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King County might speed up Green River sandbag removal proposal

Crews place giant sandbags in 2009 along the Green River in Kent near the Riverbend Golf Complex. The cities of Kent, Auburn and Tukwila now want to remove the sandbags and are trying to get King County to help pay for the project.  - Kent Reporter, file photo
Crews place giant sandbags in 2009 along the Green River in Kent near the Riverbend Golf Complex. The cities of Kent, Auburn and Tukwila now want to remove the sandbags and are trying to get King County to help pay for the project.
— image credit: Kent Reporter, file photo

A proposal to the King County Flood Control District Board to pay for removal of sandbags along the Green River might move a bit faster than initially anticipated.

Kjristine Lund, executive director of the King County Flood Control District, said in an email Tuesday she is trying to get a special May meeting date of the board rather than waiting until the next scheduled meeting in July to consider a $7.5 million plan to remove sandbags by the fall along 26 miles of the river in Kent, Auburn and Tukwila.

"I am trying to get a mid-May board meeting (a special meeting) so that bidding can occur to be ready for implementation before the rainy season," Lund said. "However, there is not a meeting scheduled for May yet."

The sandbags have lined the trail for nearly three years for extra flood protection because of damage in 2009 to an abutment next to the Howard Hanson Dam on the upper Green River. But the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced last fall it can operate Hanson Dam at full capacity, which means the sandbags are no longer needed.

Cities now face the problem of how to pay to remove the bags without extra millions sitting around to pay contractors for the expensive job.

The King County Flood Control District Advisory Committee, a 15-member body composed of mayors and council members from eight cities, has recommended the flood district board pay for 75 percent ($5.7 million) of the removal cost with the cities of Kent, Auburn and Tukwila paying 25 percent ($1.9 million) over a six-year period.

The flood district board is composed of the nine members of the King County Council. It is a special-purpose government that funds and oversees flood protection projects and programs.

The board is funded through a county-wide property levy of 10 cents per $1,000 assessed value or about $40 per year on a $400,000 home. That brings in about $36 million a year for projects.

The advisory committee proposal would delay specific projects planned by the flood district board in the Green River basin in order to pay for removal of the sandbags. Each jurisdiction in the county also receives a small portion of the flood district property levy to pay for any flood control projects within each city. Under the proposal, Kent, Auburn and Tukwila would use that money to help pay for sandbag removal rather than other projects for the next six years.

Lund addressed the advisory committee's recommendation at a meeting Monday of the King County Flood Control District Executive Committee, which is composed of four members of the county council. The committee will decide whether to forward the recommendation to the full board.

"I was asked to prepare the resolutions necessary for a decision which will include a budget resolution and another authorizing the executive (Dow Constantine) to enter into agreements with the Green River cities (Auburn, Kent, Tukwila,)" Lund said. "The direction was to have these documents as vehicles for voting by the committee.

"I will likely draft them to reflect the advisory committee recommendation as a starting point, though the committee may amend them for different scenarios."

Lund said she is aiming for a special May 7 flood district executive committee meeting to consider the sandbag removal proposal so the committee can forward the measure to the full board possibly later in May.

King County paid for the installation of the sandbags in the fall of 2009 through the flood control district by delaying planned projects. Kent received $2.59 million from the county to place nearly 17,000 sandbags along 12 miles of levees to heighten the levees and help protect the city from flooding in case the then-damaged Hanson Dam could not hold back enough water.

No heavy rainstorms struck since the January 2009 storm that damaged an abutment next to the dam, so the bags were never tested.

Lund said she expects to know by next week whether any funds remain from the sandbag installation project.

"There was some discussion that there is a small amount of funding remaining from the original budget to install the sandbags," Lund said. "We are researching that amount which might help off-set the costs."

For more information about the county flood control district, go to www.kingcountyfloodcontrol.org.

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