Solar Surge: Eclipse Causes Intense Traffic, Shedding Light on Overflows

Let’s be real: Summer in the Pacific Northwest is not the time that its denizens are most vigilant about maintaining their stormwater facilities. It’s as dry as a bone and folks are doing everything they can to distract themselves from the looming winter rains.

I am just as busy during the summer as any other season as an Operations Manager for Restoration and Recovery in the Pacific Northwest.  This is the perfect time to remove sediment, whether it be a stormwater pond, swale, or an underground asset (such as a catch basin or proprietary system).  The key here is cost savings for our clients. A vac truck has much less to remove if that sediment in a catch basin is not mixed with standing water. A Contech filter takes significantly less time to replace if we aren’t managing untreated stormwater still in the unit. Bringing in this type of equipment and managing disposal can be a costly endeavor, so we try addressing these items during this dry period.

As luck would have it, last Monday put our scheduled route right in the Path of Totality (Portland, Salem, Eugene, and in between). As a result, an estimated one million visitors came to the Beaver State for a better view of the eclipse. Suddenly, we had a traffic and hotel crisis on our hands.

A surge of people has distinct similarities to a flood of water, and pits similar issues on affected communities. The main roads get clogged just as tributaries supersaturate a main river; excesses in humans and water will spill over into unexpected and unintended areas. Most importantly, planning and maintenance ensures that the occasional flood is a nuisance and not an emergency.

It just so happens that planning and maintenance are our bread and butter at Restoration and Recovery. We dodged $500-$1,000/night hotels through camping and a KOA visit. Our route zigzagged inside the Path, while everyone was jostling to get to towards Totality. We even fit in an oil change. With the right kind of preparation and prior knowledge, keeping your assets safe from the surge is easy.

While on our various sites, the dry climate meant that there was less vegetation to manage and more opportunity to focus on other elements of stormwater maintenance. We followed through with our time-tested plans for system upkeep: gauging sediment deposits from Oregon’s smoke-and-ash-laden winds; cleaning and replacing the aforementioned Contech filters; re-mulching Filterra phytoremediation vaults; and documenting the resilience of rehabilitated native vegetation growth to the long drought. We can also spend more energy on cleaning catch basins of trash, removing sediment from curb cuts and channels, and cleaning loading dock drains.

Of course, with all this time looking down at basins and proprietary devices, we also had to find time to look up. The eclipse reminds us to breathe in the awe of nature and the cosmos once in awhile. Our escape route on Sunday brought us within a couple miles of the Pacific, where we couldn’t resist detouring to briefly soak in the tides (another moon-made masterpiece).

Another popular place for tourists to flow to, the Pacific Ocean, stands as the ultimate destination for virtually all of the stormwater we protect and manage out west. Its enormous power and ecological sensitivity are echoed in all of the rivers, lakes, and detention ponds that feed into it. The snowy Cascades give melted ice to the western rivers and streams, and provide a cushion to keep moisture in the area. Even out east in the desert, this water plays a major role: Oregon’s high desert has five Wild and Scenic rivers that all empty into the same place, and gets 15 inches of annual rainfall to add to the watershed.

If your stormwater system needs maintenance or if you have questions about complying with your state and local stormwater regulations, start a dialogue with Restoration and Recovery; we are here to help.