News

CKSD awarded federal funding for flood damage

By PAUL BALCERAK

Staff writer

Emerald Heights Elementary School’s play field hasn’t had a whole lot of playing happening since floods washed it out a few weeks ago. Orange caution tape surrounds the field, which is covered in straw to sap up areas of standing water. A wall of sandbags sits at the far end of the field in front of a 10-foot-deep hole that was created when soil and water overwhelmed a below-ground retention wall during the floods.

It’s the most damaged property in the Central Kitsap School District, which is facing an estimated $1.6 million in total repairs from floods earlier this month.

CKSD Facilities Director Richard Best met with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) officials earlier this week to discuss what funding the district could qualify for, but it will take a while.

“It’s a fairly bureaucratic process,” Best said.

CKSD has already qualified for Category A and B funding, meaning that more than $540,000 in costs incurred from debris removal and protective measures to prevent more flooding will be covered by FEMA. District officials are still hoping that Category D and E costs will be covered to pay for water detention systems and building repairs.

“FEMA officials we met with (on Tuesday) gave me a pretty optimistic feeling (about getting the funding),” Best said.

Those same officials surveyed damage across the district on Friday, but the paperwork to qualify for federal aid won’t likely be filed until late January.

In the meantime, temporary fixes will have to be relied upon.

Fixes to the Emerald Heights field, for example, have included water being drained off of the field much faster than usual.

Building codes only allow so much water to drain off of the play field and onto a nearby hillside that runs down to a creek. So the field was designed to retain water and release it slowly through a “crib wall” that sits above a berm on the far side of the field.

When the ground became saturated, however, about three feet of water filled up on the field and crested the berm, spilling over onto the exposed side of the crib wall. The wall wasn’t designed to handle that kind of spill-over and as a result, a large amount of soil forced its way through the wall, leaving about a 10-foot hole in the field.

The field is now guarded by what Ladd Stejskal, CKSD’s manager of facilities planning, called a “three-tiered” drainage system. The system consists of a French drain, a swale and a dike. The French drain and swale divert water away from the field, while the dike exists as a backup measure to block water from spilling over the berm again.

“I feel very confident (in the system),” Stejskal said. “It’s doing a great job right now.”

Best warned, however, that it’s “not a long-term solution.”

The real question, though, is can the system handle a storm on par with the one that flooded the field in the first place?

“That’s its intent,” Stejskal said.

Even if FEMA grants Category D and E status to the field, the district could have another financial hurdle to overcome.

The crib wall would ideally be rebuilt so that it could withstand another spill-over from the berm. FEMA funding would only cover costs enough to restore the wall to its pre-damaged state, however.

Negotiations with FEMA to pitch in more money for improvements are ongoing, Best said, but a situation could arise in which FEMA, the state of Washington and the district split the cost of improvements.

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