Staying ahead of possible flood risks is a constant effort by cities throughout the state trying to reduce damage and lower insurance rates for citizens. To work toward that goal, the city of Issaquah has completed its annual floodplain management plan progress report.
The progress report details work implementing management and the mitigation of flood risks throughout the city.
Submitted to both the city council, mayor, and review by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the progress report is used in the National Flood Insurance Program’s community rating system (CRS) to reduce flood insurance premiums for those affected in the city.
By implementing floodplain management plans and regulations, cities receive a CRS rating that can reduce insurance rates for homeowners who have had to file flood insurance claims in the past.
Bob York, utilities engineering manager at the city, said the report isn’t just to get a good score with FEMA, but also to keep the community aware of the flood control efforts being made.
York said the CRS ratings range from Class 10 (the lowest) to Class 1 (the highest). In 2017, the city of Issaquah was ranked at Class 5, which is the highest rank of any city in King County. In Washington State’s 37 participating cities, counties, and tribes, only 14 are rated higher than Class 5.
The report also details the Repetitive Loss Program, a list of properties that have had at least two flood insurance claims of at least $1,000 in a 10-year period since 1978. Since 1980, about 69 percent of flood insurance claims in Issaquah have come from repetitive loss properties. There are 14 unmitigated properties on the list as of September.
Projects to mitigate the repetitive loss have been in the works since 2012. So far 10 projects have been completed. Five houses were demolish and converted to open space, four homes and commercial buildings were elevated, and one property was redeveloped with design to mitigate flood impacts.
In order to reduce flood insurance claims and manage the floodplain more effectively, the city has allocated money from the stormwater fund, grants from King County and FEMA, and bonds to purchase properties within the floodplain to prevent flooding damage.
“When we buy those houses, we remove the building that used to be on the property, and once you remove the building no more flood insurance is needed,” York said.
With the buildings removed, the floodplain properties are maintained as open green space which helps to support habitat restoration efforts as well.
York also noted several capital infrastructure improvements the city has made to steams and culverts. The report highlights projects like the Salmon Run Nature Park Stream Restoration, a project to restore and stabilize the riverbank of the Issaquah Creek below Northwest Juniper Street.
Issaquah also sees strong engagement in its emergency preparedness programs, the community emergency response team (CERT) and Map Your Neighborhood (MYN). York highlighted the CERT program in particular by noting that more than 700 citizens have become CERT volunteers.
Most recently, York said, the city has submitted a letter of map revision to FEMA. If accepted, the letter will update the map of mitigated floodplain land to show properties that once had houses are now open space. By demonstrating the continued efforts to prevent flooding damage, flood insurance rates could drop even more.