The Chehalis River Basin Flood Authority at its February 18th meeting approved funding for the preliminary design of the North Shore Levee, a proposed levee and pump system to provide comprehensive flood protection for the Cities of Aberdeen and Hoquiam between the Hoquiam and Wishkah Rivers north of Grays Harbor.

The City of Aberdeen applied for the grant in response to rising concerns about damaging floods and skyrocketing flood insurance rates in the two cities. The approved funding totals $988,000 and will be used to develop preliminary designs and supporting documentation for a new levee system.

The design and document package will then be submitted to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to obtain a Conditional Letter of Map Revision (CLOMR). A CLOMR is a preliminary review by FEMA to confirm that if a project is constructed as proposed, it would result in revisions to Flood Insurance Rate Maps.

Flood-prone areas within the scope of the new North Shore Levee
Flood-prone areas within the scope of the new North Shore Levee

The ultimate goal of the levee system once constructed will be to provide comprehensive flood protection and remove protected areas from the flood plain, eliminating mandatory flood insurance requirements. A similar project is underway in Mount Vernon, Washington, where a 1.75-mile levee is anticipated to remove that city from the flood plain, raising property values and spurring economic growth.

“Protecting our community from chronic flooding is our number one priority,” said Aberdeen Mayor Erik Larson. “We not only need to address the immediate flooding problems, but also the projected increases in frequency and severity of flooding stemming from our local rivers and streams as well as storm surge coming from Grays Harbor.”

Northside Levee Proposed Coverage

The North Shore Levee is an expansion of a project begun in December 2014 to provide flood protection and flood insurance relief for the City of Aberdeen and its downtown area. Data and design from that project will be reused and improved for the expanded North Shore Levee. KPFF Consulting Engineers of Lacey has provided prime design and management for both projects.

Northside Levee Proposal“The ultimate goal isn’t only to provide meaningful and long-term flood protection, but also to reduce the significant and increasing burden of mandatory flood insurance,” said Kris Koski of KPFF, project manager and a native of Aberdeen. “Historical data is showing us that in Aberdeen and Hoquiam, flood insurance participants pay significantly more in premiums than what is returned by way of paid claims. Those are dollars that leave the community never to return, and we’d like to prevent them from leaving in the first place.”

The timing of the North Shore Levee project aligns with the Timberworks Master Plan underway in Aberdeen and Hoquiam. That effort is led by Forterra, a Seattle-based conservation, and community-building organization. The Master Plan team has been tasked to develop a framework and action plan for addressing flooding issues in the communities of Aberdeen and Hoquiam. As part of the Master Plan process, the team will be engaging the community and performing interviews with key community stakeholders, including representatives from government agencies, non-profit organizations, the business community, and property owners.

“Protecting Aberdeen and Hoquiam from chronic flooding is essential to the sustainability of this region,” said Jordan Rash, Conservation Director for Forterra serving as project manager for the Master Plan. “The North Shore Levee is the first piece of this puzzle, with additional investments in flood storage areas and infrastructure to further reduce flood risk to come in the years ahead.”

Both the Timberworks Master Plan and North Shore Levee projects have involved a new sense of collaboration between the Cities of Aberdeen and Hoquiam. With the same economic and flooding issues spanning both sides of Myrtle Street, the cities are taking a decidedly more comprehensive approach to address issues than what has been used in the past.

”We’re very happy to be embarking on this effort as a leader on this project,” said Hoquiam Mayor Jasmine Dickhoff. “Developing this infrastructure will not only provide much-needed relief in flood insurance costs to our residents, but also help to attract investment and restore the environment. This is a real win-win for our community.”