintenance and repair. The challenge is that the underground mains run through the Cemetery Creek restoration area adjacent to Whatcom Creek, an environmentally sensitive area that has been carefully restored following the pipeline explosion in Whatcom Creek in June 1999.
Crews for the City of Bellingham Public Works will be working in the area to clear trees and vegetation to remove hazards to the water mains and also to provide quicker access, if either main were to fail and require repair. The two mains, which are 24" and 36," are among the City's largest.
According to Mike Olinger, Public Works superintendent for Operations, if either water main failed the consequences would be significant.
“Maintaining access to these lines is critical to basic community life safety needs," said Olinger. He said both mains supply the downtown core.
Bellingham Public Works' Natural Resources division has restored and maintains multiple habitat restoration projects along Whatcom and Cemetery creeks, adjacent to the underground water mains, as part of the Olympic Pipeline settlement.
“The restoration sites are thriving and the habitat value will continue to increase over time," said Renee LaCroix, Public Works assistant director for Natural Resources. “Conducting regular maintenance reduces the likelihood of a water main break which would cause significant environmental damage."
This work is being coordinated between the Operations and Natural Resources divisions of Bellingham Public Works and the City's Planning and Community Development department.
The maintenance work will be as cautious as possible in the ecologically sensitive area. Clearing will be limited to an area just 20-feet wide from the center of the two water mains. The maintenance work is expected to begin later this month and be completed in October. There will no impact to traffic or surrounding areas.