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Secured Valley soon to shed sandbag look
By Julia Patterson and Reagan Dunn
For the Reporter
Summer is just around the corner, and many of you are looking forward to enjoying the beautiful parks and trails South King County has to offer.
For those of you who live near the Green River trail, we have good news to share. Just in time for the warmer weather, the giant sandbags on the levees along the river will be coming down.
These sandbags served their purpose, but now that flood risk no long exists, it is time for them to go.
In 2009, the Green River Valley faced a major threat when we learned that the Howard Hanson Dam, which had protected the Valley from flooding for over four decades, was damaged.
People were concerned – homes, jobs, and businesses were in jeopardy of flooding. The region's economy was at risk – approximately 100,000 jobs exist in the flood area; more than 90,000 commutes could have been disrupted; and, according to the Washington State Department of Commerce, a 10-day flood event in the Green River Valley could have resulted in a $1.1 billion loss to the state's economy.
The King County Flood Control District stepped up to help the Green River Valley prepare for possible flooding. The Flood Control District is a county-wide government created to provide funding and policy oversight for possible flooding.
One of the ways the Flood Control District helped was to pay for the placement of 26 miles of sandbags, which raised the height of the levees along the Green River and provided extra flood protection to the cities of Kent, Auburn and Tukwila.
The sandbags bolstered the levees for three years while the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers repaired the Howard Hanson Dam. The Corps initially estimated it would take four to five years to fix the dam, but they were able to complete the repairs in just three years.The sandbags are coming down because they are no longer needed to fend off possible floods. This is great news for people of the Green River Valley and for the cities of Kent, Auburn and Tukwila.
Under an agreement with the Flood Control District, the cities of Kent, Auburn and Tukwila assumed responsibility for paying for the removal of the sandbags. Unfortunately, these cities are facing the same budgetary hardships that have plagued many governments due to the recession. The cities have indicated that now they cannot afford the approximate $5.88 million it will cost to take the sandbags down. Therefore, the cities requested that the Flood Control District help pay for the removal of sandbags.
On May 14, the Flood Control District Board of Supervisors – who are the same elected representatives as your King County Council – voted unanimously to help pay to remove the sandbags. This will allow the people and businesses of the Green River Valley to return to their normal lives, and help the cities avoid a costly bill come budget time.
As chair and vice-chair of the Flood Control District, we are happy we can help the Green River Valley move on from the fear and threat of increased flooding to our communities.
The Kent Valley is the second largest industrial park on the West Cost and the fifth largest industrial park in the nation. After years of concern about flooding in this vital economic area, the removal of the sandbags sends the message that the valley is open for business, and full public access to a cherished trail in the region is restored.
We are excited that trail users will soon be able to enjoy walking and biking without the eyesore of sandbags, while remaining fully-protected from potential floods. Both of us look forward to seeing you on the trail soon.
King County Councilmembers Julia Patterson (firstname.lastname@example.org) is chair and Reagan Dunn (email@example.com) is vice-chair of the King County Flood Control District.