City rejects flood map, again

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NORTH BEND — North Bend officials are once again ready to

appeal the latest version of a federally funded Flood Insurance Rate

Map because they say it is incomplete.

The map, on which Valley insurance rates are based, was revised

from a more than 20-year-old version that was considered outdated. It covers

the cities of North Bend and Snoqualmie, along with surrounding

unincorporated areas.

Last summer, Snoqualmie, North Bend and King County received

the map and were given 90 days to appeal it, which all three agencies did.

The map was produced by the Federal Emergency Management

Agency (FEMA), which was formed to respond to and mitigate for national

disasters, including flooding, and is responsible for delegating flood

studies. After the appeal process ended in January, FEMA made changes and

re-released the map Aug. 4.

But North Bend and King County are appealing again.

According to city officials, the map did not answer their

questions from the first appeal.

"Most of the information is about as accurate as it's going to get, but

it could be better," said engineering consultant David Carlton. "The city is

trying to make it better, to try to reflect reality in North Bend."

Carlton is helping King County with its appeal and said that the

county has the same concerns with the map.

He explained that while there were not many big differences between

the 1999 and 2000 map versions, some floodways and floodplain areas

have been changed or added.

One of the main problems the city has is that FEMA did not provide

the calculations it used to determine elevations and floodways. The

model includes a mathematical representation of the path water would take

in the event of a flood.

The map was developed from aerial photographs taken in 1995

and revised after the Army Corps of Engineers conducted a limited study,

using FEMA specifications, of the South and Middle forks of the

Snoqualmie River.

However, Ribary, Gardiner and Clough creeks were not included

in that study, which is another reason North Bend's flood-management

staff is appealing the map.

Several homeowners that are hit by floodwaters from those creeks

agree with the city's decision to appeal.

About eight North Bend residents attended the meeting last week

held by the city to discuss the appeal. Most were unhappy with the map, and

some said it has inaccurate elevations and falsely depicts which homes lie in

the floodplain.

"How can you put any emphasis on this new map if they're not

using correct data?" asked Stephanie Huber, who has lived in the

flood-prone Shamrock Park neighborhood most of her life. Huber has tracked the

flood-mapping process and is the president of a non-profit organization,

South Fork Flood Relief Project, to find flooding solutions.

One concern residents have is that because the floodway or

floodplain distinction effects each homeowner, the map should be as accurate as

possible, not general.

"The (residents) feel they don't have as much property rights as

other people," said Clifford Cooper, engineer for the city of North Bend.

"The biggest thing that anybody would fear is suffering damage in a flood and

not be able to get repair done."

Another main concern lies in where each home is placed on the

map, if it's in a floodplain, meaning an area where water will gather, or a

floodway, which is the path or channel that water follows.

"If you can prove that you are not in the floodplain, you save

money," Cooper added. "If you can show

by elevations that you were actually higher than FEMA thought you

were, the farther up you can prove you are above the water level, then you

don't have to do as much flood-proofing."

Cooper explained that since FEMA is federally funded, it has a

limited amount of money to complete as many studies as it can, which

means the Upper Valley map can't be redone.

This means residents must pay for their own professional elevation

surveys to disprove FEMA's calculations — a cost of approximately $130

per hour, Cooper said.

For this appeal period of 30 days, there was no time for residents to

arrange surveys.

The city of North Bend has until Sept. 4 to turn in its appeal, but

FEMA is not required to take the latest appeal into account or make

any changes, said Jeanette Mullin, mitigation specialist for FEMA and the

National Flood Insurance coordinator for the Upper Valley.

The possibility exists that another appeal period could be granted,

depending on the situation and the material the agency receives from

North Bend and King County, she added.

Meanwhile, the city of Snoqualmie will not be appealing

this map version as the changes they requested were made according

to Rhonda Montgomery, permit administrator for the city of Snoqualmie.

Regardless of city or county actions, Huber advises that Valley

residents get involved, find where their home is on the map and research

what happens if their property is damaged in a flood.

"People just don't realize what could happen. They need to

educate themselves," Huber said. "You

can't wait until (a flood) happens. Everyone needs to realize the risk (of

flooding) and everyone needs to work on a solution."

To review a copy of the map, visit Community Services at 126 E.

Fourth St. in North Bend.

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