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Renton Mayor Proclaims State of Local Emergency

September 2, 2009

Deborah Needham, Emergency Management Director 425-430-7027
Preeti Shridhar, Communications Director 425-430-6569

Pre-incident proclamation helps with preparedness efforts for potential flooding on the Green River

Renton, WA – Renton Mayor Denis Law proclaimed a pre-incident state of emergency as a proactive measure in facing the elevated risk of flooding on the Green River due to the diminished flood control capabilities at the federal Howard Hanson Dam. The Renton City Council passed a resolution to approve the proclamation. The proclamation provides city departments with the required authorization to prepare for, stabilize and control any emergency or disaster situation.

"Renton is working hard to plan for and prepare for potential flooding on the Green River in the event of severe weather,” said Mayor Denis Law. "We also want to remind businesses and residents of their personal responsibility. Rather than waiting for the flood season, this is the time for us to get prepared. Review your flood insurance, sign-up for CodeRED, the city’s new emergency notification system, and establish an emergency plan."

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) manages the Howard Hanson Dam near the headwaters of the Green River. The dam helps maintain water storage and reduces the risk of flooding in the Valley/floodplain.  After this winter’s storms, USACE discovered accelerated leakage through the right abutment of the dam.  As a result of this finding, USACE has determined the dam will be unable to hold as much water during heavy rains.  This situation creates a higher possibility of flooding in areas of Renton that reside in the floodplain (Highway 167 west to the Green River and Renton’s southern boundary north to the Burlington Northern railway corridor). Even though it would take a catastrophic event for the flood waters to reach downtown Renton and significant flooding may not occur, there is a heightened risk of flooding within the Green River floodplain and areas surrounding the floodplain due to the condition of the dam.

The city has applied for “advance measures funding” from the USACE, to receive assistance to prepare for flooding.  Specifically, the city has proposed purchasing flood barriers that will be installed prior to flood season (however it is not known at this time whether the USACE will approve Renton’s funding request). The city is also coordinating with King County to obtain large diesel powered pumps. These pumps would be temporarily installed at the Black River Pump Station to try to keep water levels in Springbrook Creek below flood stage.  The other jurisdictions that have levees on the Green River levees are also planning similar flood mitigation measures.

Unlike the residential areas along the Cedar River in Renton, the area affected by the Green River is occupied by businesses. Although there is potential for deep water in some areas under the direst of flood scenarios, lower levels of flooding are much more likely. Even though there may be only a few feet of standing water in portions of the Renton Valley, the impact would be significant. Transportation routes will be affected, water may enter some buildings, and operation of King County’s wastewater treatment plant (located in Renton) may be impacted.  As with other storm and weather related emergencies, the region could experience utility outages. Renton staff is working closely with city officials from Auburn, Kent and Tukwila, and King County to coordinate emergency plans in the event of any flooding. 

Taking steps to prepare now can make a significant difference in how a business weathers the storm. Renton businesses in the floodplain should make sure they have flood insurance and should develop an emergency plan for each facility. Emergency plans should include measures to protect facilities, personnel and inventory. Business should also sign up for CodeRED, the city’s emergency notification system. Additionally, all businesses, regardless of flood risk, should have a business continuity plan to guide their operations should a business interruption occur. Renton businesses can contact the Office of Emergency Management at 425-430-7000 or by e-mail, for assistance with planning and preparedness.