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Snoqualmie celebrates 205 project

SNOQUALMIE - Presents come wrapped with bows and Snoqualmie got to cut a big bow last week.

Officials from the city, King County, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and local businesses gathered at the Salish Lodge and Spa on Sept. 29 to formally dedicate the 205 Project. Excavation on the multi-million dollar flood-reduction project wrapped up last month and the newly manicured banks of the Snoqualmie River have been planted with infant trees. The removal of a decrepit train trestle upstream from the excavation area, the last part of the project, will take place next year.

It was the removal of sand and rock from both sides of the Snoqualmie River near Snoqualmie Falls, however, that constituted the bulk of the project. One bank on the right side of the river and one on the left side that jettisoned out into the stream of water were removed. During heavy rains, these banks caused a bottleneck effect that caused water to back up and flood the downtown area, home to more than 1,500 residents. The project's engineers estimate the flood-reduction benefit of the project to be up to 1 foot during a 10-year flood event, and 1.6 feet during a 100-year flood event (floods that occur statistically once every 10 and 100 years).

Snoqualmie officials have worked for decades to get such relief to its flood-beleaguered city, which has suffered six federally-declared disaster floods in the last 14 years. Charles Peterson, the former Snoqualmie mayor who wrote the first check more than 20 years ago that funded the initial study for the project, Mayor Fuzzy Fletcher and other downtown Snoqualmie residents were on hand to help celebrate.

"A bunch of us got old and moldy waiting for it," said Colleen Johnson, former Snoqualmie City Councilwoman. "I think it is going to help out a lot."

Dave Clark, manager of flood-reduction projects for the King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks, emphasized that the work was done without blasting, a component of the project that was originally thought necessary to cut back the banks of the Snoqualmie River. The contractor for the excavation, Goodfellow Bros., was able to remove 42,000 square yards of rock and dirt with no explosives in an environmentally sensitive salmon habitat. Besides working around the fish, the project also had to take into account being in close proximity to the Salish Lodge and Spa, as well historic buildings and equipment from Puget Sound Energy's hydro-electric plant.

"I couldn't be happier," Clark said.

Moreover, the project is projected to come in under budget. The original estimated budget for the work, which was split between the corps, the county and Snoqualmie, was $7.7 million. The excavation work was done for $3.3 million, and with another $800,000 to $1 million added for planning, the cost is still estimated to come in well under $5 million. Leftover funds will go to other federal flood projects.

Snoqualmie Public Works Director Kirk Holmes said getting the excavation work done was actually the "easy" part of the project. Getting the project planned and funded was something else. Having three separate agencies, all at different levels of government, involved was a challenge, and the Snoqualmie Tribe halted river work after sending a letter to the corps protesting the project. Once work commenced earlier this May and the Tribe's issue was cleared up in July, the project went smoothly.

"It's just moving dirt," Holmes said.

Officials said that while the 205 Project can't stop the rain, it will give some much-needed relief to a grateful city.

"Rain will continue to fall and there will continue to be flooding," said Col. Debra Lewis, commander of the U.S. Corps of Engineers, Seattle District. "But we can rest a little easier."

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