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King County moves step closer to approving Green River sandbag removal plan

Caitlin Brown and her dog Dexter walk past giant sandbags along the Green River Trail in Kent. King County is considering a proposal to pay 75 percent of the cost to remove the sandbags with the cities of Kent, Auburn and Tukwila paying for the other 25 percent. - STEVE HUNTER, Kent Reporter
Caitlin Brown and her dog Dexter walk past giant sandbags along the Green River Trail in Kent. King County is considering a proposal to pay 75 percent of the cost to remove the sandbags with the cities of Kent, Auburn and Tukwila paying for the other 25 percent.
— image credit: STEVE HUNTER, Kent Reporter

A proposal to pay for the removal of giant sandbags along the Green River in Kent, Auburn and Tukwila moved one step closer Monday.

The King County Flood Control District Executive Board recommended to the Flood District's Executive Committee a $5.8 million plan to remove 26 miles of sandbag barriers lining the river, according to a county media release.

The full board is expected to vote May 14 on the proposal. The county would pay about 75 percent of the removal cost with the cities of Kent, Auburn and Tukwila paying 25 percent.

“These sandbags served their purpose, but now that the increased flood risk no long exists, it is time for them to come down,” said Executive Board Chairwoman Julia Patterson, who also represents the Green River Valley on the King County Council. “By moving this proposal, we hope trail users will soon be able to enjoy walking and biking without the eyesore of sandbags.”

The removal costs would be shared between the District and the cities, with the District’s paying approximately $4.4 million and the cities of Kent, Auburn and Tukwila paying approximately $1.4 million. Any Flood Control District project delays caused by shifting funds will be applied to projects within the Green River basin.

Reagan Dunn agreed with the proposal.

“It is great news that the sandbags along the Green River are one step closer to being taken down,” said Dunn, chairman of the Flood District Executive Committee.  “After years of concern about flooding in this vital economic corridor, the removal of the sandbags from the Green River Valley sends the messages that the valley is open for business while increasing public  access to the public parks and trails in this region.”

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.

The King County Flood Control District Advisory Committee, a 15-member body composed of mayors and council members from eight cities, recommended the flood district board pay for 75 percent of the removal cost with the cities of Kent, Auburn and Tukwila paying 25 percent 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.

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.

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.

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

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