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LISTEN to Senator Murray ask Army Corps leadership about Howard Hanson Dam, Columbia River jetties

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), a senior member of the Senate Energy and Water Committee, pressed top officials from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on critical issues for Washington state families, including plans to fix the Howard Hanson Dam and bolster the Columbia River jetties.

Murray pushed Lt. General Van Antwerp, commanding General of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, to assure her that the Corps is doing everything possible to meet the critical June deadline for completion of a Howard Hanson Dam study. Unless this study is completed on time, the project will not be eligible for FY 2012 construction funding. Van Antwerp told Murray that the study would be ready.  

Murray also stressed the importance of the Columbia River jetties to the Southwest Washington economy, and urged Jo-Ellen Darcy, Assistant Secretary U.S. Army (Civil Works), to prioritize this issue and plan budgets that include the necessary funds to bolster the jetties and protect the Columbia River system.

Full text of the Q&A on Howard Hanson Dam and Columbia River Jetties:

Howard Hanson Dam

Murray: General Van Antwerp—As you know, Howard Hanson Dam in my home state of Washington has a significant seepage problem that is putting downstream communities at risk of serious flooding.

I appreciate you and Assistant Secretary Darcy coming out to visit the dam recently and seeing first-hand how important fixing this problem this is to families in the Green River Valley.

I know that the Corps is currently working on a study to determine what needs to be done at the Howard Hanson Dam. And as you know, this study needs to be completed to a certain point by June of this year in order to be considered for FY 2012 construction funding.

I sent you a letter back in February
urging you to move quickly on this study so we know what we will need to protect Green River Valley communities. And I cannot stress enough how important it is that the Corps get this done.

My question is- what assurances can you give me that this study will in fact be ready by June of this year?  This is so important to moving forward quickly on a solution, and I need to know that the Corps is doing everything possible to meet this critical deadline.

Van Antwerp: The study will be at the point that we will have alternatives identified that we can start with design, so that we can begin the process of the design.

Murray: By June of this year?

Van Antwerp: Yes Ma’am.

Murray: I really appreciate that.

Columbia River Jetties

Thank you so much for your work on the advance measures for the Howard Hanson Dam—as well as for coming out to visit the site. I would like to continue working with you to find ways to move forward on this process as quickly and safely as possible.

Now I would like to ask you about another critical issue to my state.

I was pleased to work to include $26.6 million in the Recovery Act for the Army Corps to complete the Columbia River Channel Deepening project in Washington state.

This was a big victory for the region. A deeper channel will allow us to accommodate larger ships- which will help our economy and support the over 40,000 jobs in the region that depend on maritime commerce.

This project is creating jobs right now, and is laying the foundation for long-term economic growth—which I why I thought it was such a good use of Recovery Act funding.

But I am very concerned that all of this work will be for nothing if we don’t prevent the Columbia River jetties from falling into disrepair.

These jetties are critical to a shipping industry that supports billions of dollars in economy activity throughout the region.

They protect the mouth of the Columbia River from ocean waves as well as beach sand that would clog the shipping channel—and their continued effectiveness is absolutely essential to the economic health of the region.

I was very happy to see that the Corps put forward a plan to bolster the jetties, and I am committed to working with you to make sure that you have the resources you need to get this done.

So my question is: Will you continue to work with me and the local communities to ensure that we move forward in a timely fashion with these critical jetties repairs?

Assistant Secretary Darcy: Yes we will Senator.

Murray: And can you assure me that you will prioritize this issue and plan budgets that include the necessary funds to bolster the jetties and protect the Columbia River system?

We will strongly consider it always.