Upstream versus downstream?

Meeting called to talk about flood concerns at new Falls dam

Lower Valley residents have called a public meeting at 7 p.m. Sunday, July 26, at the Sno-Valley Senior Center in Carnation to discuss flood concerns around Puget Sound Energey’s new Snoqualmie Falls licensing project.

PSE plans to lower the hydropower diversion dam atop Snoqualmie Falls by about two feet. Lowering the dam is expected to lower flood levels in the Upper Valley.

Some Lower Valley residents are concerned that the PSE project will increase flood levels, flooding and the rate of water flow below the Falls.

According to meeting organizers, the meeting’s purpose is to learn more about the PSE project and to organize to convince Carnation, PSE, and King County not to continue with this project.

“Last year, we had more flooding than we have ever had on record,” said meeting organizer and Carnation resident Bob Seana. “The water was higher, it moved faster, than ever before.”

“Most of my equipment went underwater,” Seana said. “Other people lost animals. Farms in Fall City have giant craters in their fields.”

When Lower Valley farmers learned about the dam project last month, Seana said they saw the same assurances of a minimal impact that were promised in the Snoqualmie 205 project a decade ago.

“They said that the impact on us would be less than an inch or negligible,” Seana said. “Even an inch is not negligible to us. It matters a lot. Most of the people who raised their houses 10 years ago are now within an inch of flooding.”

While the Falls act as a dam of sorts, trapping water in the Upper Valley, for Lower Valley residents, it’s their natural flood protection.

“The flooding is getting worse above the Falls because the development is above the Falls,” Seana said. “The cities of Snoqualmie and North Bend are approving development up there, which is creating more runoff. We’re getting that runoff.”

“They’re doing these projects like widening the Falls to save the houses above the Falls,” he added. “But there’s no study to show what’s going to happen to us.”

Not a flood dam

PSE contends that they are confident in their numbers, which were crunched by consultants working off the 205 Project study. PSE believes the lowering of the dam will results in a rise in flood level of a quarter-inch during a 100-year flood.

“You take a somewhat confined area upstream, 120 to 150 ares, the reservoir, and you go over the falls. It spreads that increased flow over an area many, many times greater,” said PSE spokesman Roger Thompson.

The Snoqualmie Falls diversion dam was never meant to control floods anyway, according to PSE Water Resources Program Manager Bob Barnes.

“It has no ability to store water,” he said. “It’s a very low dam. The impoundment behind it is not very big. It doesnt change the amount of water that’s being held all that much.”

Barnes admits that Carnation was hammered in the January flood — but he said it wasn’t due to the Corps 205 project, which was completed in 2005.

“There was a lot of angst about what happened in January, and for very good reason,” Barnes said. “The water level at Carnation was somewhere between a foot and a foot higher than it had ever been.

“However, it had nothing to do with the 205 project, or our project,” he said. A record flood on the Snoqualmie and a record flood on the Tolt River added up to big problems.

Ironically, the 205 Project did have an impact at the power plant itself.

According to Barnes, the changes along the bank mean flooding at the plant during high water.

“The water stacks up,” until it builds a head and goes over the top, he said. “There’s no place to go.”

• Residents can learn more about the meeting by contacting organizer Bob Seana at (425) 222-63ll.