County could remove Green River Trail sandbags

The Green River Trail is the squiggly green line to the west of the Interurban Trail (straight green line).

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.

About Tom Fucoloro

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16 Responses to County could remove Green River Trail sandbags

  1. Todd says:

    I, for one, am looking forward to their removal.

  2. JAT says:

    Given how important (some people believe…) separate bicycle facilities are, how has this closure been tolerated for three years? Can you imagine the furor if State Route 167 had been closed for three years? Three Months? Three weeks?

    Reagan Dunn would be out of a job, that’s for damn sure.

    • Todd says:

      My guess is because there is an alternative route (Interurban South).

      • Breadbaker says:

        There’s an alternative route to 167 (West Valley Highway).

      • Todd says:

        Tom, so what’s the hold up now? If the council approved it, where else is the red tape?

      • Tom Fucoloro says:

        A king county board approved the idea. Maybe it still needs council approval? Good question. I’ll look into it.

      • Morgan Wick says:

        The Green River Trail is really the equivalent to West Valley Highway in this scenario. It’s more of a scenic route. Actual commuters would take the more direct Interurban route.

      • Todd says:

        I’m in agreement. But let’s get those GR Trail sandbags removed now — especially if they are no longer needed.

  3. Jessie Kwak says:

    Great timing–I was just volunteering at a bike to work station near there and we had tons of questions about when the trail would reopen. Too bad I didn’t see this post until I got to work. :)

    The general consensus was that there are enough people who want to see it reopened that if someone just put out a massive call for volunteers the county could do it for just the cost of snacks and coffee. Although, 2-ton sand bags sound a bit more intimidating….

  4. Andrew Squirrel says:

    Though I am appreciative of the alternate Interurban trail which runs parallel I really miss the winding beauty of the Green River Trail. Also, every day is a constant reminder since the sandbags sit just outside my office window, mocking me.

  5. Morgan Wick says:

    $5.8 million to effectively do what happens after every flood, not even approved until half a year after it should have been carried out. American Government: Model of Efficiency!

    • Todd says:

      Yeah it’s a joke really. I’d do it for 1/5 that if they let me take my Dad’s truck in there.

  6. Trans-Cascade-Tourist says:

    Forgive this off-topic (or at least, off-map) post.

    Farther UPSTREAM, the Green River watershed could be a fabulous touring route on FR 54 over Stampede Pass, connecting the Puget Sound area with the Easton State Park area, allowing access to the John Wayne Trail — were it not restricted. I respect that there are water quality/contamination concerns/issues for this area, though I would like to see a real effort to allow cycle tourists non-motorized access through the area — even if a permit were required. There are so few ways across the Cascades, and they each have their issues — I-90 obviously is not ideal from a traffic volume perspective, and Hwys 2, 20 and 12 are out-of-the-way for cyclists. One route “through-the-middle” would be a welcome addition. It can also be an opportunity for water quality and watershed protection education. I hope one day it can become a reality.

  7. gjwilkejr says:

    when will the bags be gone

  8. gjwilkejr says:

    i miss the trail

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