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Flood study of Lower Valley, river wraps up

Representatives from King and Snohomish counties and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) were in Carnation on Wednesday, Jan. 25, to discuss a new flood study and draft flood maps for the lower Snoqualmie and Skykomish rivers.

Jeanne Stypula, project representative for King County, said about 50 people attended the meeting.

"It was a really great turnout," she said.

The draft flood maps are part of FEMA's national map modernization program. According to Ryan Ike, who is the floodplain management specialist for Washington state communities, the national program is in response to communities who let FEMA know that their maps were out of date. Many of the maps were from the 1960s and 1970s. Maps for most of the Upper Snoqualmie Valley were updated and became official last April. The study is funded through a FEMA grant and King County is a cooperating technical partner.

This study area for this current set of maps extends from Snoqualmie Falls all the way down into Snohomish County to the mouth of the Snoqualmie River, which is about 40 miles. It also includes the first 10 miles of the Skykomish River, Stypula said.

At the Jan. 25 meeting, the draft maps were displayed and attendees had the opportunity to ask questions and give feedback on them. Ike also presented information on FEMA's national flood insurance program.

Now that the draft maps have been prepared, FEMA will take them and convert them into flood insurance rate maps. Those preliminary maps should be out by this fall, Stypula said. When they are completed, FEMA will put a formal legal notice in the newspaper about a 90-day appeal period for any technical errors in the map. FEMA will review and resolve any appeals and publish final flood insurance rates by late 2007.

'We're trying to get them out as fast as we can and have people take a look at them," Stypula said. "The general response from the public meeting is that people are very interested."

Stypula said FEMA will try to wrap up its review of the draft maps in March, so input from the public would be appreciated in February.

"We want people to look at the maps," she said. "If they see something that appears to be incorrect: if they were flooded in 1990 and we showed them as high and dry. We'd like some cross check."

In addition to updating flood insurance rates, these new maps increase the awareness of flood hazards so people can prepare, Stypula said.

"We use them here in a planning sense in that we need to implement flood hazard reduction projects," she said. "Other benefits are emergency response and people can see where the most hazardous areas are and how deep we think places will be."

Stypula said the older maps were rough and out of date. These maps include much more detail.

"Some people were taken out of the floodplain and some added in," she said. "Having up to date information is critical. For instance, we don't want to have more development go in and be at risk for floods. We can develop where it's viable."

Ike said the project started in February 2004 and said King County has been a great partner with FEMA. He said he encourages all residents to look at the adequacy of their flood insurance regularly.

The draft flood maps are available online at http://dnr.metrokc.gov/wlr/flood/mapping.html and there will be hard copies of them at the Carnation Library by sometime this week. Stypula can also get hard copies of the maps to those people who don't have Internet access. She can be reached at (206) 296-8380.

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