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FEMA awards $50 million for levees in Grays Harbor County

A storm in 2015 flooded homes and shut down Highway 101. The federal funding will help ensure Hoquiam and Aberdeen fare better in future storms.

GRAYS HARBOR, Wash. — After living in Hoquiam for more than 50 years, Marion Gillham has survived her share of winter storms.

But the one in January 2015 sticks out.

“That was the worst one I’ve ever seen,” said Gillham.

She had to replace her floors and a coffee table after more than a foot of water flooded her home.

Down the street homes were wiped off their foundations in a landslide and Highway 101 had to be shut down because of water over the roadway.

“That was the true catalyst for us coming together as two cities to build a flood levee,” said Hoquiam City Administrator Brian Shay.

Shay said Hoquiam officials worked with neighboring Aberdeen’s City Hall to request funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Friday, FEMA Region 10 Administrator Willie G. Nunn announced the two cities were getting $50 million in federal funding to help build levees through Grays Harbor County.

Five Washington projects in all were selected as part of the federal $1.16 billion climate and disaster resilience investment, according to FEMA.

“As we speak, we are seeing the impacts of climate change as fires rage across the country, and unprecedented floods have claimed dozens of lives,” said Nunn.

Shay called the announcement a “game changer” for Grays Harbor.

He said it could help attract businesses to the county.

Thousands of mortgage holders who own property in the area will no longer need to have flood insurance, said Shay.

He also said storms like the one in January 2015 would not cause as much damage once the levees are completed by 2026.

Gillham would like that.

“Great! It's a godsend for all of us,” Gillham said.

The other recipients of FEMA funding announced Friday are the cities of Shoreline and Auburn, the Seattle Police Department, and King County Water District 90.


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