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King County taking input on new flood management plan

King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks says the plan aims to "prepare communities for more frequent, severe floods occurring due to climate change."

ISSAQUAH, Wash. — The King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks (KCDNRP) is currently taking input as it works to produce a comprehensive flood management plan

This will be the first flood plan in around a decade and will identify flood risks, examine how flooding impacts communities and lay out how to manage flood hazards for residents, businesses and roads moving forward. 

KCDNRP Flood Management Plan Project Manager Jason Wilkinson said the county will aim to center the plan in equity and on community engagement throughout the planning process. 

"[We also want to emphasize] multiple community benefits and values through the planning process, things like supporting salmon habitat, supporting viable agriculture, providing recreation and open space opportunities, along with reducing flood risk," Wilkinson said.

A third focus is to weave in a strong emphasis on climate change. 

"We don't know precisely what's going to happen where but the science does tell us to expect change in future conditions, so as part of our planning, we're considering what the range of possible outcomes could be and trying to develop a plan that accounts for that range of possible outcomes and produces strategies that can accommodate changing future conditions," Wilkinson said.  

While the most recent plan in 2013 focused a lot on rivers, this plan aims to expand that lens to more urban flooding risks, coastal hazards and tributaries. Wilkinson said it will also build on progress made since 2013. KCDNRP has partnered with number of cities and agencies to reduce flood risk, respond to flooding damage, and empower salmon restoration.

The City of Issaquah is one of those entities. The city has also worked on a number of its own initiatives to face the flooding threats in its own backyard. 

"What makes Issaquah so beautiful also makes it so challenging," Issaquah Mayor Mary Lou Pauly said. "Big, foresty hillside, Issaquah Creek, Lake Sammamish, they are wonderful to look at and they also create enormous challenges at different times of the year."

Pauly says Issaquah is always examining ways to prepare for emergencies and works with businesses and residents, especially in the fall. The city also has a capital improvement program for stream restoration and conducts programs to help purchase flood-prone properties and convert them into safe floodplain safe. It also connects residents with resources to raise homes that may need to be lifted for safety reasons. 

"So that the water has somewhere to go rather than into your house or your basement, and we purchase property within the floodplain whether there are structures over it or not," Pauly said. 

Pauly says planning for the future also means considering the potential impacts of climate change.

"We are experiencing more severe storms and higher levels of rainfall," Pauly said. "That means the floodplain that we manage is shifting and changing so we have to be able to respond to that."

KCDNRP will hold a public input meeting on Thursday from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. via Zoom. To sign up or to send feedback by phone or email, click here

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