WENATCHEE — A culvert that caused rock and debris to impact mobile homes on Boodry Street did what it was supposed to do, according to Chelan County officials.
The culvert allowed water to pass from one side of Squilchuck Road to the other, said Josh Patrick, Chelan County Public Works assistant director. But it was the amount of water that caused the side of the hill to wash out and sent debris and mud downhill, impacting three homes.
“So it has been functioning in the past, but just every once in a while they get these big storm events,” Patrick said. “And that sandy soil — it doesn’t take much for that soil to get moving once water is introduced into it.”
A catch basin on the other side of Squilchuck Road also overflowed, Chelan County Commissioner Kevin Overbay said. The catch basin was built as part of the Saddlehorn Development construction.
This is not the first time that this has happened, Patrick said. A similar event occurred in 2010, but debris only flowed down next to the homes and no residences were damaged.
The culvert that caused this also existed before the Squilchuck Creek Community mobile home development below it was built, Patrick said. The mobile home park was constructed sometime in the 2000s.
“These things have been there before the property was ever developed,” Patrick said. “People choose to place homes over these drainways.”
Community Development Director Dave Kuhl wasn’t sure why the county approved construction of the mobile home park below the culvert, but said he was looking into it. Overbay also said he wasn’t sure why the county decided to allow it to be constructed. Neither Kuhl nor Overbay worked for the county in the 2000s.
The county is looking into why this occurred and what mechanisms, if any, can be put into place to prevent it from happening again, Overbay said. It is private property and the county can’t use taxpayer dollars to fix private property, he said.
The public works department does not have any plans to fix the drainage from that culvert at this time, Patrick said. It is also a difficult process to divert runoff as it often can impact other residences.
“Typically, when you take water and turn it away from one property owner, it is just going to impact another,” he said. “So it is a very complicated repair scenario to take water that has traditionally been going one place and push it somewhere else.”
It is probably not the last time that the hillside above the mobile home development will wash out, Patrick said.
“As properties develop, we try to do our best to make sure things are accommodated for,” he said. “Storms like this, they are unusual, but they are becoming more and more usual. I can’t say why. But these heavy rain events, it's hard for any infrastructure to accommodate this kind of stuff without spending lots and lots of money on it.”
Chelan County Public Works is also trying to replace a culvert under South Wenatchee Avenue that caused a sinkhole, The Wenatchee World previously reported. The department has funding from the state Department of Ecology to replace the culvert, but is still working on it, Patrick said. The metal culvert rotted away from old age.