Policies limit flood damage
January 4, 2011
By Warren Kagarise
City has spent more than a decade on flood projects
Issaquah Creek sloshed into neighborhoods and onto streets in early December, but city and county leaders credit land-use policies for helping to limit damage from flooding and landslides.
Because much of Issaquah is located in a floodplain, officials can only do so much to limit flooding. Though the risk remains, the city has made strides since the 1996 flood to upgrade creek buffers and shore up bridges and other infrastructure to withstand floods.
The process has included purchasing and removing homes in the floodplain, plus buying undeveloped floodplain lots for preservation.
Parcels in the Sycamore neighborhood served a role in the recent floodplain-restoration project at Squak Valley Park North. Crews used the land as a construction staging area. The strip also provides a buffer between homes and the creek.
The city plans to use a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant to raise low-lying houses in the flood-prone Sycamore neighborhood and along Northwest Cherry Place in 2011.
The city has also embarked on a yearslong program of replacing bridges in order to reduce flood constrictions.
The last major bridge is scheduled for replacement — the link at Northwest Dogwood Street across Issaquah Creek — in 2012 at the earliest. Both city and state sources of funding seem unlikely in the short term.
Many areas across the county experienced landslides or flooding Dec. 11-12, but damage to life and property remained at a minimum.
“The damaged homes in King County that were seen in the news were not among those that have been permitted or built in the last 10 years,” King County Executive Dow Constantine said in a statement. “Policies to limit construction on steep slopes and protections for flood hazard areas are doing a better job of making our homes and neighborhoods safer and more resistant to damage from severe weather.”
Though Issaquah Creek crested Dec. 12, the risk from landslides lingered for days after the flooding. City crews responded to a mudslide on a Talus street Dec. 12.
County flood hazard regulations focus on protecting public health and safety and limiting development, so as not to exacerbate downstream flood hazards.
King County is the highest-rated county in the nation under the National Flood Insurance Program’s Community Rating System. The rating qualifies unincorporated area residents for a 40 percent discount on flood insurance. Issaquah also participates in the program and city residents can receive the discount.
The executive also recognized residents for preparing for flooding and other emergencies.
City employees and Community Emergency Response Team members fanned out across floodplain neighborhoods in October to alert residents to flooding risks.
“You don’t need to be a ‘first responder’ to respond to your own emergencies,” Constantine said. “By simply learning about your risk, signing up for flood alerts, packing a preparedness kit and not driving on a road that’s covered with water, you’re doing your part to contribute.”
Contact county assessor about flood damage
King County Assessor Lloyd Hara has urged residents to contact the Department of Assessments about damage from the Dec. 12 flood. Contact the agency by phone at 206-296-7300 or online. In order to file a destroyed property claim, residents should complete a King County Destroyed Property Form on the website.
Rainfall gorged Issaquah Creek and menaced homes, businesses and roads Dec. 12, as a late-fall Pineapple Express system chugged through the region. City officials had not yet determined the extent of property damage in the days after floodwaters receded.
During the storm, a National Weather Service spotter had recorded 6.05 inches of rain by 11 a.m. Dec. 12 in South Issaquah.
Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.