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205 project breaks ground

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SNOQUALMIE - During his term as mayor of Snoqualmie from 1974-82, Charles Peterson wrote a small, but very important check.

At the behest of the City Council, Peterson signed off $5,000 for a study of how widening the channel of the Snoqualmie River could reduce flooding in the city.

Now, more than 20 years, a few more floods and many checks later, the project that Peterson helped create is breaking ground. Last month, Puget Sound Energy (PSE) started moving dirt at its Snoqualmie station to make way for the Snoqualmie Flood Reduction Project, commonly known as the 205 project. The city started accepting bids for the work last month as well, which if approved by the city would be the final step toward starting the long awaited work.

For longtime Snoqualmie residents who have seen belongings washed away by high waters, it is a welcome start to a much-needed process.

"It has been a longtime coming," said Snoqualmie resident Jim Simon, who has sat on flood task forces for the city under Mayor Fuzzy Fletcher and former Mayor Jeanne Hansen.

Getting flood relief for the Valley has been a long sought after prize of previous city administrations. In the 1970s, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers originally proposed that dams upstream from the city on the Middle and North forks of the Snoqualmie River could provide flood relief. Peterson sat on a regional council that looked at the plans and deemed them too expensive.

The city heard about a process called overbank excavation, which would relieve flooding upstream in the city by dealing with a bottleneck downstream near Snoqualmie Falls. Although the city's plan went through a few versions, a final plan was formulated that would blast away banks of the Snoqualmie River between the Snoqualmie Falls and the State Route 202 bridge. Future plans also called for the removal of a train trestle, which has been decommissioned and decrepit since the original study, downstream from the blast site.

Although finding money to fund the project was a challenge, the city and its citizens kept at the process and a deal was reached with Snoqualmie, King County and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Of the proposed $3.7-million cost of the 205 project, Snoqualmie and King County would each pay 17.5 percent, with he U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, who would be heading the project, picking up the rest.

"If Snoqualmie hadn't kept pushing, it never would have happened," Peterson said.

PSE is removing some of its structures on the south bank of the river to make way for equipment and a new road that will be built back from the original road that goes to its historical Snoqualmie station. A new road will also be built across the river where banks will be blown away near a PSE substation.

While dynamite will be used on the banks, the neighboring Salish Lodge and Spa and PSE power station should be undisturbed.

"Apparently you can place a tea cup nearby and it won't spill over," said Lloyd Pernela, manger of hydro-licensing for PSE.

The last true barrier to the 205 project will be its cost. The city remains hopeful that bids for the work, due Feb. 10, won't be much more than the projections they have worked with over the past couple of years. The city has come this far and doesn't want to see all its work go downstream.

"We've done our work. We just need to wait for the bids now," said Snoqualmie Public Works Director Kirk Holmes.

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