The Green River Trail from Tukwila to Kent has been closed to bicycling since 2009, when miles of three-foot-tall sandbags were installed in the center of the trail. The sandbags were in response to flooding fears, but they closed a scenic biking and walking route and are an eyesore on the riverfront. This 2009 post from Biking Bis has good background on the closure.
Now, a King County board has approved a $5.8 million plan to remove the sandbags, which may actually be impeding the ability to control flooding in the Green River Valley.
From King County:
Sandbag removal along the Green River is one step closer as a result of action … by the King County Flood Control District’s Board of Supervisors. The Board approved a $5.8 million plan to remove 26 miles of giant sandbag barriers lining the river.
The approximately 3-foot high sandbags were installed in 2009 to provide extra flood protection to the cities of Kent, Auburn, and Tukwila because of the increased risk of flooding due to seepage problems at the Howard Hanson Dam. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which owns and operates the dam, announced last fall that they are once again operating the dam at full capacity.
“The sandbags were a necessary evil to provide extra protection to the Green River Valley cities during the increased threat of flooding,” stated Chair Julia Patterson who also represents the Green River Valley on the King County Council. “By removing the barriers, users can once again enjoy full access to the trail.”
“In addition to the barriers being an eyesore, they impeded the County’s ability to properly operate and maintain the levees,” said Reagan Dunn, chair of the King County Flood District Executive Committee. “Without the obstacles, it will also allow the public greater access to the public parks and the regional trail system in the Green River Valley.”
“Removing the 26 miles of sandbags along the Green River is a necessary step toward restoring these environments to their previous states,” said Supervisor Pete von Reichbauer.
The Flood Control District paid approximately $8 million for flood response because of the compromise to the Howard Hanson dam. The removal costs would be shared between the District and the cities, with the District paying approximately $4.4 million and the cities paying approximately $1.4 million. Any Flood Control District project delays caused by shifting funds will be applied to projects within the Green River basin.
Now that funding has been secured, Green River Valley cities are planning to move quickly to begin work on removing the sandbags. The sandbags are filled with sand, dirt or gravel and each weigh approximately two tons. The sand will need to be removed, and may be reused. The bidding process is expected to account for the salvage value of the sand. Barriers that hold the sand and are in usable condition will be cleaned, properly folded for reuse, and returned to the Corps, who loaned the barriers to the cities. The metal of any damaged barriers will be recycled and the linings disposed of.