Dealing with coastal flooding

Today, as we talk about chronic areas of flooding in Aberdeen and Hoquiam, we are doing so with the knowledge that helpful solutions have now been initiated.

If you think excess moisture trapped in a house is destructive — and we do — trapped floodwater water in a whole community is much worse!

Not only does flooding affect businesses and homes, it can discourage business investment and revitalization. It also affects livelihoods and the ability to purchase a home.

The cost for flood insurance alone is a huge economic burden for those who own property in flood-prone areas of Aberdeen and Hoquiam.

Today, as we talk about chronic areas of flooding in Aberdeen and Hoquiam, we are doing so with the knowledge that helpful solutions have now been initiated.

Now the community needs to be engaged and involved and very proactively supportive because we have a lot of completion for funding.

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. This is the highest flood source and the primary factor when FEMA determined much of the cities to be in FEMA flood zones based on that scenario.

The North Shore Levee Project is tasked with significantly lowering this flood potential, making it possible to officially have specific low-lying areas that are now part of the FEMA flood zones, reclassified. Property owners protected by the dikes should see a financial break from current flood insurance premiums. It may also encourage re-investment in housing and business by changing building code requirements.

However, as those of us who live around here know, all the flooding is not always about the oceans or tides.

“Timberworks” is a developing plan to address substantial creek flooding, drainage flooding and localized flooding from heavy rain as the source.

Creek and small drainage flooding occurs when creek water is conveyed under streets in low capacity culverts, through straightened streams that overtop their banks and back pressure from tide and wind holds that prevent draining into the bay.

Localized flooding includes times when excessive rain events overwhelm the existing storm water drainage system and pumps.

Possible solutions for each of these kinds of flooding are being proposed. We will share some of them with you in next week’s column.


For a little review: In response to chronic potential for flooding in some of the lowland areas of Aberdeen and Hoquiam, punctuated by a major rain event, broken storm drains, slides and flooding in January of 2015, the cities of Aberdeen and Hoquiam as well as Grays Harbor County and the Chehalis River Basin Flood Authority joined together this past January to begin gathering public comment, mapping the areas of concern and developing the plan and funding sources needed to improve, relieve, retain, divert and dike the various sources causing flooding. The details are complicated and no doubt expensive but do-able.

The North Shore Levee Project is a proposed system of earthen dikes, floodwalls, raised roadways and new or improved pump stations. The North Shore Levee’s 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.

This large project is the next step toward the ultimate goal of providing protection for the most flood-prone areas of both cities.

The Timberworks Plan is aimed at reducing flood risk in Aberdeen and Hoquiam from heavy rain and run-off. This would be done by opening up Fry Creek, building storm water retentions parks and vaults, all the while enhancing habitat for fish and wildlife, improving water quality, creating attractive and active public spaces and supporting economic and community development.


This is the perfect time to be talking about all this because it gives you a heads up to the meeting next week. Mark your calendar for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 20.

That’s when you’re invited to an open house at the Rotary Log Pavilion to learn more about the progress of the plan. Also, it will be an opportunity to offer your ideas of ways to make our community even better as we address the flooding issue.

The open house on Tuesday will be facilitated by consultants, Forterra, as well as Maul Foster &Alongi. KPFF, the City of Aberdeen’s consultant for the levee project will also be on hand.

What just seems like a massive dark rain cloud could end up having an extensive silver lining. In the process of solving our flooding issues we also have the opportunity to enhance our use of waterfront properties, create parks, walkways, attractive open spaces, gardens, bicycle paths and much more. That’s why you and your creative ideas are welcome and expected to attend this and other meetings in the near future. Your ideas help stimulate ideas in other thoughtful people, it’s a brainstorm session!

Cities all over the country and world have dealt with flooding issues in creative, beautiful, life-enhancing ways and we can do that here too. Think big and out of the box…it’s time!

We hope to see you there!


In addition to the open house Tuesday, there will be invitation-only meetings on Monday and Tuesday specifically for owners of property near the anticipated alignment of the proposed levee on East Market Street. These events are opportunities for landowners who are most likely to be near the levee to learn about the project and discuss their concerns.


In the meantime, if you want more information about the development of the Timberworks Master Plan or about the open house meeting on Tuesday, contact Forterra at (206) 905-6946 or at

For the levee project, people can e-mail with any questions, concerns or comments.

You can also check out the website for all flood-related projects – /aberdeenflood relief.

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 for all residents of Grays Harbor County.

Do you have questions about home repair, renting, remodeling or becoming a homeowner? Like us on Facebook! Call us at 533-7828, write us or visit us at 710 E. Market St. in Aberdeen.