Lower Valley criticizes 205 project

CARNATION — If the people who attended last week's

meeting concerning the Snoqualmie Flood Reduction Project had their

way, plans to excavate both banks of the river upstream of

the Snoqualmie Falls Hydroelectric Plant to reduce flooding in

the city of Snoqualmie would be scrapped.

The Jan. 10 meeting, organized by the King County

Water and Land Resources Division, was supposed to be a forum

for downstream residents to discuss possible mitigation options

concerning the project, which is scheduled to be completed

by September. County officials asked those attending the meeting

to take part in a straw poll and vote for what they thought were

the two best mitigation projects, such as elevating homes, creating

critter pads, gravel removal, upland development controls and

establishing fees from upland developments.

Instead, Lower Valley residents said they wanted to vote

yes or no on the overall plan, also known as the 205 project,

adding that without updated information from the Army Corps of

Engineers about the possible downstream impacts of the project, it was

difficult for them to vote on mitigation measures.

"I can't see any mitigation up there that's going to qualm

my fears and my concerns," said Stormy Hull, who lives on

Carnation Farms Road, to county officials.

The meeting was fourth in a series of meetings to discuss

the project. Two more are scheduled for next month. Army Corps

of Engineers officials will present new hydraulic data at a

meeting Feb. 14, and the county hopes to create a final mitigation

package at a meeting Feb. 28.

The 205 project calls for the excavation of 50,000 cubic

yards of rock and earth along the left and right banks of

the Snoqualmie River upstream of Puget Sound Energy's

hydroelectric plant, which would widen the river and increase the flow of

water through the city. It also involves shoreline

stabilization work along the right bank of the river, upstream of the State

Route 202 bridge, and removing what's left of a railroad bridge a

half-mile upstream of the SR 202 bridge.

According to engineers, the 205 project would result in a 1

1/2- to 2-foot reduction of floodwaters in Snoqualmie, saving

an average of more than $1 million in flood-related damages

each year. Impacts downstream, they say, would be negligible, with

the project adding a small amount of water to floodwaters, mostly in

the area from Tokul Creek to the Tolt River.

"We believe that we've had a pretty good indication that

the impacts would be less than an inch," said Tom Bean, a

senior engineer with the Rivers Section of the Water and Land

Resources Division.

It's that inch that has Lower Valley residents concerned,

saying that an additional inch of water to the downstream

floodplain could be devastating, especially with the large number of farms

in the area. They said a mitigation plan must be in place before

any work on the project begins.

"Don't start building up there and then see what you can

do down here," one Lower Valley resident said at the meeting.

Paul Cooke, the Army Corps of Engineers' manager of the

205 project, presented a timeline for completing the work, with

construction beginning in July. He said several other steps must

be finished before a firm is contracted to start work, including

obtaining all the necessary permits, buying the land and getting

agreements between the county, the city of Snoqualmie and the

Corps signed.

Dave Clark, manager of the Rivers Section of the Water

and Land Resources Department, said the agencies know they have a

lot to finalize in the next few months.

"We recognize there's lots of variables and lots of what-ifs

and we could get tripped up," he said.

"We're hoping to build this project this summer. That's

our goal. That's our objective."

But residents questioned why the time frame of the project

was so short and wondered whether it would be possible to delay

work until next year. Bean said politics is playing a role in the

process, adding that federal money has been appropriated for the

205 project twice, and it's unsure if the funds would be there again

next year.

"We're getting a lot of political pressure to move the

process forward," Bean told those attending the meeting. "There is a lot

of political weight behind this … I'm just trying to do my job as

a staffer to stay ahead of the curve."

He added that if residents didn't like the project,

they should state their objections to Metropolitan King County

Council members, who will likely vote on the plan this spring.

Erick Haakenson, the owner of Jubilee Farm, which lies outside of

Carnation, said that might not be enough.

"We, as a group, may need to band together and seek out

legal remedies," he told the audience. "Frankly, I don't see the

county standing up for my rights in this case … and I don't see them

standing up for your rights, either."

Snoqualmie Mayor Randy "Fuzzy" Fletcher attended

last week's meeting, and while he understands Lower Valley

residents' concerns since Snoqualmie residents are impacted by what

happens in North Bend, he said his city needs some sort of relief.

"I still have 600 homes up here that I'm trying to get out

of the water," he said last Friday.

Even though Lower Valley residents didn't vote on any

mitigation measures during last week's meeting, Bean said

the event wasn't organized in vain.

"We met in Carnation because we feel we need to talk to the

folks who don't like the overall project," he said. "I went into

it hoping that together we might iron out a plan that meets the

goals and objectives of the folks both above and below the Falls."

Bean added that instead of residents choosing

mitigation measures, it may be better for county officials to come up

with a plan and present it to residents, and that would also help the

205 project meet its summer deadline.

"We still have a schedule in front of us, and we still want

to maintain that schedule," he said.

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