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The sandbags along Green River are finally going away

The City of Renton will remove the large SuperSaks from around Fire Station 14 on Lind Avenue Southwest, now that the danger of flooding from a damaged Howard Hanson Dam has passed. - Dean A. Radford/Renton Reporter
The City of Renton will remove the large SuperSaks from around Fire Station 14 on Lind Avenue Southwest, now that the danger of flooding from a damaged Howard Hanson Dam has passed.
— image credit: Dean A. Radford/Renton Reporter

Those thousands of sandbags placed along the Green River to ward off flood waters are going away, now that an agreement is in the works about who will pay for their removal.

Discussions have been under way for weeks between three Valley cities – Kent, Auburn and Tukwila – and the King County Flood Control District about who would pay for the sandbag removal.

On Monday the flood-control district’s Executive Board recommended to the district’s Executive Committee a $5.8 million plan to remove 26 miles of sandbag barriers – mostly the large supersaks – lining the river, according to a county press release.

The full board is expected to vote May 14 on the proposal. The county would pay about 75 percent of the removal cost, with the cities of Kent, Auburn and Tukwila paying 25 percent.

For the district that means a bill of $4.4 million and the cities of Kent, Auburn and Tukwila paying approximately $1.4 million. Any flood-control district project delays caused by shifting funds will be applied to projects within the Green River basin, according to the press release.

King County paid for the installation of the sandbags in the fall of 2009 through the flood control district by delaying planned projects.

Renton was not directly involved in placing the sandbags because the Green River doesn’t flow through the city. The city did not pay their placement and will not pay for their removal.

The large sandbags on the Green River next to West Valley Highway near Southcenter in Tukwila were critical protection for the commercial area in southwest Renton.

However, city officials monitored the discussions between the three cities and the flood control district regarding the sandbag removal. Renton supported the cities’ efforts to get the flood district to help pay for the removal, according to Gregg Zimmerman, the city’s public works director.

The City of Renton on its own placed sandbags around Fire Station 14 on Lind Avenue Southwest. Boeing also placed large green HESCO units around the western part of its Longacres buildings. The company plans to removes the HESCO units early this summer.

Zimmerman said there has been discussions among Valley cities about when to remove the bags. The decision hinged on who would pay for their removal, he said, and the safety of the dam.

With clarity on the pay issue and dam safety, Zimmerman said this week that the city would remove the sandbags no earlier than August. He said the project would require some landscaping restoration.

The sandbags have lined the Green River Trail for nearly three years for extra flood protection because of damage in 2009 to an abutment next to the Howard Hanson Dam on the upper Green River.

But the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced last fall it can operate Hanson Dam at full capacity, which means the sandbags are no longer needed, according to the county press release.

King County had moved its elections headquarters from Grady Way in Renton to Boeing Field after determining it couldn’t protect the building from flood waters. The headquarters has since returned to Renton.

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