Pierce County begins updating flood management plan

Pierce County is preparing to update and expand the plan for addressing flooding on major rivers.

The existing flood management plan, written in 1991, is out of date and includes only the Puyallup River system. The new plan will include more rivers and reflect current issues, policies and priorities for managing river flooding.

The update comes at a critical time, as county funding sources are declining due to the recession, while the need to reduce flood losses is growing. A 2008 flood hazard assessment predicted billions of dollars in damages would result from a major levee failure in the lower Puyallup River. Elected officials and citizens have raised questions about how best to reduce flood damages, and how much residents and businesses are willing to invest to achieve this protection.

The updated plan will address the range of resource and policy issues facing local jurisdictions, resource managers, tribes, property owners and businesses.

“The goal is to reduce the risk to life and property from river flooding and channel migration,” said Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy. “It requires striking a balance among cost-effective flood hazard management, available funding, compatible human uses, economic sustainability, and improved fish and wildlife habitat in flood-prone areas.”

River flooding affects everyone, and all Pierce County households, even those in incorporated cities, will soon receive a postcard with information about the flood plan update and how get involved.

The project is a multi-department effort led by Public Works and Utilities, with participation from Emergency Management, Planning and Land Services, Parks and Recreation, Economic Development, and Government Relations.

Pierce County is encouraging a high level of public involvement in the update process. The plan Web site, http://www.piercecountywa.org/floodplan , offers surveys and opportunities for the public’s input on such issues as floodplain development regulations, levee maintenance, gravel removal, fish habitat, emergency response and public education.

“We really want this to be a good plan that addresses flood issues in a comprehensive and coordinated way,” said Lorin Reinelt, project manager for Public Works and Utilities. “We invite people to share their opinions through the online survey, to be part of the advisory committee, or to send us their comments. We have already seen a strong interest in working together on this.”