Do you remember what Aberdeen and Hoquiam were going through a little more than two years ago? We’re talking about the severe flooding and landslides of January 2015.
Yes, it’s been two years since hundreds of homes and businesses and thousands of people were affected by flooding and landslides. (And we’re all still feeling the consequences to our community!)
The reason we ask is that after decades of dealing with the flooding issue we are encouraged that much progress has taken place in the past two years and we can now begin to glimpse that real relief will soon be on its way.
Last week we talked a bit about the more recent rains and the lack of flooding through some luck and some hard work by city crews to keep the storm drain system cleaned out. Hurray!
Today we want to update you a little more on the North Shore Levee project. The project is a proposed system of earthen dikes, floodwalls, raised roadways and new or improved pump stations. Its target area of protection is bordered by the east bank of the Hoquiam River, Grays Harbor Bay-Chehalis River to the south and the west bank of the Wishkah River to the east.
Not only is the North Shore Levee project aimed at fixing major flooding issues, but its objective is to remove large areas of Aberdeen and Hoquiam from FEMA’s designated “Special Flood Hazard Area.”
BACKGROUND ON THE PROBLEM
With Aberdeen and Hoquiam nestled right at the juncture of the Chehalis River and the Grays Harbor Estuary, coastal flooding is driven by the combination of high tides, low pressure and strong winds. When heavy rain is added on top a coastal flood, storm drainage systems become overwhelmed, exacerbating the flood.
Not just the possibility of flooding, but also just the designation of being in a FEMA flood zone, has cost our community dearly.
It can – and has – discouraged business investment and revitalization. It also affects livelihoods and the ability to purchase – or sell – a home.
The cost of flood insurance alone is a huge economic burden for those who own property in flood-prone areas of Aberdeen and Hoquiam.
In addition, our area also experiences substantial creek flooding, drainage flooding and localized flooding from heavy rain as the source. The localized flooding includes times when excessive rain events overwhelm the existing storm water drainage system, pumps and pipes.
So, the implementation of the North Shore Levee is coordinated with the TimberWorks Coastal Resiliency Master Plan which aims to identify options for reducing flooding, improving public space and improving habitat. They are coordinated so that the projects will be mutually beneficial! A smart move!!
To see the North Shore Levee project summary, go to www.ezview.wa.gov/ aberdeenfloodrelief. In addition, to examine the completed TimberWorks Master Plan go to the same address and look for the link within the summary.
MONEY NEEDED FOR CONSTRUCTION
The TimberWorks Master Plan is complete and we were encouraged in a recent conversation with Aberdeen’s Director of Public Works, Rick Sangder about the progress of the North Shore Levee project.
The design is nearly 60 percent complete with a high probability of funding for the remaining 40 percent of the planning, Sangder said.
“So, we’re anticipated that the preliminary design will be complete by this June or July and probably it will take a year for permitting and final design after that.”
“It’s the construction funding that we are working on now. We are looking at loans and grants at the state and national level, no option won’t be looked at,” he said.
U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer has been working with area officials and others to explore what national funding might be available.
When the plan for the North Shore Levee project is complete the goal is to produce a preliminary levee design for Aberdeen and Hoquiam and receive a “Conditional Letter of Map Revision.”
This so-called CLOMR is key! It is a legally binding document guaranteeing that if a levee system is built as submitted in the plan that the current area considered in the flood plain will be re-classified.
So in just a couple of years what we are looking at is many, many homes and businesses in Aberdeen and Hoquiam protected from flooding, as well as “protected” from the designation of being in a Special Flood Hazard Area.
That means people will be able to buy and sell houses and businesses in the area without having to pay the thousands of dollars in flood insurance. It means lenders will be more willing to loan to people in certain areas for purchase or remodeling. It means businesses that haven’t considered moving to our area, may give it a new look. It also means property values will increase.
YOU CAN HELP, STAY INVOLVED
Make sure you stay tuned in to the public aspect of this planning.
“Stay involved,” encouraged Sangder. “It really does help to have people be champions for this. We have had a number of walk throughs, workshops and design charrettes. This will make a big difference in our community and it does help when citizens are involved.”
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Dave Murnen and Pat Beaty are construction specialists at NeighborWorks® of Grays Harbor County, where Murnen is the executive director. This is a non-profit organization committed to creating safe and affordable housing opportunities for all residents of Grays Harbor County.
Do you have questions about home repair, renting, remodeling or becoming a homeowner? Call us at 533-7828, write us or visit us at 710 E. Market St. in Aberdeen.