In January 2009, water spilling over the banks of the White River east of the 8th Street Bridge in Pacific flooded more than 100 residences, impacted numerous businesses and forced the temporary closure of Stewart Road East.
Few who were there will ever forget.
The King County Flood Control District, established in 2008, began planning a solution.
On Tuesday, members of the KCFCD joined the City of Pacific to celebrate the $24 million Countyline Levee Setback Project, the largest public safety project in the district’s history to date, and the protection it will provide throughout its estimated 70-year-long lifespan to the hundreds of people who live along the river.
Over the last year, crews working on the project first removed a more-than-100-year-old levee by the main channel along the White River that had been constricting flows and rapidly filling the river with sediment, and, by so doing, reconnected the river to more than 120 acres of historical floodplain.
“We have built a new levee setback here so that the river channel can reconnect with its historic floodplain in the lower White River, and then those flood elevations have a bigger area to spread out and be lower,” said project manager Jeanne Stypula of the King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks. “With the amount of sediment that’s coming down the White River, instead of filling in the channel quickly, the rate of that is filling in slowly. So, we reduce the impact of that sediment causing flooding.”
“Over the past two years, we’ve worked in conjunction with local cities and agencies to provide a solution to the flooding issues affecting the residents and businesses along the White River,” said Flood Supervisor Pete von Reichbauer, whose district includes Pacific. “While no one looks forward to the rainy season, we are hopeful that with the completion of the Countyline project, this season will be a drier and safer one for our neighbors in Pacific.
“Combined with a second project that will also build a new levee along the right bank of the river, the Flood Control District is also providing a long-term flood risk reduction for Pacific, and including habitat. This is truly a win-win for the community and for this incredible region,” von Reichbauer said.
“This project … is designed to reduce flood risks and provide protection to residences and businesses and other critical infrastructure, like the rail line, our highways, and our state, county and city roads as well,” said Flood District Chair Reagan Dunn.
“This is a significant milestone for the local King County residents who have been impacted by flooding on the White River. I look forward to continuing to work with our regional partners and Supervisor von Reichbauer on future solutions to flooding in this area,” Dunn said.
Pacific Mayor Leanne Guier expressed her gratitude for the partnerships that made the project possible.
“The completion of the Countyline Levee Setback will provide some relief as we begin to enter into the rainy season,” Guier said.
In addition to reconnecting the White River to its historical floodplain, the project includes the reintroduction of more than 50,000 native trees and plants to create a riparian buffer between the river and new setback levee.
The Flood Control District, a separate entity from King County, provided the majority of the funds for construction, which took place over the last two summers.