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SLIDESHOW: 'Minor' flood soaks Snoqualmie Valley
First came the storm, then came the sightseers. Rows of cars crowded the Snoqualmie Falls overlook, occupants coming for a glimpse of the swollen cataract on the Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday. Other drivers grabbed cameras and gathered near the entrance of Snoqualmie Falls Golf Course in Fall City, snapping photos of the Snoqualmie River where it had burst its banks and overflowed Highway 202 and neighboring properties.
By Monday afternoon, Jan. 17, the river was dropping when Snoqualmie Falls head pro Jeff Groshell parked next to sightseers, stepped under a rope barrier and walked to the end of dry pavement. His family-owned course was beyond, inaccessible under about four feet of water.
As Groshell’s son Trevor splashed a boot into the current, Jeff warned him to stay out of the swirling water, which hid road, pasture, fence posts, greens and all from view.
The severity of damage to Snoqualmie Falls Golf Course remained an unknown.
"It'll be easier to describe once we get in," said Groshell. "This isn't going to be a ho-hum cleanup."
One thing he's pretty sure about, though, is how much worse the holiday weekend flood was than the Dec. 12, 2010 flood. That event, which crested at about 33,000 cubic feet per second at Snoqualmie Falls, washed over his property and took a week to clean up. This past weekend's flood crested about 5,000 cfs higher at the Falls, inundated the golf course and covered Highway 202 nearby for several hours. Water overtopped Highway 203 at two locations, also closing stretches of Snoqualmie River Road. Much of the Fall City trailer campground at the Raging River was inundated.
When Groshell ventured into Snoqualmie on Monday, he was surprised to see downtown Snoqualmie water-free.
Groshell's view is that when Highway 202 is cut, then the Lower Valley has experienced a major event.
"Based on history, it should have been a moderate flood in the upper and lower Valley," he said. "Instead, it's a nonevent in the Upper Valley and a severe flood in the Lower Valley."
Groshell's family is part of the Snoqualmie Valley Preservation Alliance, a citizen group that is suing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Puget Sound Energy over construction projects at Snoqualmie Falls. SVPA members believe past and present flood mitigation projects at the Falls negatively impact downstream residents. They want a new study looking at basin hydrology.
Groshell points to the Corps 205 project, development in the upper Valley such as Snoqualmie Ridge, and current work at the Falls as potential impacts.
"The end result is the Lower Valley still gets hosed," he said.
Puget Sound Energy has repeatedly stated that its project will have a minimal impact on Lower Valley flood levels.
For now, Groshell waits for the water to subside. What to do next will then be clear.
"If it isn't too bad a cleanup, we're just financially hurt a bit. It's lots of labor... back at it we go," he said.
Still, he hopes that his family avoids another big one, like the 2009 flood that trashed his course and other Lower Valley properties.
More of those, and "it's time for my family and eight other families to find a new place to go."