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Levee projects on White River would increase flood safety near King-Pierce county line

The White River runs swift and high under the A Street bridge in Pacific following a winter storm a year ago.  - Reporter file photo
The White River runs swift and high under the A Street bridge in Pacific following a winter storm a year ago.
— image credit: Reporter file photo

Public safety will be increased while the risk of White River flooding will be reduced to residents of Auburn, Pacific and Sumner, through two major levee reconstruction projects by King County.

The combined result of these projects along what is called the "Countyline Reach" will be reconnecting about 120 acres of floodplain to the White River and creating areas where the river can safely overflow its banks to relieve flooding pressure on homes, businesses and roads in and around Auburn and Pacific, as well as Sumner and nearby areas in Pierce County.

The first of the two projects is east of the White River between the A Street Southeast bridge in Pacific and Eighth Street East bridge in Sumner.

While project design is in its initial stages and construction won't start until spring 2014, the required comment period under State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) is now open and runs through Oct. 23.

As designed, the project includes:

• Acquiring nearly 50 acres of floodplain and associated wetland buffer in the project area.

• Constructing 6,000 feet of raised setback levee along forestland to protect existing properties and structures.

• Constructing 5,000 feet of bank revetment along the edge of a wetland to protect existing properties and structures.

• Restoring about 11 acres of forested buffer that sits alongside the wetland.

• Adding log structures to the wetland.

• Removing about 4,000 lineal feet of old levee and bank armoring.

The second project is west of the river and is scheduled for construction in 2016-17, and will go through a separate SEPA process in 2015.

Both projects are multi-year endeavors, involving property acquisition, building new levees and removing old levees, plus restoring floodplains.

In addition to flood risk reduction, the projects are intended to restore natural river processes, including reconnecting the river to its floodplain and improving habitat for fish and wildlife.

Project information and links to SEPA documents can be reviewed online at www.kingcounty.gov/rivers. Comments on the SEPA environmental checklist should be sent by Oct. 23 to Sarah McCarthy, project ecologist, at sarah.mccarthy@kingcounty.gov.

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