The area’s congressional delegation has secured nearly $300,000 to allow work to continue on a Skagit River flood protection study through October.

This will allow work on the Skagit River General Investigation Study to continue at a pace that could see a final report in about two years. U.S. Reps. Rick Larsen and Suzan DelBene announced the funds in a press release Tuesday. The money will go to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“Ensuring that the Skagit Valley is prepared for the next devastating flood is critical to protecting the region’s economy and the safety of those who live in its communities,” DelBene said.

But first, officials will unveil the top choice for protecting residents and property from a 100-year flood. Such a flood has a 1 in 100 chance of happening in a given year.

The Skagit River GI Study has continued for more than a decade and cost more than $11 million in local and federal money. Such studies are not supposed to take this long or cost this much; the Skagit River’s is of the longest running studies in the country. Once the study is complete, locals can apply for federal money to help complete suggested flood protection measures.

Skagit County Natural Resources Director Dan Berentson said the money should take the process through October, when the county and other agencies will have a top plan for flood protection to present to the public.

“Without this funding, the corps would have to slow down,” he said.

The river is the third largest on the contiguous West Coast, behind the Sacramento and Columbia rivers. The area has flooded regularly during the fall and winter months. While some of the water can be held back by hydroelectric dams, residents depend on local dike districts to control the rest. The study has shown so far that levees along the river are not high enough to hold back all of the water that would course down the river during a 100-year flood.

One option to move the levees farther from the edge of riverbanks was deemed too expensive. Still on the table are options to increase water storage behind dams upriver, create channels to divert the flow of water away from urban areas and add more levees around high-value urban areas. These options to improve flood protection are bundled into different flood-protection strategies called “alternatives.”

“We are starting to sort out what opportunities and obstacles may confront each alternative,” Berentson said.

The Army Corps will complete a cost-benefit analysis of the alternatives, all of which should be made public when the top alternative is selected, said Kara Symonds, watershed planner for Skagit County. The public will have opportunities to comment when documents are released.

Berentson said the county will have to “wait and see” if it will get money for the next federal fiscal year, beginning in October, about $600,000 in federal money and an equal amount from communities along the Skagit River.

“We are confident we will get funded,” he said. “We seem to have momentum.”

- Reporter Kate Martin: 360-416-2145, kmartin@skagitpublishing.com, Twitter: @Kate_SVH, facebook.com/KateReports.

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