Lake Stevens resident Rick Trout shows a 2020 photo of the rising lake level in front of his home after a storm. (Isabella Breda / The Herald)

Lake Stevens resident Rick Trout shows a 2020 photo of the rising lake level in front of his home after a storm. (Isabella Breda / The Herald)

Some Lake Stevens homeowners now must buy flood insurance

Updated FEMA maps show some lakeside homes now sit in a designated flood hazard area, due to a warming climate.

LAKE STEVENS — The Trouts have lived on the lake for nearly two decades.

“All of a sudden we get hit,” Rick Trout said.

Their mortgage company called and said their home now lies in a Federal Emergency Management Agency designated flood hazard area.

When FEMA updates its maps, homeowners may find themselves slapped with a policy through the agency’s National Flood Insurance Program. For the Trouts, it was initially $2,000. Flood insurance is mandatory for those with mortgages, but homeowners can shop around.

Trout said it came as a surprise.

But flooding is a regional threat, and those living near any freshwater may expect to see more flooding in the future because of the warming climate.

Warmer air holds more water vapor, allowing atmospheric rivers to carry more water — meaning more rainfall, according to Cliff Mass, professor of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Washington.

It’s already begun.

“We’ve seen several substantial, big atmospheric rivers in the past few weeks,” David Radabaugh, flood-insurance coordinator for the state Department of Ecology, told The Daily Herald. “Most of the major flooding in Western Washington is caused by atmospheric rivers so … we will see larger floods in riverine systems moving forward in the future.”

Back-to-back heavy rains coupled with human activity can drive rising lake levels, researchers have found.

Over the past two winters, the Trouts’ lawn held nearly a foot of standing water, and the rising lake level bent their floating dock to the “max.”

“The last two years — holy smokes,” Rick Trout said.

The Lake Stevens outlet channel, also known as Stevens Creek, topped Hartford Drive during record rainfall on Nov. 15. The city is planning to conduct future studies on how to address downtown flooding. (Isabella Breda / The Herald)

The Lake Stevens outlet channel, also known as Stevens Creek, topped Hartford Drive during record rainfall on Nov. 15. The city is planning to conduct future studies on how to address downtown flooding. (Isabella Breda / The Herald)

Beyond the lake shore, downtown Lake Stevens has been hit with a spate of annual flooding for years. And in 2020, residents started a petition asking Mayor Brett Gailey to address the flooding along Hartford Drive.

The outlet channel — the only outflow from the 1,000-acre lake — runs parallel to the one-way road. It was dug for the Rucker Mill in the late 1800s or early 1900s.

In Lake Stevens, the city plays a big role in controlling lake levels, using a weir on the outlet channel.

Every spring, the city adds boards to the weir to preserve the lake level. All of the boards come out in the fall to allow the maximum outflow from the lake, said Surface Water Management Coordinator Shannon Farrant.

In 2020, the city contracted engineers to complete an outlet study. It found the existing weir does not provide adequate control of the lake level in the wet season. Instead, the width, height and slope of the outlet channel is the control in winter.

So the city has been “triaging” the channel, including clearing out sediment and other blockage to improve flow, said interim Public Works Director Aaron Halverson.

This fall, the city dredged 300 feet of the outlet channel, and it made a noticeable difference for those living along the water near North Cove Park and along Hartford Drive.

It’s a temporary fix: November’s record rainfall still forced the outlet channel to spill over the road.

Restoring the outlet to its historic path would likely alleviate much of the downtown flooding.

“It would increase the capacity in the outlet channel, simply because you’d be creating a longer path,” Farrant said.

If the historic path is restored, the outlet channel would wind through the wetlands behind the homes on the northern side of Hartford Drive, recreating the natural confluence with Catherine Creek and restoring fish habitat. That could be on the horizon if the city moves forward to conduct a feasibility study.

It would cost millions. A single culvert replacement costs a couple million dollars, Halverson said.

In the meantime, the city has shared FEMA resources on flood safety and insurance with affected residents and has invited them to discussions about future projects. Atop the list is replacing an outdated culvert under Hartford Drive.

Both the city and county have developed flood management plans to be eligible for FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program. The program requires local governments to enforce floodplain management to reduce future damage. In exchange, homeowners can buy federally supported flood insurance in Snohomish County’s flood hazard areas.

“I’m happy with how it’s been so far, but we’ll have to see what it looks like in February,” Trout said. “When we start getting the rains, especially if we have a decent snowpack … a lot of times that’s when the flooding really, really picks up.”

Isabella Breda: 425-339-3192; Twitter: @BredaIsabella.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Registered nurse Estella Wilmarth tends to a patient in the acute care unit of Harborview Medical Center, Friday, Jan. 14, 2022, in Seattle. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is deploying 100 members of the state National Guard to hospitals across the state amid staff shortages due to an omicron-fueled spike in COVID-19 hospitalizations. Inslee announced Thursday that teams will be deployed to assist four overcrowded emergency departments at hospitals in Everett, Yakima, Wenatchee and Spokane, and that testing teams will be based at hospitals in Olympia, Richland, Seattle and Tacoma. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Past the omicron peak? Snohomish County’s COVID cases declining

Hospitalizations are still a concern, however, and infections in Eastern Washington and Idaho could have ripple effects here.

Funko mascots Freddy Funko roll past on a conveyor belt in the Pop! Factory of the company's new flagship store on Aug. 18, 2017.  (Dan Bates / The Herald)
Despite Arizona move, Everett leaders expect Funko HQ to stay

The toymaker is closing Everett warehouses. But a recent “HQ2” expansion has the city confident Funko will remain rooted here.

Lynnwood Public Works employees on the snow plow crew sit in front of one of the city's two plows that will be named based on results of an online public vote. (City of Lynnwood)
Lynnwood snow plow names: Snowbi Wan Kenobi, Plowy McPlowface

They got the two highest votes in an online public survey by Lynnwood Public Works.

2021 survey results from the State Broadband Survey for Snohomish County. (Washington State Department of Commerce)
$16M grant to speed up broadband to north Snohomish County

In Darrington and elsewhere, rural residents have struggled to work remotely during the pandemic. A new project aims to help.

Police looking for Mukilteo bank robber, seeking tips

The man appeared to be in his late 20s or early 30s, white, slender, about 5-foot-8, with dark blond hair.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Everett in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Woman’s foot burned in south Everett apartment fire

Everyone escaped the fire that scorched a third-floor unit Monday night.

Michelle Roth is a registered nurse in the Providence Emergency Department on Sunday, January 23, 2022. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Nurses face burnout as hospital staffing shortage continues

‘It feels like there has been a mass exodus in the last two to three months.’

Christa Meyer, residential physical therapist in Mountlake Terrace, Washington, plays Wordle daily. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
What in the world is Wordle? It’s an online game C-R-A-Z-E

Solving the daily five-letter brain teaser in six tries is the latest social media obsession.

Police: Everett man left family member with life-threatening injuries

An Everett man, 23, was in jail on $100,000 bail after being accused of confronting women and attacking a relative.

Most Read