News Releases

Western WA Congressional Delegation Calls on Army Corps to Move Quickly on Howard Hanson Dam Fix

Sep 16 2009

Letter calls for quick action to provide the region sufficient time before the start of this year's flood season

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Senator Patty Murray, Senator Maria Cantwell, Congressman Norm Dicks, Congressman Jim McDermott, Congressman Adam Smith, and Congressman Dave Reichert sent a letter to Lieutenant General Robert Van Antwerp requesting that he expeditiously review and approve the Advance Measures request as submitted by the Seattle District of the Army Corps of Engineers. The letter also called on the Army Corps of Engineers to move quickly on the design and engineering of a permanent repair to the dam.

“We also ask for your expeditious review and approval of the Advance Measures request.  Quick approval is needed to provide the County and the cities sufficient time to deploy the materials and equipment before the start of this year’s flood season….We ask that you move quickly on the design and engineering of a permanent repair to the dam, and that you work with us to identify the funding required to implement the necessary repair,” the members wrote in the letter.

The Congressional delegation members’ letter urges quick approval of the Advanced Measures request to provide King County and its cities sufficient time to deploy the materials and equipment needed to protect land and property prior to the start of this year’s flood season.  

The full text of the letter follows:

September 16, 2009

Lieutenant General Robert Van Antwerp
U.S. Army Chief of Engineers and Commanding General
U.S Army Corps of Engineers
441 G. Street, NW
Washington, DC 20314-1000

Dear Lieutenant General Robert Van Antwerp,

We are writing to request your assistance to address increased risks of flooding in the Green River valley in King County, Washington as a result of storm damage to the Howard Hanson Dam.  Specifically, we ask that the Army Corps expeditiously review and approve the Advance Measures request as submitted by the Seattle District of the Army Corps of Engineers.

The Green River valley communities are home to over 25,000 people and include industrial, warehouse, distribution, and aerospace manufacturing facilities.  The valley contains the second largest manufacturing and distribution center on the west coast and is an essential part of the Washington state economy. 

For over 40 years, the Howard Hanson Dam and Green River levees in King County have provided effective flood control to the Green River valley.  For example, the Howard Hanson Dam is estimated to have prevented $4 billion in damage during a major January 2009 storm and saved an estimated $40 million per day in lost economic output.  This same storm, however, damaged an abutment adjacent to the dam, which has diminished the effectiveness of the dam and increased the flood risk to the Green River valley. 

In response to the increased flood risks, Governor Chris Gregoire asked Colonel Anthony Wright, the Commander of the Seattle District, to provide materials and equipment to improve flood protection before this coming flood season, under the Corps’ Advance Measures program.  In response, Colonel Wright submitted a September 12 report recommending approval of Advance Measures to shore up the existing levees and raise the low spots, and to provide secondary containment around federal, state, and local public facilities and other critical infrastructure. 

We appreciate the continuing assistance and support of Colonel Wright and the Seattle District, who has been working closely with elected officials and emergency managers from all the affected levels of government.  We also ask for your expeditious review and approval of the Advance Measures request.  Quick approval is needed to provide the County and the cities sufficient time to deploy the materials and equipment before the start of this year’s flood season.  As proposed, these measures will reduce the estimated property damages of a 25% probability (1 in 4 years) flood event from over $1 billion to damages closer to $200 million.  The Colonel’s report concludes there would be a federal benefit to cost ratio of 5.9 to 1.

It is clear that the increased flood risk to the Green River Valley communities is a situation that will be a serious concern for all of us over the next several years. We appreciate the Corps’ efforts to repair the dam, with interim repairs under way now and permanent repairs being studied.  We ask that you move quickly on the design and engineering of a permanent repair to the dam, and that you work with us to identify the funding required to implement the necessary repairs.

Thank you for your attention to this request.  We look forward to your response.