After a couple of years of trying to work with the city of Spokane Valley, Spokane County utilities officials are going to submit a 100-year flood study to the Federal Emergency Management Agency on their own.
While a portion of the affected floodplain lies within the city, Bruce Rawls, county utilities director, told the Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday that there was “not much progress” in having Spokane Valley sign off on the county’s work before submission to FEMA.
After consulting with legal staff and FEMA representatives, Rawls decided to ask the board for permission to move ahead on their own.
“We’re frustrated after two years to get their buy-in. We’ve lost one construction season,” Rawls said. “We’re in danger of losing 2014 too.”
Several areas in the Saltese Flats southeast of Spokane Valley are already in the works, but there are several tracts that are ripe for development. The Central Valley School district has property available for a new school, if necessary. All the property is above the 100-year floodplain threshold.
FEMA’s 100-year flood maps show where water would likely travel in the instance of a once-in-a-century flood, Rawls said. However, such an event has a 1-percent chance of occurring every year.
Rawls said Spokane Valley has utilized an independent consultant to review the county’s 100-year floodplain proposal for Saltese Flats, which was critical of the county’s work, and has suggested differing approaches for “rain on snow” or “rain only” events.
Commissioner Al French made a motion for the county to submit to FEMA on its own. The motion was seconded by Chairwoman Shelly O’Quinn, who represents Spokane Valley in District 2. Commissioner Todd Mielke was not present for Tuesday’s meeting.
Rawls also said that it is in the interest of the county to retain interest in Steen Pit, which could be used to control excess runoff during heavy snows and storms. Spokane Valley officials have told Spokane County they are not interested in owning the property.
“I get the jurisdictional issues, but I think that’s shortsighted,” O’Quinn said. “I think we have a responsibility to maintain this.”
The pit, however, is currently under control of the road and engineering department, not utilities. In order to for the former gravel pit to be used for floodwater control, it would have to be sold between the two departments. A land appraisal will be made to make certain of the property’s worth prior to a “sale” is made.