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Homeowners plead for help from county as floodwaters threaten Oak Harbor house

The disabled couple says Island County won't pay to fix an outdated drainage system flooding their property.

OAK HARBOR, Wash. — A disabled Oak Harbor couple is lobbying the county to fix drainage issues flooding their property, but county memos reveal officials have no plans to do so. 

As Suzy Karuzzo watched floodwaters creep to within four feet of her Oak Harbor home this winter her emotions started to flow.

"I wanted to cry," she said. "I felt like we weren't worth anything."

Karuzzo's sloping front yard is four to eight feet deep with water. She suspects the water is seeping onto her property from a pond across the street, as well as from runoff from a state park up above.

At one point this winter the water was so high her family of three was cut off from their community for two weeks.

"It was very desperate," she said. "We were running low on groceries."

The couple says the county has known about the problem for years and hasn't done anything to fix it.

KING 5 News obtained a May 2018 memo from an Island County engineer to the Board of Commissioners explaining that a culvert running near Karuzzo's property has "reached the end of its lifespan and needs to be replaced."

It goes on to say the cost of the replacement would be more than a million dollars and concludes, "the benefit to the public does not justify the costs."

"That makes me feel awful because I pay taxes and the money they use to fix this stuff comes from my taxes," said Karuzzo.

The flooding on Karuzzo's property is becoming a regular occurrence. The county memo states the area floods "approximately every three years."

A photo taken by a neighbor just two years ago shows rescue crews preparing to evacuate the previous homeowners with a boat.

Karuzzo says those people neglected to tell her about the water problems when she bought the house last year.

Neighbor Tim Verschuyl is an architect and believes the problem could be solved by simply clearing a clogged drainage ditch and replacing a small culvert down the road.

"I see the problem. I see the stress it has caused them," he said. "As a neighbor what can you do?"

Karuzzo says she and her husband have racked up $20,000 in credit card debt trying to save their property.

They've had concrete blocks installed, along with sand and gravel to keep the water away.

Both Karuzzo and her husband, Darren, are disabled. Darren is blind. They're also parents of an adolescent boy.

With no help from Island County, they're growing more desperate every day.

"I'm afraid we might lose everything we have worked so hard for," said Karuzzo.

KING 5 News has reached out to Island County officials for comment, but as of publication time, we have not received a response.

We will update this story as needed.

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