Mount Shasta is a community that prides itself on clean water. In the past when water-related issues have come before City Council, meetings are often crowded to the point of overflowing. It is surprising, then, that one of the most important water topics in our city receives so little attention.

I’m talking of course about Mount Shasta’s storm drain system. Storm drains are vital infrastructure that capture runoff from rain and snowmelt and direct it out of the City, eventually to Lake Siskiyou and the Sacramento River. On its way, storm water can pick up pollutants like motor oil, trash, pet waste, herbicides, sediment, or anything else present on Mount Shasta’s pavement and lawns. Unlike our sanitary sewer system that flows to a treatment plant, storm water runoff is not treated before it’s discharged to local creeks. If managed improperly, storm water can lead to flooding and poor water quality downstream.

Our storm drains prevent flooding and protect local water quality, but they cannot run on autopilot. After decades of wear and tear, much of Mount Shasta’s drainage system is sorely in need of repair and expansion. Our Public Works Department uses a Storm water Master Plan to guide management of this infrastructure, but the old Plan from 1999 is now completely obsolete. The old Plan also contained serious omissions, including a failure to even mention water quality, climate change, snow management, community input, or operations and maintenance.

The Mount Shasta Planning Department has spent the past year updating the Storm water Master Plan to better reflect the values of our community and ensure our vital infrastructure is properly managed. Its central goal is to plan multi-benefit projects that will reduce flooding, protect water quality, and enhance the environment simultaneously. For example, we are considering opportunities to use wetlands to naturally filter runoff while also creating wildlife habitat and reducing flood peaks.

And that’s where you can help: the draft Storm water Master Plan has just been released for public comment. It will be presented to Mt Shasta City Planning Commission June 16 at 6 p.m., and go before city council June 22 at 5:30 p.m. Both meetings are virtual due to COVID-19, but will be live-streamed on the city website, where there’s additional information and a full PDF of the new draft plan. Please consider tuning into these meetings to ask questions, comment on the updated Plan, suggest projects, or just learn more about storm water in our City. Public comment on the draft Storm water Master Plan is open from June 12 until July 3.

If you’re interested in protecting Mt Shasta’s water resources for decades into the future, participating in this Storm water Master Plan update is a great way to help. You can find more information and a full copy of the draft Plan at https://mtshastaca.gov/stormwater-master-plan-update/.