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Project location

Lones Levee is located on the north side of the Middle Green River about four miles upstream of the State Route–18 bridge which crosses the river just east of the City of Auburn. The King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks (DNRP) owns the property.

Map of Lones Levee Project location on the Green River

Project goals

  • Increase quantity and diversity of salmon habitat.
  • Maintain or improve existing level of off-site flood and erosion protection for agricultural land, private farms and residences and Green Valley Road.
  • Restore natural river processes (channel migration, wood recruitment, etc.).

Project benefits

Fish and wildlife habitat

The removal of the existing damaged levee will reconnect off-channel habitat and increase channel migration, flow splitting, wood recruitment and other natural processes critical to the formation of high-quality, diverse salmon habitat. The result is expected to be increased productivity, abundance, diversity of Green River Chinook salmon and steelhead stocks.

As the reach responds to levee removal, we expect to recover:

  • 10 acres of high quality, off-channel habitat immediately landward of the levee that will be connected nearly year-round to the mainstem river;

  • 30-45 acres of connected, forested floodplain within, upstream and downstream of the project area; and

  • 20-25 acres of active river channel that will be: wider and shallower with finer substrate; potentially split into multiple threads with periodic mid-channel bars and islands; higher quality spawning habitat; and more frequently connected to adjacent floodplain areas at lower flows.

Improved flooding and erosion protection

The removal of this aging flood facility and construction of a modern, setback flood facility will increase protection of existing property and farmland from channel migration and overbank flooding. The current levee has been damaged and will result in erosion and flooding of private property, structures and farmland if it fails. The construction of a new berm at the downstream end of the site will reduce current levels of flooding on the adjacent two properties during large flood events. Mainstem river floodwater surface elevations will also be lower upstream of the site as a result of the levee removal. The setback revetment will reduce the risk of river bank erosion for adjacent landowners and protect existing farmland, residences and infrastructure from channel migration and overbank flooding.

Proposed actions

Lones  Levee Setback Project proposed plan
  • Remove the 1,600 Lones Levee and construct a setback facility.
  • Remove >25,000 cubic yards of angular rock and native gravel from the levee;
  • Remove 600-800 trees from the levee and oxbow area and distribute them throughout the adjacent river and floodplain areas to be recruited gradually to the river and promote natural river and floodplain processes.
  • Construct a 1,600 foot-long erosion protection facility that consists of:
    • 600 linear feet of buried rock revetment; and
    • 9 engineered log jams.
  • Construct a 600 foot-long gravel terrace to reduce flooding on private property.
  • Construct three side channels through the levee to convey water into the old 1950s river channel.
  • Construct a 650 foot-long (0.1 acres) gravel maintenance road.

The large rock that currently covers the river side of the levee will be removed and used to construct a new buried revetment. Removing the rock will expose the underlying native cobbles, gravels, sands and silts which make up the core of the levee. Some of this material will be pushed into the floodplain to form gravel bars that can be eroded by the river and provide spawning gravel for salmon, and some will be trucked to an adjacent King County property where it will be spread and planted with native trees and shrubs.

The new flood and erosion protection facility will include a buried rock revetment and engineered log jams comprised of large rock and interlocking logs. A gravel maintenance road will be placed landward of the revetment.  A shallow gravel terrace will also be constructed to reduce overbank flooding across a farm field.

Existing conditions

Aerial photo of Green River with Lones Levee existing conditions

The 81.4 acre project site is owned by King County and is mostly within a forested floodplain of the middle Green River just downstream of its confluence with Burns Creek.

The 1,600 foot-long levee was built in 1960 with gravel from the river and imported, large rock (rip rap) to protect it from erosion. The levee forms a “T” shape with an access road to the levee that separates two riverine wetlands. The levee provides some minor flood protection to adjacent properties but does not contain flood water during moderate to large events. Its primary purpose was for erosion control.

This construction of Lones Levee limited channel migration and other habitat-forming processes in the more than 60 acres of floodplain areas adjacent to and downstream of the levee for the past 50 years. It is also a fish-passage barrier, preventing salmon from effectively using the 4.6 acres of riverine wetland habitat located behind the levee. The old levee essentially traps juvenile salmon behind it each spring, resulting in the death of salmon each summer as temperatures rise in the wetland.

Project timeline

Heavy equipment has been active most of the spring and summer of 2021. For safety purposes, the Doreen Johnson Conservation Area has been closed since early May and will remain closed until major earthwork is complete in late September. Here is the approximate construction schedule:

  • Mobilize and construct access road
    May - June
  • Levee removal/tree felling
    May - June
  • Toe rock removal/north revetment
    July - August
  • Levee removal, engineered logjams and other final grading/tree work
    August - early September
  • All major earthwork inside the 100-year floodplain complete
    Mid-September
  • Replanting with native plants
    October 2021 through April 2022

Project background

The mainstem Green River was historically very productive for Chinook and other salmon species. However, the habitat needed for salmonid spawning and rearing has been substantially reduced as a result of landscape and river changes, such as the construction of dams and levees to contain rivers. The 1999 listing of Chinook salmon as “threatened” under the federal Endangered Species Act triggered the need to develop a plan to increase productivity of the Green River Chinook population. The WRIA 9 Salmon Habitat Plan (2005) prioritized the need for juvenile salmon rearing in the mainstem of the Green River and identified specific projects to promote the creation of this habitat such as the Lones Levee Restoration Project. This project will restore critical rearing habitat and protect adjacent farmlands which are now vulnerable because Lones Levee, constructed over 50 years ago, is in disrepair.

Project documents

Lones Levee 40 percent design drawings (30.5 MB)

Lones Levee 40 percent wood checklist (2.1 MB)

Public involvement

The Determination of Non-Significance and SEPA Environmental Checklist posted below are open for public comment through August 30, 2019.

Determination of Non-Significance (638Kb PDF)

Environmental Checklist - Lones Levee Setback And Floodplain Restoration Project (6.7Mb PDF)

Project funding

Project funding comes from the following sources:

  • King County Flood Control District
  • King County Flood Control District Cooperative Watershed Management Grant
  • King County Water and Land Resources Division
  • Washington State Salmon Recovery Funding Board
  • King County Conservations Future Tax (Property acquisition)
  • Puget Soundkeeper Alliance
  • Puget Sound Acquisition and Restoration Fund (PSAR)
  • Waste Action Project

For more information about the the Lones Levee Floodplain Restoration Project, please contact Dan Eastman, Project Manager, King County Ecological Restoration and Engineering Services.