FEMA funding to help pay for Grays Harbor levees to mitigate future flood damage

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A storm in 2015 flooded homes and closed the 101 freeway. Federal funding will help ensure that Hoquiam and Aberdeen fare better in future storms.

GRAYS HARBOUR, Wash. – After living in Hoquiam for more than 50 years, Marion Gillham has weathered her share of winter storms.

But that of January 2015 stands out.

“It was the worst I’ve ever seen,” Gillham said.

She had to replace her floors and a coffee table after more than a foot of water flooded her home.

At the end of the street, houses were wiped from their foundations in a landslide and Route 101 had to be closed due to water on the roadway.

“That was the real catalyst to bring us together as two cities to build a flood levee,” said Hoquiam Town Administrator Brian Shay.

Shay said Hoquiam officials had worked with nearby Aberdeen Town Hall to apply for funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

On Friday, FEMA Region 10 Administrator Willie G. Nunn announced that the two cities are receiving $50 million in federal funding to help build seawalls in Grays Harbor County.

A total of five Washington projects have been selected as part of the $1.16 billion federal investment in climate and disaster resilience, according to FEMA.

“As we speak, we are seeing the impacts of climate change as fires rage across the country and unprecedented flooding has claimed dozens of lives,” Nunn said.

Shay called the announcement a “game changer” for Grays Harbor.

He said it could help attract business to the county.

Thousands of mortgage holders who own property in the area will no longer need flood insurance, Shay said.

He also said that storms like the one in January 2015 would not cause as much damage once the levees are completed by 2026.

“Great! It’s a godsend for all of us,” Gillham said.

Other recipients of FEMA funding announced Friday are the cities of Shoreline and Auburn, the Seattle Police Department and King County Water District 90.

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