Valley cities receive, analyze flood maps

NORTH BEND—Last week the cities of North Bend and

Snoqualmie received the long-awaited preliminary Flood Insurance Rating

Maps (FIRMs). With the arrival of the documentation _ which delineates

floodways and flood plains within the Upper Snoqualmie Valley - staff

members and engineering consultants for both communities quickly initiated

a review and public comment process.

They're facing a tight holiday deadline; any responses or

questions to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) must get in

by the first week of January. That doesn't provide much time for

painstaking review of the maps while gathering citizens' comments.

Of the two major up-Valley communities, North Bend has the

greater task. Two years ago FEMA determined the city needed a restudy

due to past flooding in the Middle and South Fork areas and

decertification of the levees along the South Fork.

For their part, North Bend officials questioned the accuracy of the

existing FIRM.

Without an approved and city-adopted FIRM, North Bend

cannot enroll in the National Flood Insurance Program. Without this program

in place, residents cannot insure their homes and will not be eligible for

assistance or disaster relief in the event of a flood.

FEMA contracted with the Army Corps of Engineers in June 1997

to perform the limited restudy, which covered the South and Middle

Forks but not Ribary, Gardiner and Clough Creeks or other localized areas.

For that reason and others, North Bend's flood management staff _ which

includes City Engineer Clifford Cooper, Associate Planner Debi Heiden,

and engineering consultant Dave Carlton _ have major qualms about the maps.

So do North Bend residents, if the comments heard during last

week's two public meetings are any indication. The first meeting, held

last Wednesday night at Mount Si Lutheran Church, primarily

involved members of the Silver Creek community. The following night's session

at the North Bend Depot saw a turnout of residents from the South Fork area.

Several community members expressed concern or disbelief about

the indicated flood-level figures for their homes and neighborhoods. Said

one woman, "We've lived in our house for 40 years and have never flooded,

even in 1990, and now we're told we're in a floodway?"

"We agree; we're disappointed with this map," responded

Heiden. Heiden added that she hoped North Bend would be able to work

informally with FEMA on making adjustments, thereby precluding a

formal appeal by the city. Heiden stressed the key is to get citizen response,

which can be incorporated in the city's comments to FEMA.

"You need to let the city know what your concerns are, so they

can be addressed," added Carlton. "I strongly encourage you get your

comments in by the end of the week, or next week at the latest. We want

to make sure all of your concerns are addressed."

According to Community Services Director Larry Stockton, any

resident who feels the elevation data for their property is in error must provide

some sort of engineering documentation as a counter to FEMA's figures.

City Engineer Cooper told the attendees they could call a surveyor in order

to get a more accurate representation of their property.

Carlton pointed out the maps were developed from aerial

photographs taken in 1995.

"Hydrologic analysis by the Corps of Engineers provides the

numbers," he continued. "Our models aren't

perfect. They're based on an evaluation of previous rainfalls, and then

we model where the water is going to go and how high it's going to get."

He also stressed the models did not take into account streets, culverts or

other obstructions.

"It could be better," said Carlton of the process.

The situation is somewhat different downstream in Snoqualmie, but

a few items raised some warning flags nevertheless.

"We were not concerned about the remapping when it started out,"

commented Rhonda Montgomery of the city staff. "Snoqualmie was not

included in the review as part of the study, so we didn't concern

ourselves with it. However, when the maps came out, we learned the flood levels rose

a foot. What we've done is contact Phil Rozeboom of Northwest

Hydraulic Consultants _ our hydrologist _ and asked him to find out why.

"We're in the process of reviewing it," Montgomery concluded,

"and decide if we're going to appeal or not. However, North Bend is

definitely worse off than we are."

With time growing short, the two cities' staffs are already

compiling data, questions and information for the response to FEMA. Again,

Heiden stresses the importance of input from individual homeowners who take

issue with the map.

"Hopefully, we'll be able to get everyone together _ from North

Bend, Snoqualmie, FEMA, and other parties _ for an informal session where we

can discuss the map," she stated Monday. "The main thing is, everyone who

disagrees with the map or has a question needs to contact us soon. The

deadline for the city's response to FEMA is January 5th."

Any resident who has questions or desires to submit an appeal letter

for their property is urged to contact either Heiden or Cooper of the

Community Services Department at (425) 888-5633.

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