Lee Jamieson kind of liked it when the Cedar River sneaked into his backyard, bringing spawning salmon to visit. But he still can see why...
Lee Jamieson kind of liked it when the Cedar River sneaked into his backyard, bringing spawning salmon to visit. But he still can see why King County has decided to buy this flood-prone mobile-home park in Maple Valley and move every resident to safer ground.
Jamieson, 62, didn’t let that flood back in 1990 scare him off. After putting half a million miles on a logging truck and playing in a rock band, Jamieson intended to live out his days here, fiddling in the little shop he built out back on his mobile-home lot. There’s even just enough room in there for his prize: a banana-yellow motorcycle.
“This was my little piece of Eden,” Jamieson said of his rented lot in the Cedar Grove Mobile Home Park.
Last week, the county notified residents of the 41 occupied mobile homes that it is buying the property, and they will be relocated as part of a flood-control plan the county has wanted to implement since the 1960s — but never had the money until now.
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It’s the first time the county has bought up an entire mobile-home park to move its residents out of the way of floodwater.
The mobile-home park was severely flooded three times in the 1990s alone. Residents still talk about raw sewage left by floods that overwhelmed the septic systems, and floodwater that reached high as a toddler’s head.
The residents will have at least 90 days to relocate, but the county estimates it could be a year or longer before the last resident is moved.
The county, by law, will be providing assistance, including a relocation counselor, moving expenses and help with down payments or increases in rent for residents’ new homes.
The county estimates the project will cost about $6.7 million, including acquiring the 20.4-acre property and moving the residents.
The money comes in part from a property-tax increase passed by the Metropolitan King County Council last year for repairs and other flood-control projects. Buying up Cedar Grove is one step in that effort.
Though buying a mobile-home park is a first, the county has acquired more than 50 homes since 1990 from willing sellers, including 33 on the Cedar River alone. Sometimes it’s the only way to keep some residents safe, county officials said. The county has been declared a disaster area because of flooding eight times since 1990.
At Cedar Grove, the county plans simply to let the site return to a natural condition and allow the river to use it as floodplain once more. That should take flooding pressure off areas both up and downstream, which will in turn decrease flood risk to Highway 169, located alongside the Cedar River.
Some residents of the park seemed to be taking the move the same way they have taken flooding over the years — all in stride.
Rose Vazquez, a mother of four, said she first learned to live with floods in Duvall and Carnation.
“As long as you have a wood stove to cook and for heat, it’s OK,” she said. “I like to live in the country, and floodplains are where it’s affordable.”
Lynn Jones said she was glad she’s going to be moved. She remembered a neighbor knocking on her door one wild, rainy December night in 2006 saying, “The river is here.”
Jones’ eyes still go wide today in the retelling of the dark water rising at her back fence.
Still, she has made this place home, setting out window boxes and bird feeders, tucking herb plants around her mobile home and dressing up the trim with lavender paint.
But the flood scared her.
“We packed up and left, and we didn’t want to come back.”
Lynda V. Mapes: 206-464-2736