Pierce, Kitsap Counties to house inmates if flooding forces evacuation of Maleng Regional Justice Center
The possibility that water released from behind the storm-damaged, federal Howard Hanson Dam could flood the Maleng Regional Justice Center (MRJC) in Kent has the Metropolitan King County Council acting to protect the inmates housed in the facility. The Council gave its approval today to two separate interlocal agreements with Pierce and Kitsap Counties to house inmates from the Regional Justice Center in their detention facilities.
“We have a responsibility to protect the people serving their time in the MRJC, as well as those who work there and the public,” said Councilmember Larry Gossett, the sponsor of the ordinance. “These agreements ensure that if we do have to relocate inmates, they will be placed in secure facilities outside of the flood zone.”
The detention facility at the MRJC can house up to 1,300 felony and misdemeanor inmates. In the event of flooding, up to 200 of those inmates would be transferred to the King County Correctional Facility (KCCF) in Seattle. The adopted agreements augment the capacity of the KCCF by allowing for the transfer of 168 to Pierce County detention centers and 114 inmates to Kitsap County.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been working on interim repairs to the Howard Hanson Dam since last January’s record rain, when sinkholes and rapid seepage of water were discovered in an earthen abutment next to the structure. The Army Corps is working to control that seepage through construction of a “grout curtain,” which consists of a concrete-like substance being injected into the earthen material to slow the flow of water.
Due to the weakened nature of the dam, the Army Corps is limiting the storage capacity of the reservoir until the repair can be tested next spring. If the Green River overtops its banks and floods the valley, the County has projected that the MRJC could be under up to 4 feet of water, forcing the evacuation of County staff and the inmates housed in the facility.
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