County to address residents’ flood cleanup woes

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Peter Grahn isn’t like many flood victims in Kitsap County. He didn’t spend hours on end sandbagging to divert flood waters from his property. He didn’t watch mudslides wash away his house. In fact, he didn’t even suffer any lost value on his home or property.

What he did lose, however, was a big chunk of wetland next to his property that’s been reduced to sand and mud since the storm.

“It was a real pristine, nice little lagoon ... before it happened,” Grahn said of the effect the storm had on the wetland.

The lagoon in question sat at the mouth of the creek that overflowed and washed away a huge section of Illahee Road NE during the December 2007 floods.

Grahn would like to see the county remove some of the debris the washout left behind — guardrails and sections of roadway — and help restore the area to its previous state.

He may not get his wish, but he could at least get a chance to tell the county how he would fix things.

The Kitsap County Department of Emergency Management (KCDEM) has scheduled a meeting for April 15 that will address the county’s response to the floods and allow the public to brainstorm ways to improve in the future.

“We welcome input from the public,” KCDEM Director Phyllis Mann said. “I want suggestions and solutions to the problem(s)” that people may have.

The meeting, called the December 2007 After Action Symposium, is an extension of KCDEM’s regularly scheduled public meeting.

While the public will have a chance to comment on what worked and what could be improved during future emergencies, KCDEM won’t be addressing lingering individual problems.

“It is not an unmet needs meeting,” Mann said. “One of the things we may talk about is how to meet unmet needs in the future.”

That edict may stifle a few; Grahn puzzled over what could be done to bring back the lagoon.

“Can you imagine rooting out these big roots or breaking up these trees?” he said, looking over trees snapped like toothpicks and sections of metal guardrail wrapped around stumps. “I don’t know how you would even restore our wetlands.”

The county has been meeting with several flood victims over the last few months, including Grahn, to identify areas the county could help fix.

Some have expressed frustration with those meetings, such as Kid Haven Lane resident Bill Evalt, who was profiled in a March 15 CK Reporter story titled, “Help more than a phone call away.” Evalt and several of his neighbors on Kid Haven had been hampered by a road washout that cut their homes off from emergency vehicle access.

Evalt had hoped the county would do something to help fix his road, which he said several state and local agencies used often to access Big Beef creek.

The county has taken a hands-off approach to those kinds of private property issues.

“These are the choices people make when they live down private roads,” Mann said in a phone interview last month. “Welcome to the words, ‘private property.’”

It’s not entirely clear what kind of assistance Grahn may or may not get from KCDEM or another county agency, eventually.

What is clear is that emergency funding has been cut off. The deadline for requests for Federal Emergency Management Agency and Washington State Emergency Management Division funding passed on Feb. 7.

“The window has closed,” Mann said.

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