Flood Authority — Warning system costs a concern

MONTESANO — Montesano Mayor Ken Estes says the Chehalis Basin Flood Authority needs to start planning for how it intends to pay for regular maintenance on an early warning system, which includes a website and flood and rain gauges all throughout the river basin.

At this point, each of the 12 jurisdictions of the Flood Authority are contributing to the maintenance costs. In 2013, that cost the jurisdictions $53,585, which is split by population between the Flood Authority members.

Last year, the City of Aberdeen almost balked at paying anything for the maintenance costs, but council members ultimately decided to pay their share with the understanding a new cost allocation approach would happen for the 2014 budget year. Many city officials in Aberdeen don’t think they’re getting much out of the early warning system.

During the regular meeting of the Flood Authority on June 20, which took place via a telephone conference call, Mayor Estes says that serious discussions on this issue have not yet happened, but need to happen soon.

“Some of the cities are going to have a tough time on this, including us,” Estes told his fellow members.

Flood Authority Consultant Jim Kramer said that funding a warning system is not eligible out of the state Capital Budget, which may make it harder to find an outside funding source. Kramer said the state may pay for repairs on the system, but not regular maintenance.

“Our plan is to have this as a discussion at the next meeting and have some options to bring forward for consideration,” Kramer said.

The early warning website is accessible at www.chehalisriverflood.com and has been created by consultant OneRain of Colorado. The project has cost the Flood Authority more than $300,000, which includes not just creation of the website, but also the addition of rain gauges. Besides the inundation maps, there are direct links to different gauges, the Weather Service’s Doppler system and a page where all of the flood warnings and statements can be found.