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Repair of Federal Howard Hanson Dam a priority: Council calls on Congress to act on funds for interim and permanent fix


Metropolitan King County
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Repair of Federal Howard Hanson Dam a priority: Council calls on Congress to act on funds for interim and permanent fix


Ensuring that structure is prepared for winter storms


The Metropolitan King County Council today unanimously adopted a motion requesting Congress appropriate the funds needed for both an interim and permanent repair to the federally owned and operated Howard Hanson Dam.

The Howard Hanson Dam has provided flood protection for businesses and residents in the Green River Valley since 1961. The Green River Valley watershed, home to nearly 350,000 residents is also the second largest warehouse and product distribution center on the West Coast, representing $37.36 billion in gross business income, 4,500 businesses and over 100,000 jobs. FEMA recently estimated the potential losses from a single flooding in the region could exceed $3.7 billion dollars.

“The threat of flooding in the valley has created enormous uncertainty and fear for residents, stalled economic development efforts, and cost the County millions of dollars for emergency management preparations,” said Councilmember Julia Patterson, prime sponsor of the motion. “Securing full federal funding for both the interim and permanent fix must be a top priority for leaders at all levels of government.”

“King County is incurring costs to move its facilities, cities are incurring costs to prepare for flooding, the King County Flood District had to build a sand bag wall, businesses are trying to make long term decisions on where to locate and all of the uncertainty is hurting our economy,” said Councilmember Reagan Dunn. “None of this is necessary if the federal government simply fixes the Howard Hanson Dam. There should be no higher priority for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.”

“Until the federal government acts to permanently fix the Howard Hanson Dam, the specter of a catastrophic flood will continue to imperil the safety and economic vitality of the region,” said Council Chair Bob Ferguson. “Reducing the flood risk and protecting residents and business requires our federal representatives find funding for interim repairs and a permanent fix.”

The motion adopted by the Council requests that Congress authorize an immediate appropriation for interim grout work and related repairs to ensure its completion before next winter. It also requests the United States Congress appropriate sufficient funds to provide for permanent repair to the Howard Hanson dam, and direct the Army Corps of Engineers to make the Howard Hanson dam permanent repair a priority project and expedite their standard processes to assure the fastest and safest approach.

“The threat of flooding in the Green River Valley is a priority for the entire region,” said Councilmember Pete von Reichbauer. “The valley is the second largest warehouse and distribution center on the West Coast. The impact of flood waters will go well beyond the borders of King County and this is why we are calling on Congress. It is of immediate importance that we secure federal funding for both the interim and permanent fix for the Howard Hanson Dam.”

“We must continue to push Congress to meet their funding responsibility to permanently fix the Howard Hanson Dam,” said Councilmember Larry Phillips. “We appreciate the interim work done so far, but public safety and our regional economy require the federal government to quickly and fully complete the remaining repairs.”

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been working on interim repairs to the dam since the record rain of January 2009, when sinkholes and rapid seepage of water were discovered in an earthen abutment next to the structure. That work has involved the construction of a “grout curtain,” which consists of a concrete-like substance being injected into the earthen material to slow the flow of water. A permanent fix of the dam will require lining the abutment with a wall of concrete, which will take the federal government three to five years to fund, design and construct.

Last week, the Corps announced that if it can secure $44 million in federal funding, the grout curtain can be extended. That repair would increase the flood protection offered by dam and decrease the likelihood of flooding in the Green River Valley back to 1 in 140, the same level of protection offered before January of 2009.

“The safety of our families is of utmost importance,” said Council Vice Chair Jane Hague. “The Army Corps of Engineers has told us the cost of the repairs. It’s time for Congress to act on the Corps request and protect this region.”

“We were fortunate that the mild winter weather avoided flooding or further damage at the Howard Hanson dam this year, but we can’t rely on that in the future,” said Councilmember Kathy Lambert. “Both the short-term and long-term repairs are essential before we experience other severe winter storm events.”

“There’s no two ways about it, a major flood along the Green River would have Countywide and even statewide impacts,” said Councilmember Jan Drago. “Funding for Howard Hanson Dam is a must.”

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