The Federal Emergency Management Agency announced recently that the release of its reworked Chehalis Basin flood maps has been delayed indefinitely, much to the delight of local officials.
“I’m glad they decided to delay the maps,” Chehalis Mayor Tony Ketchum said. “I hope they delay them long enough that we can have a serious conversation.”
Chehalis, Lewis County and other agencies have raised concerns since the beginning of the year that the first flood maps in almost three decades, designed for flood insurance purposes, could have lasting ramifications on the local economy. Draft preliminary maps place large pieces of land, including the Twin City Town Center area, into the flood-way, rather than floodplain.
Future development in the flood-way is far more restrictive.
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“It’s good news on our part because it gives us time to talk to FEMA on the data collection,” Lewis County Commissioner Ron Averill said.
FEMA is looking to set up a meeting the week of Oct. 18 with local officials to go over how the maps will go from preliminary to permanent.
“FEMA’s primary interest remains the life and safety of residents at risk from flooding in Lewis County,” Kenneth Murphy, regional administrator for FEMA, stated in a letter sent to local municipalities a week ago, “but without open communication we are concerned that these important messages will be lost, or worse, ignored because of a misunderstanding.”
Ryan Ike, risk analyst branch chief for FEMA Region X, said the agency had been in talks with the staff of both U.S. Rep. Brian Baird and U.S. Sen. Patty Murray’s office. Both expressed their desire for FEMA to meet with local officials on the issue.
“They asked that we listen very seriously to the needs of the community down there,” Ike said.
He noted that the soon-to-be-released maps are not the final version. “The process is just getting started; it’s not ending,” Ike said. “The whole process begins with us releasing the maps. There is time for an appeal and still time for public comment.”
A new release date has not been set, but Ike said the preliminary maps will be released before the end of the year.