Friday, July 23, 2010

Senate passes bill that includes $44 million to help repair Washington's Howard Hanson Dam

The U.S. Senate has unanimously passed an emergency supplemental appropriations bill that includes $44 million for critical repairs to the Howard Hanson Dam in south King County.

The bill now goes to the U.S. House of Representatives for consideration.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers last winter announced that it needed to keep water levels behind the dam lower than normal due to a weakened earthen abutment on one side of the dam. That, in turn, made it more likely that the heavily developed area below the dam would be flooded during periods of high winter rains.

As a result, businesses in the area reportedly had a hard time finding affordable insurance -- or in some cases, any insurance -- for flood damage. And the area is full of manufacturing facilities, warehouses and other sites that would suffer serious losses in a major flood.

The good news: the flooding didn't happen, and the Corps and contractors have worked to strengthen the abutment in recent months. The risk of serious flooding, last year pegged by the Corps at 1 in 3, is now believed to be down to 1 in 33. Still, that's still higher than normal for the area.

Our office, meanwhile, has worked closely with dozens of insurers to form a flood "market assistance plan," which tries to link insurers selling coverage with businesses needing it. The project has just launched, and is taking applications.

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