Sandbags to remain along Green River in Kent until spring; removal to cost city an estimated $3 million

It's going to cost the city of Kent an estimated $3 million to remove the giant sandbags from levees along the Green River.

Darby Cole of Kent

Darby Cole of Kent

It’s going to cost the city of Kent an estimated $3 million to remove the giant sandbags from levees along the Green River.

City officials have decided to keep the sandbags along the river until spring even though the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced Sept. 16 that it once again can operate the Howard Hanson Dam at full capacity. Crews have completed most of the repairs at the flood-control dam after a 2009 storm damaged an abutment next to the dam.

“We plan to leave them through winter because by the time we had a contract in place to remove them they would be working through the rainy season,” said Mike Mactutis, city environmental engineering manager, in a phone interview.

Kent officials met with representatives from King County, Auburn and Tukwila before making the call to leave the sandbags alone until spring.

“It was a joint decision by all the agencies,” Mactutis said. “We agreed to leave them for one more winter rather than remove them in the middle of flood season.”

It’s going to cost the city an estimated $3 million to remove the sandbags and the project could take up to two months, said John Hodgson, city chief administrative officer, in a phone interview.

The city still must figure out how to pay for a contractor to remove the sandbags.

“We plan to work with the other cities and the county to find funds so it will not be such a burden for each city,” Hodgson said.

King County paid for the installation of the sandbags in the fall of 2009 through its King County Flood Control District. Kent received $2.59 million from the county to place nearly 17,000 sandbags along 12 miles of levees.

The sandbags increased the height of the levees to provide more flood protection while the dam was under repair in case a major rainstorm struck the river. No major storms have hit the area since the rainstorm of January 2009 that damaged the abutment next to the dam.

But while King County paid for the placing of the sandbags, part of its agreement with the cities was the cities would have to pay for the removal of the bags, Hodgson said.

“We need time to dialogue with everyone involved,” Hodgson said about how to pay for removing the sandbags.

Hodgson expects the city to remove the sandbags next spring even if it means postponing other projects in order to pay for the removal.

“I don’t think we want them to stay,” Hodgson said.

The sandbags weigh about 3,200 pounds each and cover much of the Green River Trail, a popular bicycling and walking trail. City officials also expect that repairs might need to be made to the paved trail because of damage from the sandbags.

“There could be cracking or settling,” Mactutis said. “We have had no indication of damage. If there is no damage to the trail that would be ideal. But the trail has had thousands of pounds on top of it for two years.”

Any damage that needs to be fixed could raise the $3 million cost even higher.

“The estimate of $3 million may or may not include trail repairs,” Hodgson said.

A contractor or contractors will bring in trucks to remove the sandbags and then find places to dump the sand.

“It’s going to be a lot of work,” Hodgson said. “There is a lot of sand.”

City officials are trying to determine where to put all of the sand. Hodgson said some sand could go on the city’s undeveloped Naden property (south of West Meeker Street and east of Highway 167) as well as up on top of South 231st Way on the West Hill.

“Whoever gets the bid to remove it might have a source that wants it as well,” Hodgson said.

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