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Protecting safety, above _ and below _ Falls
The Snoqualmie community is the most flood-prone area in King County. More than
600 homes with 1,500 residents lie within the 100-year floodplain,
as do many businesses and public buildings. Flood damages in
the area average more than $1.6 million per year. Those of you
who have suffered through floods big and small know they not
only damage your property but also put you and your family's safety
and health at risk.
That's why the city of Snoqualmie and King County
are sponsoring a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project that is
expected to greatly reduce flood damage in and
around Snoqual-mie. According to the Corps, the
proposed project will provide outstanding public
safety benefits, reduce flood damage by an estimated $1 million a year
and cause very little impact downstream. What's more, the
project provides an opportunity to boost ongoing efforts to reduce
existing flood problems in the Lower Valley.
As much promise as the project has, we need to
proceed carefully and responsibly, considering the needs and concerns
of people living both above and below Snoqualmie Falls. We
have heard the questions and concerns of the Lower Valley. We will
move ahead only when we have detailed information to support
the project. We expect to get some of that data at a public
meeting Wednesday night, Feb. 14, when the Corps presents its latest
hydraulic analysis of the project and its downstream impacts.
Because these issues are so important, the city of
Snoqualmie and King County have arranged for an independent expert to
analyze and verify the conclusions of the Corps' new analysis.
The Corps' presentation on Feb. 14 will be followed by a
presentation by the independent consultant. The entire project team
is committed to protecting public health and safety both above
and below Snoqualmie Falls, and we are working carefully toward
The project would widen the river at two narrow
bottlenecks between State Route 202 and Snoqualmie Falls to match
the river's width elsewhere. This would allow floodwaters to
move more easily through the Snoqualmie area.
Given the severity of flooding in the area, King
County's Flood Hazard Reduction Plan places a high priority on
finding a solution to flooding in the Snoqualmie area. This is one
of 13 high-priority projects in the plan that have a combined cost
of more than $70 million. However, King County has less than $2
million per year for river-related flood-prevention work.
Major new flood-control projects are only possible when outside
funding sources are available to help.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers offers very significant
outside funding for the project as much as 65 percent of the
$3.2 million project construction cost. King County and the city
of Snoqualmie plan to evenly split the remaining 35 percent cost,
thereby leveraging the limited resources at the county and
the city. As the local government sponsors, we must provide
the necessary easements for construction, as well as the necessary
state and local permits. However, the Corps is the lead agency and
is responsible for producing all of the technical and
environmental studies for the project, including the design plans. They would
also manage the construction process.
While the people of Snoqualmie hope to see less flooding, others downstream
are understandably worried about possible impacts to them.
The Corps has predicted that the downstream impact will be
less than an inch in typical floods, and no more than an inch during
a 100-year flood at Carnation. The Corps tells us that areas
downstream of Carnation will see no measurable impact, even in a
In fact, Corps experts have advised us that they
usually would not worry about project impacts as minimal as what
are forcast in the Lower Valley. However, in this case, the project
team has agreed to work together and help the downstream area. This
is our commitment.
Our goal is to make this a win for all residents. The same 65
percent federal cost share that applies to the proposed Corps work
in Snoqualmie can also apply to downstream flood measures
done as part of the same package. As project sponsors, we have
been working with Lower Valley residents to identify suitable
These important downstream issues will be discussed in
two upcoming meetings. As mentioned, the Corps and our
independent consultant will present their analyses on Feb. 14. On
Feb. 28, the project team will present a staff recommendation for
downstream mitigation and will entertain public comment on that
proposal. Both of these meetings will be open to the public and
will begin at 7 p.m. in the multipurpose room at Carnation
Elementary School (4950 Tolt Ave.). We encourage all interested
people to attend these meetings and share their thoughts.
Pam Bissonnette is the director of the King County
Department of Natural Resources, and Randy "Fuzzy" Fletcher is
the mayor of the city of Snoqualmie.