The Pierce County Council voted Tuesday, April 3, to create a flood district that protects lives, homes, businesses and the entire regional economy from a catastrophic loss.
On a 5-2 vote, the Council approved the creation of a Flood Control Zone District, a special-purpose government designed to fund flood-protection projects and programs in Pierce County. Many levees and other flood protection facilities were built in the 1920s or earlier and must be strengthened.
"We saw what happened in Lewis County in 2009 when Interstate 5 was underwater for days. As the second-largest county in the state, we have an even greater exposure to damages," said Council Chair Joyce McDonald (District 2). "Everyone in Pierce County would be affected by the closure of I-5 or Highways 167 and 410 because that would halt the flow of goods and people in our region."
An analysis released in October 2010 concluded the county could face economic losses of more than $725 million, including damages to homes, businesses, wastewater treatment plants, roads and rails. Using authority granted under state law, Ordinance 2011-95s aims to prevent those types of massive losses by funding such needs as levee repairs and improvements, property purchases and more.
"Pierce County has experienced catastrophic floods throughout its history," said County Executive Pat McCarthy. "After years of talk, it's time to create a comprehensive approach to addressing the problems and looming failures along our 92 miles of aging flood protection facilities."
The district's funding is expected to come from a levy of no more than 10 cents per $1,000 assessed value, which amounts to $20 a year on a $200,000 home. The money cannot be used for anything other than flood-related actions.
McDonald and McCarthy have worked together for more than a year to address concerns cited by a few cities and towns. A key addition to the plan is an "opportunity fund" that will provide grants for important stormwater projects in each community.
Joyce McDonald, Council Chair
Hunter George, Pierce County Communications