New flood maps could affect Skagit County development

New flood maps could affect Skagit County development »Play Video
BURLINGTON, Wash. -- New flood maps are coming out soon and not everyone is happy about it. The maps from the federal government show which areas are most likely to flood, and particularly what it means for the flood prone Skagit Valley.

In October 2003, heavy rains caused one of the worst floods ever recorded in the Skagit Valley. Mount Vernon and Burlington scrambled to hold back rising water from the Skagit River.

Now for the first time in 15 years, FEMA is updating flood plain maps that show which areas would be under water in what experts call a 100-year flood.

"We're trying to disclose the accurate risk with the best information we have at hand so homeowners, local officials and economic development interests can make the best decisions possible based upon the risk as we know it," said Mark Carey of FEMA.

Skagit County residents worry FEMA will overstate the risk by expanding the flood plain. That would force more people to buy expensive flood insurance and restrict growth.

As an example. the new FEMA maps would suggest a 100 year flood on the Skagit River would reach 6 feet above the entrance to Cascade Mall, and the entire city of Burlington would become a flood way.

"That means according to the technical analysis, water would be flowing through Burlington moving at some speed," said Chal Martin, Burlington Public Works director. "If that's the case, there's no development whatsoever allowed in a flood way."

Burlington has joined with other Skagit County cities to challenge FEMA's findings. Their consultants say the federal analysis relies too much on data from big floods in the early 1900's.

At stake: public safety versus the economy of Skagit County.