Construction is expected to start next year in Kent on the most expensive, massive and complicated Green River levee project since work to improve flood control began about 10 years ago.
The estimated $52 million Lower Russell Road Levee improvement will include relocating and reconstructing the city’s 10-acre Van Doren’s Landing Park; installing 1,000 feet of flood wall; moving 400,000 yards of material; relocating 30 KOA campground sites; moving the historic Dvorak Barn; and creating a fish habitat.
The city also will need to close the park and a portion of the popular Green River Trail for about two years as crews complete the improved 1.4-mile levee between Veterans Drive/South 231st Way and South 212th Street. When the work is done, Russell Road will dead end at the park rather than be a through road.
The King County Flood Control District will cover $47 million of the cost through its property tax measure (10 cents per $1,000 assessed valuation); the city will pay $1 million; and the remainder will come from grants, including $4.9 million from Floodplains by Design (a public-private partnership).
“This is the largest project that the city has worked on with the flood district and I believe the largest project the flood district has tackled – so it’s massive,” said City Public Works Director Tim LaPorte during a Nov. 20 report to the City Council. ” It’s roughly half of the size of their entire capital budget.”
“It’s a lot of work. Simply relocating the park is a lot work. It’s difficult, but you’ve got to get the scale of this thing – it’s big.”
LaPorte said the goals include improving the flood containment capacity to provide flood protection and make sure the levee can hold water. One area of the levee has scouring from river flow that took away part of the embankment.
“Should the levee fail in this area, it would take the park and everything and not stop until it got past the West Valley Highway,” LaPorte said. “It’s a very strong concern that we need to address.”
King County Water and Land Resources Division bought several private properties along the river in order to rebuild the levee, including Holiday Kennels, which operated at 22211 Russell Road since 1976 prior to closing in July.
Construction cannot begin on the levee until the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approves the permit.
“We think we’re close,” LaPorte said about getting the permit with plans to close Van Doren’s Landing Park in 2019 when work begins.
The work continues the plan by Kent and King County to get the Green River levee system accredited by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Crews have finished numerous levee repair projects over the last eight years in an effort to get the system accredited, which would remove properties behind the levee from FEMA flood maps to reduce development restrictions and flood insurance requirements in the Kent Valley. Farmers initially built dirt levees along the river to help protect farmland.
The Howard Hanson Dam, which opened in 1962, also provides flood protection to Auburn, Kent, Tukwila and Renton, but Army Corps officials say the dam could not hold enough water in its reservoir during a major rainstorm so stronger levees are needed.
Van Doren’s Landing Park is one of the most popular in the city. People enjoy its picnic areas and close location to the river. It’s also along the Green River Trail that attracts many bicyclists and walkers.
The relocated park will have just 200 feet of river frontage compared to 1,200 feet now as the current park site will be used for a setback levee. The size of the new park will be basically the same, but it will include several new features such as a viewing tower, a custom Mount Rainier playground, Adirondack chairs with views of the river, pickleball courts and a Wiffle ball field.
Crews will move the historic Dvorak Barn about 200 feet to the east to preserve it. The city’s nursery division will use the red barn. Two other structures near the barn will be demolished.
The barn was built in 1925 and is named after the Dvorak family that last farmed the land. The city bought the property a few years ago in preparation for the improved levee. Several community members worked to make sure the city didn’t demolish the barn.
The Seattle/Tacoma KOA campground along South 212th Street will lose about 30 sites because of the wider levee, LaPorte said.
“It’s one of the very few campgrounds that’s in an urban area where you can pull in and go up to Seattle,” LaPorte said. “They have a fairly thriving business and they want to stay there.”
To replace the lost camp sites, the flood district and city plan to acquire property, and then swap property in the city’s Green River Natural Resources Area that KOA will use.
Crews will dig down to remove dirt and move it to the new park site. Removing the dirt will help create a new fish habitat where the Van Doren’s Landing Park now sits.
City and county officials worked with the Muckleshoot Tribe and the state Department of Fish and Wildlife on the habitat plans.