Sen. Murray announces funding for repairs to Howard Hanson Dam near Enumclaw

U.S. Senator Patty Murray, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, announced May 13 she has secured $44 million in emergency funding for critical repairs to the Howard Hanson Dam. Murray included the funds, which will go to the Army Corps of Engineers, in the Fiscal Year 2010 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill.

“This is a big step in safeguarding homes, businesses, and the economy of the Green River Valley,” Murray said. “It’s an investment in keeping one of the most economically vital regions in our state protected, and in providing the families that live there with peace of mind.

“The entire Green River Valley has told me with one voice that this is their top priority. With the rainy season getting closer, time is not on our side. People’s homes, jobs, and livelihoods are at stake. Waiting for funding continues to put the region at risk. I have made absolutely clear to my colleagues that this is a serious concern and I’m very proud to have secured this funding.”

Since Howard Hanson Dam sustained damages during storms in January of 2009 that weakened its structure, Murray has spearheaded Congressional efforts to provide support for protective measures (see timeline below). In March 2010, the Army Corps of Engineers identified a set of interim repairs costing $44 million that would further increase protection against a major flood event. However, the Corps also indicated that in order to move forward with those repairs it would have to have funding in hand. This meant that funding would have to be found in the current fiscal year budget.

As a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Murray included the $44 million in the Fiscal Year 2010 Supplemental Appropriations bill which includes emergency funding for the current fiscal year. Once passed, the funding will allow the Corps to move forward with the repairs.

The funding Murray secured today has been a focal point of intense lobbying efforts by state and local officials ads well as local business leaders and homeowners. Last week Senator Murray invited a delegation from Washington state to Washington, D.C., that included Gov. Chris Gregoire, King County officials and four Green River Valley mayors to meet with Corps and FEMA officials to discuss the potential impacts of a flood. Murray hosted the meeting to ensure that federal officials understood the grave threat that a weakened Howard Hanson Dam presents to families, businesses, and the region’s economy.

The economic effects of a flood in the Green River Valley would be devastating. The region produces 12 percent of Washington state’s total gross state product, includes 95,000 employees, and 90,000 commuters pass through each day. A flood would affect approximately 170,000 residents living in the area and in other areas due to highway closures, work stoppages, schools closures, and disruptions in utility service. A flood event with levee failures has been estimated to cause $3.7 billion in building-related damage in the Green River Valley.

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