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Tukwila is taking no chances with the Green River

By BRIAN BECKLEY

Reporter Newspapers

Tukwila may be the last Green River Valley city that floodwater gets to this winter, but that doesn’t mean they are taking any chances, as the rising levee wall along the Green River indicates.

Using barriers and giant sandbags, the City of Tukwila is hoping to put enough additional height along the river to protect its more than 2,100 residents and businesses located in the flood zone.

“Basically, we’re building the levee up ... to 13,900 cubic feet per second and three feet of freeboard,” said City Administrator Rhonda Berry.

The cubic-feet-per-second measurement is made at the Auburn gage along the river and 12,000 cfs is considered a moderate flood, with 14,000 cfs considered a major flood.

Berry said the levee height is being increased through use of HESCO barriers (the steel and mesh walls filled with sand used by Boeing and other valley businesses to protect their facilities) as well giant sandbags.

Interim Public Works Director Bob Giberson said the city has hired contractors to place the bags on the west side of the river, along the levee, and will place the HESCO barriers along West Valley Highway from Interstate 405 to South 180th Street to try and keep water from spilling onto the road.

“We’ve been working hard the past couple of weeks on filling these giant sandbags,” Giberson said late last month.

Giberson said the city also has been working with the county and state to re-stripe the road to make sure there is no capacity lost on the roadways while the barriers are in place.

But once the water gets past the old Black River junction, north of I-405, and the Green River becomes the Duwamish, which has a deeper and wider path, Giberson said the city should be in the clear.

Berry said there are so many flooding possibilities that it is difficult for the city to prepare for all of them, but Tukwila is asking its residents to be on alert and ready to head for higher ground if word comes that the waters are rising.

“We’re telling people to be prepared,” Berry said, adding that they are asking residents not only move their valuables to higher ground but also to look out for neighbors who may need help evacuating.

Evacuation routes have been posted on the city’s Web site.

Berry said unlike some cities, Tukwila is not offering free sandbags to residents due to cost and staffing issues. But will pass information along to residents should the county provide sand and bags. They are also encouraging all business and residents to purchase flood insurance.

In addition, the city has hosted about 15 “train the trainers” sessions with local businesses and residents to teach them what to do if there is flooding.

The city expects its total flood-preparations work, including supplies and contracts with installation companies and contractors, to run approximately $2.5 million, not including additional staff time.

“It’s taking a lot of staff time to put together a flood-response plan,” Berry said.

In order to find the money in difficult economic times, the city is looking into which projects it might be able to defer into the future and hopes the county will reimburse them up to $1 million.

“We’re keeping very close track of what we’re spending,” she said.

Tukwila residents can also sign up at the city’s Web site for the city’s flood watch e-mails and can gain additional information from Public Access channel 21 or the city’s emergency radio station, 1640 AM.

TUKWILA: STAY INFORMED

WEBSITE: At Tukwila's Web site, on the “Howard Hanson Dam Flood Watch Information” Box at the top of the page to sign up for the Flood Watch eList to receive the latest information by e-mail.

Available on the site are flood-evacuation maps, information about what items to have in an emergency, creating a flood-disaster plan and information about flood insurance, among other things.

BY PHONE: The city also has established a Tukwila Flood Information line at 206-431-2186

ON TV: Additional information can be found on Public Access Channel 21 and 1640 AM.

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