U.S. Senate passes Howard Hanson Dam repair bill

Crews work to install a temporary grout curtain last fall at the Howard Hanson Dam that helps control Green River flooding. - Charles Cortes, Kent Reporter
Crews work to install a temporary grout curtain last fall at the Howard Hanson Dam that helps control Green River flooding.
— image credit: Charles Cortes, Kent Reporter

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, announced May 27 that the $44 million she secured in emergency funding for critical repairs to the Howard Hanson Dam has passed the full Senate.

The funding, which will go to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, was included in the Fiscal Year 2010 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill that passed 67-28, according to a media release from Murray.

“(The) passage is another step forward toward safeguarding homes, businesses, and the economy of the Green River Valley,” Murray said. “This is an investment in keeping one of the most economically vital regions in our state protected, and in providing the families that live there with peace of mind.

“The entire Green River Valley has told me with one voice that this is their top priority. With the rainy season getting closer, time is not on our side. People’s homes, jobs, and livelihoods are at stake. Waiting for funding continues to put the region at risk. I have made absolutely clear to my colleagues that this is a serious concern and I’m very glad that the funding I secured passed the full Senate.”

The House will take up the bill when Congress returns June 5 from the Memorial Day recess. Once the House and Senate approve the bill, it goes to President Obama to sign.

Since Howard Hanson Dam sustained damages during storms in January of 2009 that weakened its structure, Murray has spearheaded Congressional efforts to provide support for protective measures.

In March, the Corps identified a set of interim repairs costing $44 million that would further increase protection against a major flood event. However, the Corps also indicated that in order to move forward with those repairs it would have to have funding in hand. This meant that funding would have to be found in the current fiscal year budget.

The funding Murray secured has been a focal point of intense lobbying efforts by state and local officials as well as local business leaders and homeowners.

Murray recently invited a delegation from Washington state to Washington D.C. that included Gov. Chris Gregoire, King County officials and four Green River Valley Mayors, including Kent's Suzette Cooke, to meet with Corps and Federal Emergency Management Agency officials to discuss the potential impacts of a flood.

Murray hosted the meeting to ensure that federal officials understood the grave threat that a weakened Howard Hanson Dam presents to families, businesses and the region’s economy.

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