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County launches Reddington Levee setback project

From left: King County Flood Control District Chair Reagan Dunn, Auburn Mayor Pete Lewis and Flood District Board member Pete von Reichbauer spoke of the importance of the Reddington Levee Setback Project at a kickoff event at Brannan Park in Auburn on Tuesday. - Courtesy photo
From left: King County Flood Control District Chair Reagan Dunn, Auburn Mayor Pete Lewis and Flood District Board member Pete von Reichbauer spoke of the importance of the Reddington Levee Setback Project at a kickoff event at Brannan Park in Auburn on Tuesday.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

King County kicked off the Reddington Levee Setback project at Brannan Park on Tuesday afternoon, launching the largest flood-risk reduction project since the King County Flood Control District formed in 2007.

Affecting some 596 properties in Auburn, 321 residential and 275 commercial, the project removes the existing levee and builds its replacement further west from the river. It extends the levee 6,600 feet north from 26th Street at the southern boundary of Brannan Park to the northern boundary of Monterey Park.

According to King County officials, the levee, built more than 50 years ago to provide flood protection to surrounding agricultural lands and prone to seepage, is not up to today's design and construction standards.

Not that the residents in River Mobile Estates need to be told the present levee isn't up to snuff. The water that sloshes through the park when the river rises provides a near yearly reminder.

The problem is that the levee's makers built it on the river side of a former channel, which is a wetland today. So while the levee keeps the flood within the channel, it cuts off the wetland that stores the water at the same time, backing it up and flooding the adjacent mobile home park.

Devastating flooding impacts are possible if a flood exceeds the channel capacity through that section of the river.

The second phase — in the early discussion stage only — would extend the levee beyond the northern end of Phase 1 to S. 277th Street.

There is no money for Phase 2 — not yet. But City officials hope that by the time the first phase is finished, the KCFCD will have the money and be ready to roll. Even if this final phase is not built for years, City Public Works Director Dennis Dowdy told members of the Planning and Community Development Committee earlier this year, the new levee will stand on its own as a significant improvement for the residents of River Mobile Home Estates.

"It does provide for the mobile home park a tremendous benefit that we don't have right now, which is they have a very seeping levee in front of them now," said Dowdy. "The moment we get phase 1 built, all the residents of this mobile home park will be much better protected than they are today."

While the project will widen the channel and provide increased flood protection, it will also provide ecological benefits. Without the existing levee and its underwater armoring, the river will be able to meander within a wider corridor, making it more free flowing and offering more natural ecological processes and benefits for fish.

Signficantly, because the westward relocation of the levee will displace 16 mobile homes, additional property had to be purchased to replace what's lost. Those mobile homes also had to be replaced.

The King County Flood Control District is a special taxing district created by King County residents.

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