County adopts flood hazard plan

King County's aging levy system needs major repairs and expensive ongoing maintenance to better protect flood-prone areas. The Metropolitan King County Council unanimously approved the 2006 King County Flood Hazard Management Plan Jan. 16. The plan is a guide of recommended countywide projects and programs to help control flooding in King County.

"This winter has been a grim reminder of the need for updating our flood hazard plan," said Councilmember Larry Phillips, D-Seattle, chair of the council's Growth Management and Natural Resources Committee. "We need to review which flood control facilities need immediate work and what we can do to minimize the damage when river levels rise."

Fixing Valley flooding

The Snoqualmie River is the county's biggest offender for repeated property loss. In unincorporated King County, of the 64 Federal Emergency Management Agency repetitive damage properties, 38 were in the Snoqualmie River's flood plain. The number does not include claims from the November 2006 flood.

"All of our levies are older," said Tom Bean, senior county engineer with the Flood Hazard Reduction Services department. None come anywhere close to meeting current federal standards, he said. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which built many of the levies in the 1950s and '60s, refuses to repair or maintain the current levies because they would have to entirely rebuild them to modern standards - an incredibly expensive task, Bean said.

That leaves the county responsible for repairing, replacing and maintaining levies and other flood control barriers. The way the plan addresses this is by making more targeted fixes of individual stretches of the levee system, Bean said.

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