Kitsap Flooding 2007: FEMA Noticed, One Business Pays

Rudy Swensen, owner of Rings & Things jewelers, wants to expand his store at 710 Bay and turn the showroom into a destination even for those not in the market for rings and things. The project is the first the city will permit under new rules aimed at promoting downtown redevelopment.

Swensen, a native of New Orleans, proposes to remake the front of the building in the style of the Big Easy’s French Quarter, with brick walls, arched windows, wrought iron sconces and hanging flower baskets.

Swensen’s choice of motif is ironically appropriate, given that his showroom floor was under six inches of water on Dec. 3, 2007, the day a deluge caused flooding of historic proportions throughout Kitsap and Mason counties. While not on the scale of Hurricane Katrina, Kitsap’s December storm was an event those who endured it will tell their grandkids about.

Bay Street has been prone to flooding over the years as a result of the city’s forefathers building it on fill about 10 feet too low, according to city engineer Mark Dorsey.

Swensen secured financing for the project, on which he expects to spend more than a quarter million, through a Small Business Association loan. Because Bay Street is officially a flood zone in the Federal Department of Emergency Management’s books, Swensen is required to pay an annual premium of around $3,900 for the life of the 30-year loan. He hopes to be able to pay the loan off in 15 years, but even so that’s a considerable chunk of cash.

“Given that Bay Street was mostly fill during the 1940s and 1950s or even earlier, the Federal FEMA Flood Maps still consider much of downtown as within the Flood Zone and would require additional flood insurance and/or requirements for new construction,” explained James Weaver, the city’s development director.

Port Orchard, like other jurisdictions, is developing a stormwater utility under updated federal and state guidelines. The improved system for managing run-off, now in its infancy, will be phased on over the next decade. Swensen (and FEMA) can’t expect a quick fix. Swensen doubts that even when the system is in place FEMA will promptly remove the Flood Zone Scarlet Lewtter. Give it a 100 years or so to see how it holds up, officials are likely to say.

In the meantime, he’ll pay extra on the loan.

“Let’s say this, for everything you do in the world, you’re going to get tagged,” Swensen said.

Here’s the city’s flood zone map. Is your property on it?

Flood Zone

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