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Kent in line for flood-fight dollars - flood-control district awards $2.59 million

King County Flood Control District Board Chair and King County Councilmember Julia Patterson leads the press conference to announce an agreement between King County Council and the Green River Valley cities for more flood prevention material, Oct. 15.  From left,  Tukwila Mayor Jim Haggerton,  Kent Mayor Suzette Cooke, Auburn Mayor Pete Lewis,  County Council Chair Dow Constantine and King County Executive Kurt Triplett all signed an agreement that opened up money to open up money from the budget for more flood prevention material.  - Charles Cortes, Kent Reporter
King County Flood Control District Board Chair and King County Councilmember Julia Patterson leads the press conference to announce an agreement between King County Council and the Green River Valley cities for more flood prevention material, Oct. 15. From left, Tukwila Mayor Jim Haggerton, Kent Mayor Suzette Cooke, Auburn Mayor Pete Lewis, County Council Chair Dow Constantine and King County Executive Kurt Triplett all signed an agreement that opened up money to open up money from the budget for more flood prevention material.
— image credit: Charles Cortes, Kent Reporter

The city of Kent will receive $2.59 million this year from the King County Flood Control District to help place 20,000 giant sandbags along 12 miles of Green River levees for increased flood protection.

The funds are part of an $8.4 million reallocation by the Flood District to combat flooding in the Green River Valley because of a leak at an abutment next to the Howard Hanson Dam. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which operates the dam to control flooding, will not be able to store as much water as normal this winter in the reservoir behind the dam because of the leak.

King County officials and the mayors of Kent, Auburn and Tukwila signed an agreement to receive the money from the Flood District at a press conference Thursday in Kent. They conducted the press conference next to the site along South 231st Way and Riverview Boulevard, where crews continue to fill 3,200-pound sandbags to be trucked and placed along the levees by Nov. 1.

“We are taking steps to raise our levees,” said County Councilwoman Julia Patterson, whose District 5 includes Kent, at the press conference. “The Flood District Board of Supervisors reallocated $8.4 million to temporarily increase the height of the levees on the Green River. The flood district will contract with King County to work with the cities to accomplish this work.”

Patterson serves as chairwoman of the Flood District Board of Supervisors, composed of the nine members of the County Council. The Flood District was created two years ago to fund repairs and maintenance of nearly 500 levees throughout the county, including the Snoqualmie, Sammamish, Cedar, Green, and White rivers.

The Flood District is funded by a property tax assessment of 10 cents per $1,000 assessed valuation. That tax raises about $35 million per year.

In addition to the funds it’s allocating to Kent, the Flood District will give $1.28 million to the city of Tukwila and $1.01 million to the city of Auburn to boost the height of levees by about 3 feet with the giant sandbags.

The county will spend about $2 million of the $8.4 million to ensure the Black River Pump Station in Renton stays fully operational during a flood. Crews will construct a temporary embankment around the pump house as well as add more pumps. The station provides critical pumping capacity to drain the lower Green River Valley during a flood.

Flood District officials will keep the remaining $1.4 million of the $8.4 million as a contingency fund for any unforeseen problems or repairs that might be needed, said Kris Faucett, spokeswoman for the Flood Control District.

“Mother Nature is in control this winter and the stakes are much too high for us not to take action and not to invest these millions of dollars,” Patterson said.

Flood District officials revised the 2009 capital budget and six-year capital improvement plan to provide additional money for the emergency flood-protection efforts in the Green River Valley.

“Not only do tens of thousands people live in the valley, but South King County is also home to major employers and the region’s largest warehouse and distribution operations,” Patterson said.

Kent Mayor Suzette Cooke appreciated the work among the county and cities to find more funds to fight flooding.

“All of us are stretched with our budgets this year,” Cooke said. “This is also significant as we look forward. We need this cooperation not only in preparation of a potential flood but also when it comes to preparing any kind of evacuation of our residents and looking down the road - or the river - on where we need to rebuild these levees.”

County Councilman Dow Constantine, chair of the Council, expects the funds to make a big difference this winter.

“This is a serious threat, but this is a very serious response,” Constantine said at the press conference.

For information about the King County Flood Control District, go to www.kingcountyfloodcontrol.org.

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