County seeks fix for Middle Fork flooding

As flood season begins, the King County Water and Land Resources Division is looking at new ways to address flood and erosion problems along the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie River.

Aware of areas of constant flooding and erosion, the county is in the early phases of designing an erosion control project for the Middle Fork.

Managing several levies and revetments along the Middle Fork, the county has spent too much in on-going maintenance costs over the years.

“That’s one of the primary drivers for this plan,” said Clint Loper, Snoqualmie Basin Supervisor of River and Floodplain Management.

Costs were so significant in the county-wide flood plan that, in 2006, a proposal for a better solution came into play. The county-wide flood control district provided more financial resources for the River and Floodplain Management Division.

Now, with significant resources to address river, flood and erosion problems, Loper said his agency is seeking a more sustainable, environmentally-friendly direction.

The cost of the plan may be more up-front, but will be less costly and better for the environment over time, Loper said.

Loper said it was helpful to hear from residents who experience flood problems and raise awareness about the project.

“There are definitely some folks whose homes get flooded by large storm events,” Loper said. “Their property gets inundated with water. It was great to get folks’ help to fill in the blanks of where these problems exist.”

Loper and Mark Ruebel, senior engineer for the project, also found a sense of appreciation for the natural resource by residents who live along the river. Any solution must balance flood protection with habitat protection and ‘letting a river be a river,’ according to Loper.

The Middle Fork’s alluvial fan — the area where a river leaves mountains to spread over a flatter valley floodplain — brings new dynamics and obstacles in the planning process.

“When levies were first built, the thought was that you use them to train the river to keep them in their place,” Loper explained. “But now science and engineering is realizing that you are fighting a losing battle when you try to pin a river in its place.”

To overcome these obstacles, King County will require rigorous data and analysis collection to get a better understanding of how the river floods and how the channel moves.

This part of the Middle Fork has not been looked at with those kinds of lenses, Loper added.

During their study efforts King County has also been given permission to collect data from a number of private property owners, since a lot of their work will be based along the river property.

Once they have done the necessary surveying, King County has plans to share their data collection with the community in the spring of 2010.

For more information or to provide feedback, contact Mark Ruebel at (206) 684-1098 or

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