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Floodwall in Mount Vernon could reduce insurance rates for downtown businesses

A riverwalk through downtown Mount Vernon was part of a $30 million project to protect the city from future Skagit River floods.
A riverwalk through downtown Mount Vernon was part of a $30 million project to protect the city from future Skagit River floods. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

After more than a decade, downtown Mount Vernon’s flood protection plan is “essentially done,” according to Public Works Director Esco Bell.

The final 70 feet of the 1.7-mile floodwall designed to protect downtown from the Skagit River is expected to be finished by the end of December, Bell said.

When the project is completed, the city will be able to petition the Federal Emergency Management Agency for an exemption from the agency’s 100-year flood plain, reducing flood insurance rates for downtown property and business owners.

The $30 million project is designed to protect downtown from the Skagit River.

“For all of this project, the city has pushed hard,” Bell said. “We'll keep pushing until those maps are changed.”

All told, the project has cost about $30 million and was paid for through a variety of federal, state and local sources.

The final stretch of the project involves the city installing several concrete pillars near Lions Park. During times of heightened flood risk, the city will slot aluminum logs between the pillars to create that stretch of floodwall.

Bell said the city will submit in January the necessary paperwork to FEMA to get its flood plain exemption. After that, the agency has 90 days to respond to the city’s request.

The city has preliminary approval from the agency based on plans it submitted to FEMA years ago, but Bell said he will have to show that he followed those plans in order for the exemption to take effect.

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