Opinion

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

that goal.

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

100-year flood.

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

downstream work.

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.

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