Hoquiam gets needed funding for levee project

The city of Hoquiam just got another step closer to the Aberdeen-Hoquiam Flood Protection Project, which would protect area residents from flooding in the future.

The Grays Harbor Board of County Commissioners (GHBOCC) agreed on Tuesday morning to an interagency agreement that sends $1.54 million through the next three years to help fund Hoquiam’s effort to build the levee.

The overall project will “construct two critical levees, the North Shore Levee (4.1 miles) and the North Shore Levee-West Segment (3.8 miles), an Aberdeen-Hoquiam Flood Protection Project fact sheet reads. “This project is vital to protect 5,100 properties, 1,354 businesses and 1,292 jobs from future flooding.”

City officials in Hoquiam and Aberdeen have said the first shovels could start digging in order to build the levee as soon as 2024. The levee is projected to finish in 2025, with Washington state certification in 2026.

Brian Shay, Hoquiam’s city administrator, expressed gratitude to the county’s signing of the interagency agreement.

“The cities of Hoquiam and Aberdeen are very appreciative to have received this funding from Grays Harbor County,” Shay said in an email.

According to the interagency agreement, $536,000 “shall be paid” in 2023, $500,000 in 2024, and $500,000 in 2025. Payment of “said principal sums” will be made by the county to the city of Hoquiam.

Here are a couple of the financial strings attached:

“The city shall provide detailed invoices of project-related expenditures on an at-least quarterly basis,” the agreement states. “The county shall provide reimbursement for expenses within 30 days following invoice receipt. In no event shall the county provide funds except as reimbursement for monies expended by the city.”

“The county agrees to provide to the city, on a reimbursable basis, the principal sum of $1,536,000 solely and exclusively from county 310 Distressed Area Capital Improvement Funds,” according to the agreement.

While there was little discussion Tuesday morning from Jill Warne and Vickie Raines — county commissioners for District 1 and 3, respectively — it was all positive.

“This was exciting,” Warne said as she read the request to approve and sign the interagency agreement. “Long time coming. This is kind of a big deal. This is going to save a lot of homeowners a lot of money.”

Mark Cox, director of utilities for Grays Harbor County, explained the scope of the agreement to Raines. Raines had asked about it.

“I believe it’s design, engineering and I believe they’ve already completed all of their acquisitions of properties,” Cox said. “This is kind of the last step that they need to get going on this project. Now they’re just looking for the additional funding from the state.”

The funding approval isn’t new, according to the GHBOCC’s agenda cover sheet, which explains the request. The application for the $1.54 million was recommended for full funding through the three-year period by the .09 Committee and it was awarded by the GHBOCC on Nov. 22, 2022, according to the Grays Harbor Facilities Utilities, Solid Waste Department request.

Shay said the $1.54 million that Hoquiam received through the interagency agreement from Grays Harbor County, plus an existing Washington state grant that Hoquiam has for levee design through the Office of the Chehalis Basin, puts Hoquiam in a good position to advance the project.

“The cities should be able to get the projects fully designed with a combination of federal, state and local county grants,” Shay said.

Contact Reporter Matthew N. Wells at matthew.wells@thedailyworld.com.