Snohomish County Council approves Surface Water Management reorganization

At their July 5, 2017, meeting, the Snohomish County Council approved a new plan that consolidates the county’s surface water utility into one surface water management district in order to cut costs and improve services.

From a Snohomish County news release.

On July 5, 2017, the Snohomish County Council approved a plan to restructure the county’s surface water management utility from three separate districts into one.

The reforms in Ordinance 17-020 will cut administrative costs, improve accountability and provide better services to the public. The changes are expected to go into effect later this summer.

Until now, Snohomish County Surface Water Management (SWM) has operated as three separate utilities — South County, Snohomish, and the Stillaguamish River Clean Water District — even though people pay the same rates and expect the same services countywide.

According to Surface Water Management Director, Will Hall, “The previous utility structure was obsolete and inefficient, wasting resources and taxpayer dollars.”

The new ordinance is expected to save the county $480,000 in reduced administrative costs, allowing more money to be invested directly in public services.

“I’m excited to see this much-needed reform go from idea to implementation,” said County Executive, Dave Somers. “It is another great example of the county’s STEP initiative in action and part of our commitment to continuously improving how the county does business.”

The Service, Technology, Excellence Program (STEP) is an effort to incorporate LEAN principles into county processes to improve customer service and minimize waste of resources. 

This ordinance improves a successful small grants program, one that was working in only part of the county, by expanding it into a countywide program to assist landowners with surface water improvement projects. The ordinance will also improve transparency and accountability by requiring new annual reporting to the Council and the public.

“With the consolidation of SWM, Snohomish County once again shows how it can both improve services to the public and save resources,” said Brian Sullivan, Snohomish County Council Chair. “We greatly value the knowledge of the volunteer advisory board members and we appreciate their continued recommendations through a six-month transition period.”

Utility rates will not change under the new structure, and the Council will evaluate the system again in three years to ensure that projects and services are fairly distributed throughout the county.

“Communication with ratepayers is essential to delivering government services effectively,” Hall said. “This plan increases transparency and provides more opportunities for the public to share their input on SWM priorities.”

Snohomish County's Surface Water Management (SWM) Division provides a variety of programs and services to reduce road and property flooding, and to preserve and improve the health of Snohomish County's water resources. SWM’s priority areas of service are:

  • Clean water in rivers, streams and lakes;
  • Habitat for fish and aquatic wildlife;
  • River flooding and erosion; and
  • Stormwater drainage systems.

“This is a great example of making the county less bureaucratic and more responsive to taxpayers,” said Nate Nehring, Snohomish County Councilmember. “I look forward to finding more ways to support consolidation and cost-cutting across the county.”


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