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Congress approves flood-project funds

Last Tuesday, Sept. 28, Congress approved a bill that will provide

funding for flood relief measures in the Snoqualmie Valley.

Titled the Energy and Water Appropriations Bill for fiscal year

2000, the legislation also allocates federal money for other projects in King

and Pierce Counties, including the Howard Hanson Dam

and ecosystem restoration work on the Green and

Duwamish Rivers.

The bill authorizes $200,000 for flood studies in North Bend. It

states that over 300 homes and businesses in the community are prone to

flooding, adding "This funding will be used to evaluate options along the

South and Middle Forks of the Snoqualmie River which will provide much

needed flood relief."

The legislation included similar comments concerning

Snoqualmie, but a firm funding level is yet to be established. The bill indicated

there are 600 homes in the town of Snoqualmie that

are considered "flood prone," adding "This funding will

go toward channel improvements to the Snoqualmie River upstream

of Snoqualmie Falls, to protect the homes and businesses from future

floodwaters. The exact amount of funding will be determined by the Corps in the

following months."

According to Megan Frey, a staff member for Sen. Slade Gorton,

the amount for Snoqualmie should range between $770,000 and $1.2

million, pending a decision by the Corps of Engineers.

"The Senate authorized $770,000," she commented last

Tuesday. "The House authorized $1.9 million. The final amount will be a

compromise."

In a written statement, Rep. Jennifer Dunn announced, "By

securing funds for flood control projects in North Bend and Snoqualmie …

we can give homeowners and businesses peace of mind

from potential flood damage. We may not always be

able to prevent flooding, but we can and should take preventative actions

to protect lives and property."

Gorton made similar comments.

"In King and Pierce counties, there are critical salmon habitats and

ecosystems that will receive restoration funding through the Energy and

Water Appropriations Bill," he stated.

"This appropriations bill also contains funding for much needed

flood prevention in North Bend and Snoqualmie, protecting homes

and businesses from damaging flood waters. I applaud the

efforts of Congresswoman Dunn and will continue to work to improve the way of life in

the Pacific Northwest."

The Corp of Engineers' proposal for flood mitigation efforts in the

Valley was the subject of a public hearing in Snoqualmie on July 14. At

that time several citizens from the Lower Valley communities raised

questions and objections about the project.

Among other things, the Corps' draft proposal included provisions

for the widening of the Snoqualmie River just above the Falls, and removal

of the old Milwaukee Road-Northern Pacific connector bridge off

Railroad Ave. Notably, the Corps estimated a cost of $3 million for the

project, with a proposed start date of 2001.

Under the project proposal, the federal government would pay for

65 percent of the flood mitigation efforts, with the city picking up the rest of

the tab.

The response from community members in Carnation and Duvall

was somewhat less than positive. Most expressed concern that

while Snoqualmie's flood level might go down, theirs would

undoubtedly go up. Tom Beam, senior engineer with the King County Water and Land

Resources Division, reported areas downstream should have "much

less" than six inches of additional

floodwater. The Corps concurred with his assessment, terming any increase

"insignificant."

Additional discussion and planning will likely take place while

the Corps of Engineers determines how much it will need from Congress,

and how to best spend it. For both North Bend and Snoqualmie, some of the

allocations may take the form of similar earlier proposals for

low-interest loans for home elevation and development of an improved

flood-warning system.

In the interim, the intent will remain the same: to save Valley

communities an estimated $1.1 million in annual flood damage, while

reducing the flood crest.

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