It has been 12 years since the Chehalis River flooded the Twin Cities and the topic of floods was prominent at the Centralia City Council meeting on Tuesday.
J. Vander Stoep, a board member in the Office of the Chehalis Basin, presented an update on the projects overseen by the organization, and work that has been ongoing since the flood in 2007.
“We had five floods that were bigger than what FEMA and the USGS called the 100-year flood, five of them since then. I wake up every day knowing we’re one day closer to the next one,” Vander Stoep said. “We can all pray that we’ll have another 12 years, Lord knows we may, but we may also be looking at our neighbors here in three months and that’s just the reality of the situation.”
Vander Stoep thanked the council for being on the same page as the Chehalis Basin in regards to flood management throughout the county.
“We have two jurisdictions of Centralia and Chehalis and then we have Lewis County and the town of Pe Ell and other jurisdictions in the basin but the water doesn’t care,” Vander Stoep said. “The water doesn’t pay attention to boundary lines and when we deal with this problem, I think we’re all one community.”
During the presentation, Vander Stoep discussed the progress on projects regarding water retention and flood prevention in the Chehalis Basin.
“It’s about $900 million to be saved by continuing this effort and I will tell you, within the next week, I’ll think you’ll see data that puts that number almost about $200 million higher,” Vander Stoep said. “On the flood side, that’s what’s at stake.”
Ron Averill, of the Chehalis River Basin Flood Authority, updated the council on the China Creek project, noting there is $2.4 million from the capital budget to help move the project forward.
Emil Pierson, Community Development Director of Centralia, followed up with a progress report from the city.
“This is just the beginning of the floods. Tick tock, it’s been 12 years since we had that in 2007. We’re due for another one,” Pierson said. “I would be very concerned this year because I think we can definitely see it happen, every year, any year.”
Pierson talked about some of the ways the city of Centralia is trying to address the situation on a regular basis in order to be prepared for another flood.
The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is an organization the city works with and Pierson elaborated on how the city is gearing up to receive their rating from this voluntary incentive program and encourages people to do a number of things to reduce the cost paid of flood insurance in Centralia.
“Every rating we go down, our residents receive a 5 percent reduction in their costs,” Pierson said. “So currently, as a 6, we’re providing our residents a really good rate. We’re saving them thousands of dollars that they’d be able to use and keep in their pockets.”
The city has a number of programs that help residents including elevation certificates to help people elevate their homes if they are in the floodplain, helping people determine if their home is in a floodplain and flood-proofing tips for people’s homes.
Pierson also encouraged people with homes who may be at risk to make sure they have flood insurance and to have a plan in case a flood happens. He also emphasized the need to make sure streams and other drainage near homes are clean.
Mayor Lee Coumbs emphasized the points that Pierson and Vander Stoep made and encouraged people to take action before it’s too late.
“You don’t have to have flood insurance, it’s not mandatory. However, if you’re borrowing money from somebody, they’re going to say you’re going to have flood insurance,” Coumbs said. “That accounts for a big chunk of our community and if you don’t have it and if you’ve ever had a flood, you wish you had it because it’s a major thing.”
For more information about floods in and around Centralia, Pierson noted the city’s website by clicking on the ‘Flood and Natural Hazard Information’ tab.