SALEM, Ore. -- Tillamook, Oregon's Western Royal Inn and Northport Plaza experienced the success of hazard mitigation during the flooding of December 2007. The buildings were elevated prior to the flooding resulting in the structures being above the menacing floodwaters. Tillamook County was included in the federal disaster declaration for the severe storms, flooding, landslides and mudslides of Dec. 1-17, 2007.
"We used to get flooded almost very year before the building was raised," said Tamara O'Neil, manager of the Western Royal Inn in Tillamook. "But we stayed high and dry in the November 2006 flood, and this past December we didn't get any water in the rooms. We were open and ready for guests as soon as the water went down."
The Western Royal Inn, across the highway from Northport Plaza, has the distinctive ground-level skirting of an elevated building. In 2002, the inn was raised above the Base Flood Elevation (BFE) for average floodwater depth for a 100-year flood event. This means that buildings constructed to this standard will sit above the floodwater during all but the most serious flooding.
Some of the funding to mitigate flood damages at Northport Plaza was obtained through the Federal Emergency Management's (FEMA) flood mitigation assistance (FMA) program.
Northport Plaza, across the highway from the Western Royal Inn, is on U.S. Highway 101 just north of the city center of Tillamook. The most recent flooding of the area occurred just six weeks after the plaza's two buildings were raised by three feet, which was enough to put the floors about one foot above the highest level reached by the floodwaters in early December 2007. The business tenants experienced the benefits of the floodwaters not reaching their inventory and business fixtures.
After the 1996 flood, Tillamook County became proactive in mitigating flood damages, according to the director of the Tillamook County Department of Community Development, Bill Campbell.
Tillamook County began to work with property owners in the flood-prone areas to secure funding available through FEMA's Hazard Mitigation Grant Program. A key purpose of the program is to ensure that critical mitigation measures to protect life and property from future disasters are considered during the recovery and reconstruction process following a disaster. Funding to assist communities in planning and implementing measures to reduce flood losses is available through the program.
Mitigation grants are awarded on a competitive basis and administered by the State of Oregon. The FEMA program can provide 75 percent of the funding for mitigation projects. The projects may involve elevation of structures within a floodplain or relocation of structures to higher ground.
When a two mile stretch of U.S. Highway 101 was annexed 25 years ago by the City of Tillamook, city officials encouraged businesses to move to the annexed area. Businesses prospered along the busy stretch of the coastal highway. However, with the almost annual flooding of the Wilson River and its associated sloughs, the city officials re-thought the initial pro-development stance taken by the city. The damaging flood of 1996 was a powerful persuader in this conclusion by city officials.
Tillamook's city manager and director of planning, Mark Gervasi said, "The elevation of buildings in flood-prone areas is only one way to reduce or avoid future damages. Relocating to new or existing structures on higher round is also an alternative. In either case, when merchants stay in town and remain open for business, employees and the community as a whole are the benefactors. These are the real success stories behind the flood mitigation efforts here in Tillamook."
For information on hazard mitigation best practices homeowners and business owners may go to www.fema.gov