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FEMA FIRM Appeal Issues Page
This page is for all documents submitted in the appeal of the FEMA Flood Insurance Rate Maps.
How It All Began
3/7/2006 James E. Stewart Work Product Goes to D.C. Presentation given to legislative aides, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and FEMA in Washington D.C.
4/24/2006 DC Trip Experience

LJK reflections on my trip to Washington D.C. Wherein I got to watch my federal government do what they do best... which is absolutely nothing.

4/23/2008 TV10: Update on the Flood Insurance Study City of Mount Vernon TV10 video hosted on Vimeo of April 23, 2008 Presentation by City of Burlington Public Works Director Chal Martin after being introduced by City Government of Mount Vernon Community and Economic Development Department Director Jana Hanson using historical data to debate the hydrology used by the Federal Government to assess the Skagit River Flood Risk. The slides are available in PDF HERE. Finally, comments and observations were made towards the end of the presentation by Mt. Vernon Mayor Bud Norris, John Schultz - attorney for Dike Districts 1 & 12, and also Dike District 17 Commissioner Daryl Hamburg.
4/23/2008 City of Burlington Public Works Update - Skagit River Flood Issues

Latest presentation showing how historical data does not support the USGS, FEMA, and Corps of Engineers hydraulic data.

2/28/2011 2011-02-28 Mount Vernon, Burlington, Sedro-Woolley & LaConner Joint Meeting on FIRM Appeal Complete video from TV10 of the "combined meeting with the City Council of the City of Burlington, City of Sedro-Woolley and Town of LaConner to engage in a general discussion on the subject of the FEMA flood insurance study and preliminary flood insurance rate maps" plus the City Council of Mount Vernon The municipalities have since filed their appeal - and on the FEMA FIRM Appeals Issues Page are all appeal documents.
See also: 2/28/2011 Minutes from the Special Joint Meeting on the FEMA FIRM Appeal, 7/12/2011 State Auditor's Office Exit Item: OPMA: Special Meeting Minutes
2/28/2011 Minutes from the Special Joint Meeting on the FEMA FIRM Appeal “There was a general discussion regarding the FEMA appeal process with outside Council Scott Shapiro, attorney from Downey Brand. The procedures for initiation of and follow through of the Administrative Appeals process were reviewed.”
See also: Video of 2011-02-28 Mount Vernon, Burlington, Sedro-Woolley & LaConner Joint Meeting on FIRM Appeal,
 7/12/2011 State Auditor's Office Exit Item: OPMA: Special Meeting Minutes
Cities of Mount Vernon, Burlington & Sedro-Woolley + Town of La Conner Appeal Submission to FEMA
3/28/2011 01 - Cover Letter of FEMA FIRM Appeal Signed by Burlington & Mount Vernon Mayors “The Cities have brought this appeal as a result of a voluminous amount of compiled data and scientific study gathered over the years by the local communities. As set forth by the appeal, such work clearly demonstrates that FEMA's rFIS and rDFIRM are scientifically and technically incorrect as defined in FEMA regulations. As a result of the studies presented on appeal, new more accurate floodplain mapping has been included based on better quality and quantity of information, better and more accurate assumptions and more appropriate methods.”

02 - Summary Report: Appeal of the Revised Digital Flood Insurance Rate Map (rDFIRM) and Revised Flood Insurance Study (rFIS) For Skagit County, Washington, dated July 1, 2010 and Submittal to the Scientific Resolution Panel by the Cities of Burlington and Mt. Vernon, Washington

“It is critically important to note how statistically unlikely the USGS peak discharge estimates are. When the USGS’ four historic peak discharges are applied to the systematic record, the statistical anomalies are obvious. As indicated in the attached documentation, there is only a one in 769 chance that four events, the size estimated by USGS for 1897, 1909, 1917, and 1921, could occur in a 25 year period in light of the 86 year systematic record. ... In addition, FEMA and its contractor, the USACE, misapplied the hydraulic methodology; utilized insufficient and poor-quality data; and included measurement errors in its data and modeling, all of which resulted in BFE’s that are technically incorrect.”

03 - Technical Report - Supporting Data and Analysis for Skagit River RFIS Appeal Prepared For: City of Burlington, City of Mount Vernon, City of Sedro-Woolley and Town of La Conner

“PI Engineering believes that the revised BFEs are scientifically and technically incorrect due to the following reasons:
  1. Historic flood data and one major flood in the systematic record included in the flood frequency determinations were incorrectly estimated and led to severe overestimation of flood peaks, and
  2. Inconsistent levee methodology and poor-quality topographic data were used in the hydraulic analysis.”

04 - Probability Estimates for Historical Flood Events and Recorded Floods

“The USACE 100-year flood estimate (278,000 cfs) exceeds the largest recorded flood by 35%. Considering the record length is nearly 90 years, the 100-year estimate appears to be very high.”

05 - Pacific Survey & Engineering Professional Opinion of Methodology and Results of Upper Dalles Gauge Calibration Survey Performed by James E. Stewart (1922-1923)

“In conclusion, based on a full review of the information provided to me by the City of Burlington for this analysis, and without additional field notes or records from USGS regarding these early surveys, I find no reason to disagree with Stewart's 1923 HWM elevation at the Wolf Residence as 184.54' (1917 USGS datum). Without supporting documentation to the contrary, there is a strong likelihood that the disqualification of the basis for Stewart's 1923 work could cause discrepancy in the mathematics behind the flood analysis used to prepare the most recent FIRM map(s) in this region. The differences between the " Original" gauge elevation and the "New" gauge elevation alone provide enough uncertainty to warrant a new or modified analysis and certainly disclose apparent weaknesses and gaps in the processes, methodologies, and results of the flood predictions in the Skagit River basin.”

06 - Cities of Burlington and Mount Vernon Reply to USGS May 6, 2010 Memo

“Stating that “the only area of uncertainty” is the linkage of datum from this gage to its predecessor gage infers this critical and essential first step in establishing the new gage datum is somehow not important if all subsequent records refer to the current gage datum. This is simply not true. The transfer of the gage datum from Stewart’s Upper Dalles gage to the existing gage location 330 feet downstream is the essential and single most important action that should have been carefully documented by the USGS when the new gage was established.”

07 - Cities of Burlington and Mount Vernon Reply to FEMA Evaluation of Flood Frequency Analyses for the Skagit River, Skagit County, Washington

HWMs being High Water Marks... “The USGS has incorrectly applied all HWMs in all of its calculations, by incorrectly assuming these HWMs at the slope sections represented the mean water surface elevations. This assumption is incorrect. We have determined these HWMs are more representative of the energy grade line elevations, based on the USGS velocity measurements at the cableway located upstream of XS3. The USGS has made this incorrect assumption in all of its studies in the slope sections, including the 2005 and 2007 reevaluation studies, and the 1949 n-value verification study.”

08 - Memorandum RE Legal and Procedural Issues by Cities of Burlington & Mt. Vernon

Legal arguments presented by the City Attorneys of Burlington & Mount Vernon are:
  1. “FEMA Has Failed to Comply With NEPA”
  2. “FEMA Has Engaged in Imperssible Rule Making”
  3. “FEMA Has Failed to Adequately Consult with Appellants.”
  4. “Arbitrary and Capricious Action.”
  5. “Violation of Due Process Rights”
  6. “Appellants Requests that FEMA Utilize Different Methodologies As Promised by FEMA Prior to A Final Determination As Required under FEMA Regulations Providing Adequate Consultation.”
FEMA Responses
9/28/2011 Letter to Burlington Mayor, Re: FEMA FIRM Appeal

As you may be aware, the Preliminary FIS and FIRM for Skagit County are on hold until FEMA reassesses and develops alternative analyses for identifying flood hazard risks associated with unaccredited levees. Consequently, Mr. Thomas' request for an SRP review is premature because the Preliminary FIS and FIRM for Skagit County may change as a result of FEMA's reassessment of its levee analysis approaches.

1/20/2012 FEMA Levee Approach for Public Review Online Forum Presentation 69-slide presentation on FEMA's plans to map non-accredited levees for the National Flood Insurance Program.  The webinar with audio is available from FEMA as well as a Q&A webpage.