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FEMA letter backs city's 205 project

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SNOQUALMIE - The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recently informed Snoqualmie that it backs a plan to widen parts of the Snoqualmie River in order to mitigate future flood damage.

At the City Council's April 22 meeting, Mayor Fuzzy Fletcher shared a letter sent to Snoqualmie by FEMA that stated the agency supported the project despite concerns from communities downstream of Snoqualmie.

"They [FEMA] are behind us 100 percent," Fletcher said.

The Snoqualmie River Flood Damage Reduction Project, also known as the 205 project, consists of a three-element plan that would remove material from the banks of the Snoqualmie River and tear down a dilapidated railroad bridge support.

The plan is estimated to reduce water levels up to 1.1 feet in a 50-year flood event and save the city more than $800,000 a year on average in flood-related damage.

Opposition to the plan has come from communities downstream of Snoqualmie who say it would increase the likelihood of flooding in the Lower Valley.

Project engineers said it would cause waters to rise in communities downstream of Snoqualmie during a flood, but they said the effect would be "negligible."

"In fact, FEMA will not restudy/remap the floodplain downstream of the [Snoqualmie] Falls following completion of this project, because the one-inch increase is well below the one-half foot threshold established by FEMA as warranting a flood-map correction," the letter stated.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which designed the 205 project, is also expected to release a letter vouching for the safety of the project. Although the letter is still being drafted, Project Manager Paul Cooke said the project will have little effect on flooding in the Lower Valley.

"This will have a minuscule impact downstream," Cooke said. "It's a darn shame that we can't come up with a project that can help them [communities downstream of Snoqualmie] in a small way, but the Valley is just too big."

Cooke said he hopes the Corps of Engineers can approve funds for the project before its fiscal year ends Sept. 30.

Although the project has the support of FEMA and the Corps of Engineers, there are still some hurdles left to clear before the project can begin.

The state Department of Ecology (DOE) still has yet to issue a water quality certificate for the project, and the Metropolitan King County Council must approve the final plan as well.

But Snoqualmie Public Works Director Kirk Holmes said the DOE will look at the project in the coming weeks.

"We are getting ever closer to it getting started," Holmes said.

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