Officials plan to explain today the effects of newly released draft Federal Emergency Management Agency flood maps, and how they want to shrink an area that wouldn't get much development.
Today’s update is primarily for businesses in the Centralia-Chehalis area to get a glimpse of what to look for as finalization of the Chehalis River Basin’s first flood maps in nearly three decades continues.
“A lot of work has been done behind the scenes,” said Chehalis City Manager Merlin MacReynold, who has taken the lead among Centralia, Chehalis and Lewis County to deal with FEMA and flood maps. “We think we’ve had some success.”
A lot of the success has come in the new working relationship that county municipalities have had with the federal agency. MacReynold described it as a “180-degree turn from where they were last January.”
The relationship has mostly been repaired in the past couple of months after tensions boiled over in a joint meeting in October, at which city and county officials said they felt disrespected and lectured to.
The two sides still are talking to see what can be done to shrink the maps’ expanded floodway, a highly restrictive development designation that now engulfs most of Chehalis’ prime real estate along Interstate 5 and parts of Centralia. Both parties are working toward a compromise, but Chehalis and other local agencies still are seeking scientific evidence to challenge what they deem as an overreaction to the December 2007 flood.
Many local leaders think FEMA’s assessment of flood levels and its modeling of floods relied too heavily on the record-breaking flood.
MacReynold said representatives from Anchor QEA, the Seattle-based firm they hired to analyze FEMA’s maps, will be available today to give an update. Property owners will have some time to submit their comments about the maps to FEMA. The maps are available through county and city governments.
FEMA officials stated in the October meeting with local leaders that the preliminary maps are a “first draft.” They said it would take at least 15 months under perfect conditions to finalize the maps.