North Shore Levee plan now under FEMA review

A partial design plan for the proposed North Shore levee that would provide flood protection in Aberdeen and Hoquiam has been submitted to FEMA, which will review the plan over the next 90 days, Aberdeen Mayor Erik Larson told the Aberdeen City Council on Wednesday.

If FEMA approves the design, it would agree to modify its flood maps to take more than 2,700 properties out of the floodplain and remove those properties from the mandatory flood insurance requirement once the levee is complete, saving homeowners millions of dollars in premiums and likely lifting property values.

The cities of Aberdeen and Hoquiam are cooperating on the project. As planned, the levee, when completed, will be just under six miles long, stretching from the east bank of the Hoquiam River on the west to the west bank of the Wishkah River on the east and will be bordered on the south by the Chehalis River.

While the plan is under review, state lawmakers and city officials from Hoquiam and Aberdeen are keeping a close eye on state and federal capital budget negotiations, which will determine much of the funding for the project.

“I spoke to Sen. Dean Takko (D-Longview) and there is about $110 million in the state biennial capital budget for flood control,” said Larson.

There will also be federal money available for flood control, but the amount and availability depends on Congress and the state Legislature coming to agreements and actually passing their capital budgets.

Larson said he is not willing to wait and will explore other funding options.

“The last thing I want to do is delay this project. This is the most important thing we are looking at right now,” he said. “We’re going to have to start twisting arms and get this thing funded.”

The cost of the construction of the levee itself has not been calculated. The levee design and permitting process, at a cost of just under $1 million, is being funded by a grant from the Chehalis Basin Flood Authority.

Larson is shooting for the summer of 2019 for construction to begin on the North Shore levee.

“We are hoping to have a 100 percent design by next summer, and hoping to start construction in 2019,” he said.

There will be a community open house about Timberworks — the master plan for flood control — at the Grays Harbor PUD Dennis Nichols Building, 220 Myrtle St. in Hoquiam on July 27 from 5-7 p.m. The public is welcome to share ideas about flood-improvement plans and get an update as to the status of the Fry Creek Flood Reduction and Restoration Project.