City suggests residents ‘adopt’ storm drains

Drains such as this on Main Street were recently cleared by a city volunteer. [Photo courtesy of Kenneth Michael Roberts]

Rain finally returned to the Willamette Valley last weekend and, as leaves have already begun their autumnal turn, the city is suggesting that residents “adopt” neighborhood storm drains by keeping an eye on debris build-up.

“It’s just nice that if, at points when we get these unexpected heavy rains, if somebody lives next to a drain and that’s flooding and it’s not taking the water in, that they could just wipe the material off,” said Public Works and Development Director Faye Stewart.

When drains become clogged with fallen leaves and other debris, water may pool on streets and intersections or even work its way onto private property.

While city workers are responsible for keeping the drains clear, there are dozens of miles of street gutter to maintain with a utility crew of about 10 workers. As unexpected heavy rains and early fall leaves can make for a sudden increase in debris, the city is suggesting residents be aware of any pools or flooding.

“It’s just something that they can help out with,” said Stewart. “We do our best to prepare and get our crew out there to take the sweeper and clean the streets, but sometimes we don’t get everywhere and it’s just nice to have some added help if folks are able to assist. It’s not mandatory. It’s also nice when people pick up garbage in the community and put it in the trash can. It’s certainly not their responsibility, but it helps make our community a better place to live and potentially helps reduce damage that might occur from certain events.”

Still, many residents voiced disagreement on social media that the city would ask for assistance when utility bills already charge for stormwater.

“I mean, that’s legitimate. That’s our responsibility and we certainly try to get there,” said Stewart in response. “If someone is inclined to assist, that’s great. If not, residents can call the non-emergency line at the police department.”

The Cottage Grove Police Department’s non-emergency number is 541-942-9145.

“The last thing we want is somebody to have some damage,” said Stewart.

In the past, some residences have experienced flooding which has moved onto property and into garages.

“So we’ve added additional storm grates, but we also make a point when we know storms are coming to make sure those grates are clean,” said Stewart.

He also advised residents to be aware of where they put garbage cans as they can block gutters and cause pooling and flow into others’ property.

There is no formal way to “adopt” the drains; the city simply recommends residents take note of drainage systems and either clear clogs themselves or call the city.

When clearing a storm drain, the city recommends:

· Use a rake, shovel, or broom - not hands.

· If possible, clear the drain before it starts raining.

· Clear surface debris only. Let city crews handle garbage or any hazards in the catch basin.

· Pile leaves on the street surface near the gutter or edge of the road if no gutter. Keep the gutter, ditches and street grates free of leaves.

· Clear about 10 feet on both sides of the drain.

· Wear reflective clothing for traffic safety.

· Only clear drains that are along the curb. Don’t clear drains in the middle of a street - leave that to the city.

· Be careful of standing water to avoid slipping or stepping on sharp objects.

· If children are helping, make sure adults are supervising.

· Don’t lift heavy storm drain grates.

To address additional questions, contact the Public Works Department at 541-942-3349, or email at [email protected].

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