U.S. House approves $44 million for Hanson Dam repairs to help prevent flooding

Water is released out of the Howard Hanson Dam that helps protect the Green River Valley from flooding. - Charles Cortes, Kent Reporter
Water is released out of the Howard Hanson Dam that helps protect the Green River Valley from flooding.
— image credit: Charles Cortes, Kent Reporter

The U.S. House of Representatives voted 308-108 Tuesday to approve a $59 billion emergency supplemental spending bill that includes $44 million to repair the Howard Hanson Dam that helps protect the Green River Valley from flooding.

The Senate approved the same bill July 22. The measure now goes to President Obama to sign.

U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Auburn, voted to support the funding for troops and ongoing operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Reichert also supported provisions that designated funding for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to address damages to the Howard Hanson Dam located in his district.

“I was proud to work with the Washington delegation to make sure the Army Corps of Engineers was provided the funding it needs to address damage to the Howard Hanson Dam,” Reichert said in a media release. “This is absolutely critical to protect the people, businesses, and infrastructure of the Green River Valley and the health of our state and local economies. I’ve made fighting for these resources a top priority, and I’m pleased that this funding has been secured for the corps.”

The Senate passed the funding bill by unanimous consent.

If Obama signs the bill, the corps would receive the $44 million to help extend a grout curtain as a temporary fix for the next several years as engineers design and construct a permanent fix to stop a leak through a damaged abutment next to the Hanson Dam.

The corps plans to add 650 feet in length to the grout curtain installed last fall to help protect the cities of Kent, Auburn, Renton and Tukwila from Green River flooding.

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., announced the passage of the bill in a July 23 media release.

“This is an investment in the safety of homes and businesses in one of the most economically vital regions of our state – the Green River Valley,” Murray said. “I’ve worked hard to secure the funding for the corps to conduct critical repairs because a flood in the valley would have devastating impacts that would ripple throughout Washington state.

“I have heard from the entire Green River Valley community and I’m proud to have secured this funding, and see it pass the Senate. With this vote, we are one step closer to repairing the dam and giving the families and business owners of the Green River Valley the peace of mind they deserve.”

Storms in January 2009 weakened the Hanson Dam.

Col. Anthony Wright, commander of the Seattle district of the Army Corps, said last spring that the expanded grout curtain would allow the corps to store more water in the Eagle Gorge reservoir behind the dam and could return the odds of flooding in the Green River Valley to the 1 in 140 chance when the dam operates at full capacity.

The risk of flooding last winter sat at a 1 in 33 chance because the leak in the abutment reduced the storage capacity behind the dam. A lack of heavy rainstorms kept the dam and giant sandbags added to levees from being tested.

The Senate passed the initial emergency supplemental spending bill in May. The House added $20 billion to the original bill, including money to help prevent teacher layoffs, according to the Wall Street Journal. But the Senate rejected the House version July 22 before sending the $59 billion package back to the House.

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