Dec. 14, 2010
Land use policies help limit damage from landslides and flooding during weekend flooding
Continued investment still needed to prevent sewer overflows; Executive praises personal preparedness and self-reliance of residents
King County Executive Dow Constantine today recognized residents who keep themselves prepared for events such as this weekend’s downpour, while noting the benefits from previous laws and investments that have helped keep damage to a minimum.
“You don’t need to be a ‘first responder’ to respond to your own emergencies. By simply learning about your risk, signing up for flood alerts, packing a preparedness kit, and not driving on a road that’s covered with water, you’re doing your part to contribute,” said Executive Constantine. “Residents who anticipate and act, such as those in the ‘Vashon Be Prepared’ group, and those who helped fill sandbags, all help improve the regions ability to quickly respond to changing weather conditions.”
Although many areas of King County experienced landslides or flooding over the weekend, damage to life and property was kept to a minimum for such a large-scale weather event.
“The damaged homes in King County that were seen in the news were not among those that have been permitted or built in the last 10 years,” said the Executive. “Policies to limit construction on steep slopes and protections for flood hazard areas are doing a better job of making our homes and neighborhoods safer and more resistant to damage from severe weather.”
King County's flood hazard regulations are focused on protecting public health and safety and ensuring that new development doesn't worsen flood hazards for neighbors downstream. County regulations are coupled with capital investments to move homes at greatest risk, retrofit aging levees, and re-establish more natural flood channels where possible. King County is the highest-rated county in the nation under the National Flood Insurance Program's Community Rating System, a rating that qualifies residents of the unincorporated areas for a 40 percent discount on flood insurance.
“As our population grows and the recession eases, pressure will build once again to allow new business, residential and infrastructure investments in the floodplain,” said the Executive. “We need to keep in mind that we've had 11 Presidentially-declared flood disasters since 1990, and we must continue to site development and infrastructure in a way that will be economically viable, environmentally sustainable, and safe.”
In heavy rains like those over the weekend, wastewater facilities are put to the test. The sheer volume of rainfall overwhelmed portions of the county’s wastewater system and that led to sewer overflows at some locations. The Brightwater Treatment System will add needed capacity to meet our growing population while providing flexibility in the routing of flows during torrential rainfall.
Since the 1980s, regional investments to curtail combined sewer overflows that occur in older parts of Seattle during heavy rains have reduced the overflows of sewage and stormwater by more than 70 percent. “However, there is more to be done,” said the Executive. “We need to continue to forge ahead with the often unseen - but critically important - infrastructure improvements called for in the Regional Wastewater Services Plan.”
Learn more about emergency preparedness, and how to make an emergency kit, at
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King County provides regional services to nearly 2-million residents including 305,000 people living in unincorporated areas. Services include Metro transit, public health, wastewater treatment, courts, jails, prosecutors, public defenders, community and social services, the King County International Airport, and local services such as police protection, roads service, and solid waste transfer station and landfill services. King County is the 14th largest county in the nation by population, and covers 2,134 square miles, 39 cities, 760 lakes and reservoirs, and six major river systems with 3,000 miles of streams.