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King County Executive News

King County Executive News
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Sept. 16, 2011

King County Executive, City Mayors hail announcement on Howard Hanson Dam

Call for continued collaboration and vigilance on emergency preparedness

King County Executive Dow Constantine joined the Mayors of Auburn, Kent, Renton, and Tukwila to hail the announcement from the US Army Corps of Engineers that the Corps will operate the Howard Hanson Dam this storm season at its normal design capacity.

"I applaud the announcement that the people and property owners of the Green River Valley will not have to face another season of fear and uncertainty," said Constantine. "I appreciate the Corps' work to quickly diagnose and fix problems at the dam. I am grateful for Senator Patty Murray's success in securing the resources we needed to complete the work quickly so that people can have renewed confidence as we enter this storm season."

“Today’s announcement was the result of the great collaboration of many different governments at the local, state and federal level working together to find a solution,” said King County Flood Control District Chair Julia Patterson, who represents the Green River Valley on the King County Council. “This shows that when governments come together, we can respond swiftly to protect what’s most important – people, property, and business.”

The announcement came today at an informational meeting hosted by Col. Bruce Estok, commander of the Corps' Seattle District, who updated government leaders, the media and the public about the numerous corrective measures taken over the two years since structural problems were discovered at the dam facility.

Tukwila Mayor Jim Haggerton said the news of the dam's restored storage capacity was a boost for his city and the entire valley. "Clearly this is excellent news for our businesses and residents. We greatly appreciate the working partnership between the Valley Cities, King County, Senator Patty Murray, and the Army Corps of Engineers."

Part of the Corps' continuing work includes completion of a detailed dam safety study, now underway, to ensure all risks have been looked and evaluated. The study is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2013.

"Hallelujah! Now people and businesses can get on with their lives knowing that governments have come together to protect them," said Kent Mayor Suzette Cooke. "We are much better prepared now to work together in the event of any emergency."

Since the January 2009 storm that first revealed problems at the dam facility, King County and the Green River Valley cities - along with state and federal partners - have implemented an aggressive multi-jurisdiction approach to emergency planning that has fostered a much higher state of collaboration and, hence, readiness. The regional guidelines and agreements have helped knock down bureaucratic barriers and improve communications; agreement models that are being expanded for use across the County and region. The crisis also spawned an innovative and aggressive public awareness campaign that raised individual, and business preparedness to unprecedented levels.

Renton Mayor Denis Law thanked the combined efforts of the many players who came together to deal with the flood threat.

"We are grateful to the leadership and partnership of our intergovernmental coalition, including Senator Murray and the entire Washington Congressional delegation, Governor Gregoire, County Executive Constantine and my fellow Valley mayors, in support of the funding and coordination that was needed to address the prior risk levels and garner the necessary funds to fortify the dam," said Law. "We are hopeful that this important development will help reduce insurance rates for our existing businesses and property owners in the Valley and will strengthen the redevelopment opportunities for key properties in the Valley."

Because the dam safety study is not yet finished, County and City officials say the temporary protective barriers placed on the levees will stay up for another storm season.

The good news from the Corps comes as King County and Green River Valley Mayors including Auburn Mayor Pete Lewis await word on a joint appeal to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for assistance in the cost for placing and removal of the additional barriers.

"We are all heartened by the news as we await FEMA's response for funds to take down the barriers in the spring," said Mayor Lewis.

For more information on emergency planning for yourself, your family, your community or business visit: www.kingcounty.gov/prepare.