Sims supports 205 project as it goes to County Council

SNOQUALMIE - A project between the city, King County and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to widen the Snoqualmie River near the Falls, which would reduce flooding in Snoqualmie, is being supported by County Executive Ron Sims.

But work has been pushed back from this summer to 2003.

"Helping the Snoqualmie community reduce flood risks is an important project for King County," Sims said in a statement last week. "Not only does flooding in the area cause economic damages that average more than $1.6 million per year, but the depth and scale of the flooding represents a serious public health and safety hazard."

Sims' support comes at a crucial time for the Snoqualmie River Flood Damage Reduction Project, also known as the 205 project for the section in the federal 1948 Flood Control Act that gives the Corps of Engineers authority to engage in flood-control projects.

The 205 project will go before the Metropolitan King County Council later this year. Tom Bean, a senior engineer with the county Water and Land Resources Division's Flood Hazard Reduction Services, wrote in an e-mail that it was first assigned to the County Council's Utilities Committee, before which county staff gave a presentation of the project on Tuesday, July 9.

The Utilities Committee is expected to continue discussing the project at its Tuesday, July 23, meeting. If the 205 project is approved by the committee, it would go before the full County Council.

Elaine Kraft, spokeswoman for Sims, said there's a good chance the council will approve the project.

"At this point, we're optimistic because we think it's a really overall positive impact," she said. The 205 project is also supported by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The council's approval is needed to lock in funding for the $3.83 million project, which is being shared by the county, the Corps of Engineers and the city of Snoqualmie. The Corps of Engineers would contribute the most - $2.22 million - but only if a project cooperation agreement (PCA) is signed by the County Council and the Corps of Engineers.

King County would provide $894,000, while Snoqualmie would pay $717,000 for the 205 project.

With a signed PCA, the 205 project would be guaranteed to move forward, even if work is delayed or if the Corps of Engineers has its funding for projects reduced, which President Bush is proposing for 2003.

Originally expected to be completed in 2001, the 205 project can't proceed until the state Department of Ecology (DOE) issues a water-quality certificate for it. With that in place, the PCA can be ratified by the Corps of Engineers and the County Council.

"It's my understanding that they're very close," said Snoqualmie Public Works Director Kirk Holmes of the DOE's granting of the water-quality certificate.

City and county officials had thought some work could be accomplished this summer on the 205 project, specifically removing the remaining half of an old railroad bridge from the river about one-half mile upstream from the State Route 202 bridge. However, the start date for the entire project has been postponed to next year.

The 205 project has three main elements that would allow water to move more quickly through Snoqualmie in the event of a flood, decreasing the chance water would back up and inundate the downtown area.

The first element is to excavate 340 linear feet along the right bank of the Snoqualmie River near Snoqualmie Falls.

The second element excavates 500 feet from the left bank of the river downstream of the State Route 202 bridge.

The third element entails removing what remains of the railroad bridge over the river's left bank. Removing a trestle on the opposite bank will be a future city project, Holmes said.

If the PCA is signed, the project's sponsors can move forward with soliciting bids for the excavation and removing the bridge.

"Hopefully, we can still go to bid this year and make sure the money's tied up," said Snoqualmie City Administrator Gary Armstrong.

A Corps of Engineers study estimates that the 205 project would reduce flooding in Snoqualmie by 0.7 feet in a five-year flood, a flood likely to happen once every five years, and 1.1 feet in a 50-year flood.

By comparison, the November 1990 flood that soaked Snoqualmie is thought to be a 71-year flood. The 205 project is also expected to save an average of about $830,000 a year in flood-related damages.

Many Lower Valley residents and the Carnation City Council oppose the project because it could increase floodwaters. The Corps of Engineers predicts during a 100-year flood, the water level at Fall City would increase by 0.1 feet and by less than 0.1 feet at Carnation.

The 205 project contains money that would assist downstream property owners within the 100-year floodplain to raise their houses or other buildings above the 100-year flood level.

You can reach Barry Rochford at (425) 888-2311, or e-mail him at barry.rochford

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