Olympic Mountains, but the Dungeness River still gets plenty of water, enough to be dangerous or damaging.
Clallam County is beginning to pump out a new flood control program to help mitigate against possible high-water problems associated with land use near the river.
We are encouraged to look at better, newer information gleaned from along these flood sensitive areas because they are getting more extreme with high levels of rain and snow, Clallam County watershed planner Hannah Merrill said. The plan wont change what property you have but it may update what uses are exempt from that land to the extent that they may cause flood hazards.
The county is presently working under a 1990 flood management plan. The aim of the plan and its update is to describe what river restoration is needed to eliminate flood hazards, identify land use that may encourage flood activity and most importantly, protect human and fish habitat, according to Merrill.
We have cases on people living along the river, like on Kaiser Place, where the water has been taking chunks of their property away after large storms, she said. Plus, after the dikes were put in along part of the river, silt began to build up so those dikes are no longer as effective as they used to be because they caused the river to gain elevation over time, collecting the erosion from up stream.
She said the county already has a plan under way to set the dikes back. Clallam County received a $1.7 million grant for property acquisition and to create a dike setback plan. After the dikes are set farther back, the river will be able to meander in a wider plane, reducing the risk of flooding while promoting a natural habitat rather than a straight channel of water.
The dike setback is an example of a project we may need to look into after creating an update to the flood plan, like an area of worry where if something isnt done there will be a problem, she said. It wont force anyone to move out or sell their property, but it will provide information for that landowner to consider selling or to consider doing flood mitigation on their own, because these issues affect their parcels the most.
Another change that may result from the plans formation is the way the county improves its roads near the river.
If we have a road near the river that our studies indicate is in a hazardous spot, we may encourage it be moved, Merrill said. The plan wouldnt require every road to be moved right away, but if we do improvements on a road, we may go ahead and alter its course rather than improve a hazardous right of way.
County Commissioner Steve Tharinger discussed the pending plan during a Dungeness River Management Team meeting.
The zoning wouldnt change and peoples right to be there wouldnt change; the zoning already has very limited use attached to it along the river, Tharinger said. But were looking at areas like Kaiser Place, where banks are eroded and well heads are getting exposed, and were thinking about how we can make sure our citizens are protected from possible harm while at the same time incorporating new state regulations and laws, like the critical areas ordinance.
The county went through the steps to update the plan in 2003 but that draft was never adopted. The information is still useful, according to Merrill. The study looked at historical reaches of the river, taking into account bridge widths and road proximity.
If there is a worry a bridge isnt long enough to handle bank erosion in a tremendous storm, that would be a major find and something we would include, Merrill said, indicating that for now the bridges are more than adequate and that the plan looks further into the future. Were in preliminary stages right now. The proposed timeline is to have a draft of the plan ready for public review this fall with a finalized plan to come next summer.
The dike setback is an example of a project we may need to look into after creating an update to the flood plan, like an area of worry where if something isnt done there will be a problem.
Hannah Merrill, watershed planner
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