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Council authorizes proactive emergency declaration in advance of potential flooding from Howard Hanson Dam

Summary

Measure gives Executive the authority to declare an emergency before event occurs

Story

In light of the diminished capacity of the federal Howard Hanson Dam to protect the Green River Valley from seasonal flooding, the Metropolitan King County Council today unanimously approved legislation giving the County Executive proactive authority to declare a state of emergency in advance of actual flooding.

“Thousands of homes and businesses may be devastated by potential flooding resulting from the Howard Hanson Dam,” said Councilmember Julia Patterson, prime sponsor of the ordinance and chair of the King County Flood Control District. “By authorizing an emergency proclamation before flooding occurs, this legislation moves the County forward in our flood preparation and sends a message to the federal government that we need their support now.”

“This step is necessary in the effort to alert our region for what could be the most significant natural emergency to hit South County in our lifetime,” said Councilmember Pete von Reichbauer. “As King County takes steps to prepare public facilities and the community for potential flooding, every family, business, local government, and service organization must do their part to stay informed, be prepared and help one another.”

The adopted ordinance authorizes County Executive Kurt Triplett to waive the County’s procurement and contracting rules in light of the potential for flooding arising out of the diminished capacity of the Howard Hanson Dam to hold back the waters of the Green River.

“Unlike in other natural disasters, we have the opportunity to plan for potential flooding in the Green River Valley for months in advance,” said Council Chair Dow Constantine. "We can and should begin right away to buy the sandbags and tools to strengthen the levees and protect people and property."

“This is just common sense. It’s not a question of whether there will be severe flooding, but when,” said Councilmember Reagan Dunn. “It seems to me that while we can’t control the rainfall we can be proactive in preparing how we deal with an emergency.”

“Being proactive in declaring an emergency around the flood potential of the Howard Hanson Dam is critical for conveying to residents and the federal government the seriousness of this threat,” said Councilmember Larry Phillips. “Giving the Executive the authority to act quickly in response to flooding will be a tool in limiting the damage to people and property.”

At a briefing Wednesday before the Council’s Committee of the Whole, members were told that homes and businesses downstream of the federally owned and operated dam face the threat of flood waters as high as 10 feet, should heavy rainfall require the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to release water from behind the dam. The committee was briefed on plans to shift the operations of major County facilities that lie in the heart of the historic flood plain, including the potential need to relocate animals from the Animal Shelter, inmates from the Maleng Regional Justice Center, and move the County’s Elections headquarters to prevent any disruption to the November general election.

“Repeated flooding in the Snoqualmie Valley has been a preview of what we might expect in the Green River Valley in the event of a serious storm event this winter,” said Councilmember Kathy Lambert, who represents the Snoqualmie Valley. “It is my hope that we never have to use this authority to declare an emergency based on the threat of flooding, but this action is a proactive way to help save lives. It also is a good time to remind everyone of the need to be prepared for emergencies with 72-hour survival kits for your home, office, school and vehicle.”


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