News Releases

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, announced that she has secured $44 million in emergency funding for critical repairs to the Howard Hanson Dam. Murray included the funds, which will go to the Army Corps of Engineers, in the Fiscal Year 2010 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill.

“This is a big step in safeguarding homes, businesses, and the economy of the Green River Valley,” said Senator Murray“It’s an investment in keeping one of the most economically vital regions in our state protected, and in providing the families that live there with peace of mind.

“The entire Green River Valley has told me with one voice that this is their top priority. With the rainy season getting closer, time is not on our side. People’s homes, jobs, and livelihoods are at stake. Waiting for funding continues to put the region at risk. I have made absolutely clear to my colleagues that this is a serious concern and I’m very proud to have secured this funding.”

Since Howard Hanson Dam sustained damages during storms in January of 2009 that weakened its structure, Senator Murray has spearheaded Congressional efforts to provide support for protective measures (see timeline below). In March 2010, the Army Corps of Engineers identified a set of interim repairs costing $44 million that would further increase protection against a major flood event. However, the Corps also indicated that in order to move forward with those repairs it would have to have funding in hand.  This meant that funding would have to be found in the current Fiscal Year budget.

As a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Murray today successfully included the $44 million in the Fiscal Year 2010 Supplemental Appropriations bill which includes emergency funding for the current fiscal year. Once passed, the funding will allow the Corps to move forward with the repairs.

The funding Murray secured today has been a focal point of intense lobbying efforts by state and local officials ads well as local business leaders and homeowners. Last week Senator Murray invited a delegation from Washington state to Washington D.C. that included Governor Gregoire, King County officials, and four Green River Valley Mayors to meet with Corps and FEMA officials to discuss the potential impacts of a flood. Murray hosted the meeting to ensure that federal officials understood the grave threat that a weakened Howard Hanson Dam presents to families, businesses, and the region’s economy.

The economic effects of a flood in the Green River Valley would be devastating. The region produces 12 percent of Washington state’s total gross state product, includes 95,000 employees, and 90,000 commuters pass through each day. A flood would affect approximately 170,000 residents living in the area and in other areas due to highway closures, work stoppages, schools closures, and disruptions in utility service. A flood event with levee failures has been estimated to cause $3.7 billion in building-related damage in the Green River Valley.

Howard Hanson Timeline

September 16, 2009: After Governor Gregoire sent a letter to Army Corps requesting Advance Measures, Senator Murray along with other members of the delegation sent a letter to the Corps supporting the request (press release). Senator Murray then spoke to Jo-Ellen Darcy, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works to push for the Advance Measures request so that local authorities would have what they needed to stave off an imminent threat. Senator Murray also discussed the Army Corp’s work on the grout curtain and drainage tunnel. And she invited Darcy to tour the site, which she ultimately did.

September 18, 2009: Senator Murray met with local mayors to discuss their concerns and level of preparedness.

September 27, 2009:  Senator Murray holds a press conference in Kent with Col. Anthony Wright to announce the Army Corps’ release of $3.45 million at the end of September to purchase sandbags and supersaks to help the local authorities prevent flooding. When combined with the Corps’ work on the grout curtain and drainage tunnel. These actions reduced the estimated threat of flooding from 1in 4 to 1 in 33. (Kent Reporter story)

September 30, 2009:  King County Councilmembers Dow Constantine and Julia Patterson praised the efforts of Western Washington’s Congressional delegation in securing a $3.45 million from the Corps to purchase 400,000 sandbags and other flood-fighting materials for use in the Green River Valley. “I asked Sen. (Patty) Murray for help in getting increased federal support and she delivered,” said Constantine, chairman of the County Council. “This short-term funding is important for the preparation effort, but my goal is to see a permanent end to the flooding threat to Green River Valley residents and businesses.” (Auburn Reporter story)

October 22, 2009: Senator Murray calls on the Departments of Commerce and Interior to provide critical weather forecasting and river monitoring resources from the National Weather Service and the U.S. Geological Survey to address the flood threat posed by structural damage to the Howard Hanson Dam, in a letter sent October 21st. (Kent Reporter story)

November 2, 2009: FEMA delivers the flood monitoring tools that Senator Murray requested (NPR story)

November 18, 2009: Senator Murray met with FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate to make sure he understood the situation and was prepared to respond should flooding occur.

February 4, 2010: Senator Murray, delegation send letter to Corps urging it  to continue working at full speed to complete the study phase of the Howard Hanson Dam fix and move into the design and construction phase of the project. The delegation called on the Corps to explain in full how they plan to complete the study phase by June, 2010 in order to ensure that the project can be considered for Fiscal Year 2012 construction funding (press release)

March 11, 2010: At an Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee hearing, 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 Fiscal Year 2012 construction funding. Van Antwerp told Murray that the study would be ready.  (press release)

March 18, 2010: Local officials continue to request money for fix. Alex Glass, a spokeswoman for Murray, said temporary and permanent repairs to the dam are "a top priority for her. We know that this is important for the community and the economy, and she's going to be looking at every possible way to help get this funding. It is a tough budget year and a tough lift." (Seattle Times story)

March 23, 2010: Renton Mayor Denis Law comes to D.C to request funding. Law pointed to U.S. Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell as taking the lead in fighting for federal dollars for dam repairs and helping ensure that key timelines are met so the interim measures could be finished in time for the next flood season. "They have heard us loud and clear," Law said of the region's federal representatives. Dam repair is the delegation's priority, Law said.

April 21, 2010: Senator Murray sent a letter to Lieutenant General Robert Van Antwerp urging the Army Corps of Engineers to make unused funding available for short term fixes to protect the tens of thousands of residents and 95,000 jobs of the Green River Valley from catastrophic flooding while the study of permanent fixes to the Howard Hanson Dam is underway. (press release)

May 6, 2010: Senator Murray invites Washington state political and business leaders to Washington, meet with federal officials to stress the need to make speedy repairs at Howard Hanson Dam on the upper Green River.  ( SeattlePI story, press release)

May 13, 2010: Senator Murray secures $44 million in the Fiscal Year 2010 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill for Howard Hanson Dam repairs.