Finn Hill Surface Water Management Project Update

Finn Hill Surface Water Management Project Update

Fall/Winter Update

After submitting the Finn Hill Surface Water Management Project (SWAMP) report to Kirkland in June 2012, I was invited to meet with Kirkland Public Works to review our requests and to develop a list of projects and maintenance activities that would improve surface water management in our neighborhood.

I met with Jenny Gaus and Seppo Tervo to discuss the variety of maintenance, repair, education, monitoring, and capital improvement projects reported by residents across Finn Hill.  At the time of our meeting, many of the maintenance and repair activities we had recommended were either underway or already complete.  Kirkland Public Works did not waste any time before getting to work in our neighborhood!

OO Denny StreamExamples of repairs or improvements to surface water management in the Finn Hill neighborhood since June 2012:

  • Rogue runoff under the roadway at the 9600 block of 141st Place on the east side of Finn Hill required that the street be peeled back to repair the stormwater conveyance under the street.  Water had been seeping up through the asphalt and, because of the steep grade of the hill, any time there were freezing temperatures, a dangerous icy spot formed in the street.  The underground conveyance was repaired in Aug-2012 and residents are happy with the result.

Several culvert inlets have been repaired or modified, and a low spot in a sidewalk that was flooding has been modified.


  • Stormwater catchments across Finn Hill are being systematically inspected, cleaned, and repaired.  New signs are being installed to mark the ponds as community assets.
  • Seppo – the Public Works water quality specialist and field engineer – has met on site with homeowners across the neighborhood to look at specific areas of concern and to make recommendations that individuals can implement on their properties to remedy surface water problems.
  • As part of a new residential construction project, the contractor repaired roadside drainage at the 11100 block of Champagne Point Road, enabling Kirkland to reroute drainage as requested by a neighbor who had been negatively affected by stormwater runoff across part of their property.  The work is not yet complete, but resources from Kirkland Public Works and Planning departments have followed through to ensure that this issue will end with a positive result.
  • The new fieldturf lacrosse/soccer field at Big Finn Hill Park has a state-of-the-art water filtration system that treats runoff from the field before it flows to the storage pond and Denny Creek.
  • A capital improvement project at 91st Place NE on the east side of Goat Hill improved drainage that had been flooding several residences over a period of many years.  Additional drainage modifications may be necessary on some private property.  Kirkland will provide guidance and assist with design of additional surface water modifications.
  • Faith Pardue Debolt coordinated a project with Betsy Adams from Kirkland Public Works and Rain Dog Designs to install 8 rain gardens along NE 138th Street in September 2012.  Rain gardens are small areas with amended soil, planted with native plants and hardy cultivars, and covered with a finishing mulch.  Rain gardens gather and filter rain water from roof downspouts and hard surfaces that would otherwise pollute creeks, lakes and, ultimately, Puget Sound.
  • Public Works has added several hot spots to their “watch” list.  Hot spots are visited during significant rainfall events to clear debris from culvert inlets that might cause residential flooding.
  • Seppo is investigating multiple issues along NE 135th Place in the Highlands subdivision, consulting with the homeowners’ association there to provide recommendations.

Next Steps

As part of ongoing efforts to manage surface water, improve wildlife habitat, and improve water quality in the Denny Creek watershed and surrounding areas, we will be addressing several key areas during 2013:

  • Investigate feasability of daylighting Denny Creek under Juanita Drive, including a pedestrian/bike/wildlife underpass.
  • Investigate feasability of buiding a pedestrian/bike bridge over a fork of Denny Creek just below the beaver ponds in Big Finn Hill Park.
  • Leverage Kirkland resources to conduct GIS research that will provide sub-basin analysis for tributaries of Denny Creek.  The objective of this work will be to identify sub-basins that have combinations of large geographic area, significant topographic relief, and largest proportions of impermeable surface.  Follow-on work will involve mitigation of surface water in targeted areas.
  • Identify and address additional surface water problems in residential areas and open space.
  • Advocate and encourage low impact development.
  • Continue installing rain gardens across the neighborhood.
  • Decide what to do with the concrete bulkhead along the lakeshore at the north end of OO Denny Park.
  • Decide what to do with the old wooden water tank at the bottom of The Highlands at Holmes Point.

Words of Encouragement

Earl Nightingale said that “Success is the progressive realization of a worthy goal.”

OO Denny Fish LadderThe progress we have made in partnership with Kirkland Public Works, Kirkland Planning, Rain Dog Designs, and residents across the Finn Hill neighborhood represents a measure of success, but it is only a start.

Please do your part to encourage Finn Hill residents to manage the surface water on their properties.  To the extent that we can return surface water to the ground, managing it so that it percolates into the soil rather than running across the ground or flowing into underground conveyances, we will improve water quality in Denny Creek, in Lake Washington, and we will be doing our part to slow the decline of water quality in the Puget Sound Basin.  There is much more we can do, and water quality certainly is a worthy goal.

15 Responses to “Finn Hill Surface Water Management Project Update”

  1. Kathy Schuler says:

    Hi Lou, thank you for all your volunteer work! We see housing development beginning again on Finn Hill. Every acre we pave over has an effect on whether surface water is returned to the ground. Thanks for all you do!

    • Lou Berner says:

      Thanks, Kathy. It would be great to see rain gardens and cisterns built into development plans for new residential construction. I will discuss the possibilities with Jenny Gaus.

  2. Eric Adman says:

    You are really getting it done on Finn Hill! Great example of neighborhood organization & partnership!

  3. Jeanette Leach says:

    Excellent update Lou. The progress in the last year is tremendous, and is in main part a reflection of the solid work you did in the original assessment.

    The idea of daylighting Denny Creek under Juanita Drive to make a corridor for fish, wildlife and people puts emphasis on the need for the east side property to be purchased as part of the parks system.

    King County Parks personnel are on board with removing the old culvert by the beaver dam and daylighting Denny Creek in that location. Now the request needs to be pushed up the ladder to the head of King Co Parks.

    • Lou Berner says:

      Thanks, Jeanette. Please let me know how I can contribute to the discussion about trail work in the neighborhood.

  4. Scott Morris says:

    Lou, this is a terrific report. Thanks for summarizing all of the excellent follow-up work that the City has undertaken and thanks for focusing their attention on these projects. Your work has really made a difference! It’s good to have a list of future priorities, too. The City is beginning a safety-focused study on Juanita Drive, so there may be an opportunity to combine the environmental benefits of daylighting the creek under the drive with the possible safety benefits of a cyclist/pedestrian underpass. And, as Kathy mentions in her comment, we need to focus on the water quality impact of new developments on the hill. Please keep up the fabulous work!

    • Lou Berner says:

      Thanks, Scott. Please let me know about opportunities to discuss safety on Juanita Drive, especially as they relate to addressing current “Frogger” crossings for bike riders and pedestrians. I will also investigate the status of discussions about land aquisition adjacent to Denny Creek upstream from Juanita Drive.

  5. Kurt Brunnenkant says:

    Lou, Thank you for all your work on this important issue. Combining the environmental benefits of daylighting the creek under Juanita drive with the possible safety benefits of a cyclist/pedestrian underpass would be a wonderful improvement for our park system on the hill.
    Your periodic updates are appreciated.

    • Lou Berner says:

      Thanks, Kurt. It makes sense to provide long-term vision and goals that can be fed into the Finn Hill Neighborhood Development Plan. Is there a FHNA sub-group or committee that is discussing our neihgborhood planning document?

  6. Teresa Chilelli-WHite says:

    Lou! Youa re the best! Thank you, thank you, Thank you!

    • Lou Berner says:

      Thanks, Teresa. I appreciate your praise, but this work is owned by residents of Finn Hill/Holmes Point – working with Kirkland resources – to improve our neighborhood. I am just a collector and distributor of information that, in my opinion, needs to be shared. The benefits of this project belong to all of us.

      My interest is in the future because I am going to spend the rest of my life there. — Charles F. Kettering

  7. Kristin Pascal says:

    This is awesome! I’ve seen much more city “activity” in our neighborhood working on some of these items, but had no idea the work was so extensive. Thanks for keeping this top of mind, and for prioritizing our needs with the city!

    • Lou Berner says:

      Thanks, Kristin. I have been surprised by the level of interest that neighbors have about surface water issues. I am also impressed with the level of response we have gotten from Kirkland Public Works.

      Even before annexation was complete for the Finn Hill neighborhood, those guys hit the ground running. They have done a lot of good work in a short period of time.

  8. Carl F Berner says:

    Way to go Lou. Great Job! Dad