by STEVE HUNTER, Kent Reporter Courts, Government Reporter
Rain appropriately fell during a Thursday gathering of Kent, King County and state politicians to kick off an $18 million Green River levee repair project.
In fact, organizers for the 2.7-mile Briscoe-Desimone levee project even moved the podium from a small tent along the Green River Trail to a larger tent in a nearby parking lot at Briscoe Park to help keep everyone dry.
"Thanks for coming out here to Kent on this very rainy day which does remind us of the realities of flooding throughout the region," said County Councilman Reagan Dunn, whose district covers portions of Kent.
Dunn also is chairman of the King County Flood Control District, which is paying for the project. The flood district, formed in 2007, is funded by a property tax of 10 cents per $1,000 assessed valuation. That tax raises about $50 million per year.
The flood district received a state grant of $7 million to help pay for the levee repairs. Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Kent and Sen. Joe Fain, R-Auburn, attended the kickoff event because of the state's contribution.
“The levees are incredibly important to homeowners and businesses threatened by flooding throughout the Kent Valley,” Fain said. “A well designed and constructed levee improves the quality of life and saves money for valley residents. It also moves us toward certification, which would lower flood-insurance premiums in the area and keep the valley's economic engine strong.”
The projects also include the city submitting applications to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to certify the levee so properties are removed from the Kent Valley floodplains and property owners are no longer required to buy flood insurance.
Crews are repairing the Briscoe-Desimone levee that protects portions of Kent, Tukwila and Renton from flooding. Crews will install flood walls an estimated 30 to 40 feet into the ground. About six feet of the wall will be above ground, similar to work done on the Boeing levee next to the Three Friends Fishing Hole just south of South 200th Street.
The project includes constructing setback flood walls along two sections of the levee between South 189th Street and South 194th Street that do not meet stability criteria; removing large trees and roots that could cause damage to the levees; and removing ivy and other ground cover that can prevent routine inspections.
An initial project this summer will cost $6.7 million on two sections of the levee. Crews will reconstruct two more sections of the levee in 2015.
Politicians patted each other on the back at the kickoff ceremony for working together to approve the project.
But it took months of debate last year between city of Kent and county staff about the best way to repair the levee before the flood district board picked the Kent plan. The county had proposed setback levee options estimated at costs of more than $63 million and up to $416 million because of the need to buy property and move businesses to expand the levee.
The flood district even hired a consultant from the University of Texas to analyze each proposal before going with the Kent plan, as recommended by the consultant.
"This is a unique kind of project for this area," Kent Mayor Suzette Cooke said at the gathering. "I'm very thrilled to be a partner with the state and the flood control district which will improve flood protection in this Green River Valley for decades to come."
The levee protects a large industrial, retail and manufacturing area in Kent, Tukwila and Renton, including the Boeing Space Center, the Starbucks Roasting Plant and IKEA.
The popular Green River Trail along the levee will remain closed until December during construction between South 180th Street and South 200th Street. A detour has been set up.