Putting Wahkiakum County's flood risk in perspective


December 8, 2022

By Dave Hicks and Garrett Phillips

By some measures, Wahkiakum County’s flood risk is minor, with less development, fewer people, and fewer flood insurance claims than other counties in the state. Also, there have been no recorded deaths or injuries caused by flooding, and flooding is not an existential threat to the community as a whole.

We can look at other measures that tell a different story. For example, 28% of Wahkiakum County’s critical infrastructure is located in floodplains, and a recent State of Washington Flood Risk Analysis identified Wahkiakum County and only six other counties as being at high risk from flooding, on a scale of low risk to high risk.

We appreciate that Wahkiakum County’s flooding problems have real-life consequences for people. Between annual road closures, failing culverts, deferred maintenance on tide gates and levees, new housing development getting flooded, sediment runoff from timberlands, and Grays Bay getting clogged up, just to name a few issues, there are more flooding problems and more potential solutions than anyone has time to work on. We need your perspective to understand the issues and the opportunities for improvement.

There are dedicated people making progress to alleviate flooding issues, and to respond to flood emergencies when they do occur. The diking district volunteers, public servants, and neighbors helping themselves and helping each other in the face of flood risks deserve our thanks and commendation. We need your perspective to understand all the contributions being made already from so many people across the community. We want to learn about what’s working, and what can work better.

The county is updating its Comprehensive Flood Hazard Mitigation Plan, as an opportunity to identify flooding trends and important flooding issues to spend time and resources on in the coming years. The plan update is an opportunity to take stock of the issues, the good work being done already, and opportunities to do more with limited resources.

The county needs your perspective do this. Please consider filling out our brief questionnaire as a first step. The questionnaire includes a way to connect directly with county staff to ask questions about our planning process and to share more information or your priorities. It also allows you to sign up to receive occasional updates on progress, so that you can give us feedback.

Seeing community flooding conditions first-hand after a major winter storm, experiencing an SR 4 road closure, experiencing flooding in one’s own home, and having conversations with neighbors about flooding provides the kind of unique perspective that we can only learn from you, and ultimately is at the heart of decisions about making priorities and taking action. County planners are using their long term first-hand experience and the best available science and information resources to understand flood risk, but to really understand how flooding affects county residents, and to identify the best actions to take going forward, your perspective is needed.


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