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City of Sumner's Flood Protection Update
October 2009- Vol 1, Issue 5
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In This Issue
About this Winter
About Dredging
About the Treatment Plant
About a Flood District
Other Sources of Information
What Can You Do?
It's starting to rain, and the news is full of reports about flooding in King County along the Green River. What about flooding in Sumner? 
  • Read this information.
  • Stay informed. If you're already signed up to receive these updates, forward to anyone (even to your relatives!) who may be interested. If you've received this as a forward from a friend, use the Join Our Mailing List to get future updates directly.
  • Prepare. If you live near the river, there's a lot of information online for getting ready. Start with information from the City of Sumner or Pierce County.
Sandbags Available
On Thursday, November 5, and Saturday, November 7, the City of Sumner and Pierce County will have sand and bags available for citizens. 
Both days, from 10 am to 4 pm, you can take up to 30 bags per trip.  It appears we will have a sandbagging machine from Pierce County, so you likely won't have to fill your own bags.  We are also coordinating volunteers to help load bags onto vehicles.
These are bags for you to take and use as you need.  There is no return policy: please be aware that the City will not come pick them up or clean them up later.  However, if you live near the river and are worried about high water, this is a great chance to get help protecting your home, and we'll see you next week!
Location: Both days will be held at the end of the 143rd Ave cul-de-sac, accessible via Rivergrove Drive. 
Thank you to Pierce County Department of Emergency Management for their assistance.
Can the Green River flood Sumner?
No. It is a separate river system from Sumner's White and Puyallup rivers. The Army Corps' Green River flood projections show even the highest levels of flooding not affecting downtown Auburn, let alone any part of Sumner. View the maps 
What's the difference between the Green River and Sumner's Puyallup and White rivers?
Since the 1960s, the Green River was a "controlled" river, meaning the Howard Hanson Dam regulated high water to keep areas in Auburn, Kent and Tukwila from flooding. Because of necessary repairs, the dam won't be able to hold water this year (and a few years to come), meaning acres of houses and businesses that were not at risk for flooding in 40 years now are. 
The Puyallup River always has been an uncontrolled river with no dam on it. It has a long history of flooding, which created this valley in the first place. Earlier, people dredged the river to keep sediment from building up, but current Federal and State laws, particularly the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water Act, require permits and significantly complicate, if not prohibit, work in the river.
The White River through Sumner is a controlled river with Mud Mountain Dam. Mud Mountain does not need the same repairs that the Howard Hanson Dam does.
Will we see a repeat of the flooding on the White River?
Hopefully not. The Army Corps has told Sumner that they will not release as much water at once again. However, that means they will have to release water sooner. In January, they waited until the Puyallup River had receded since the White flows into the Puyallup. From now on, they won't wait as long so that they can release less water longer into the White.
What is being done to prepare along the Puyallup River?
Sumner is asking a civil engineering consultant to do a quick study on what temporary solution would work, whether that's the large sandbags you see on the news or something else. This study is important to make sure any effort has real, effective results. 
We have also conveyed the need to the Federal level. Congressman Adam Smith has met with Major General Timothy Lowenberg, the Adjutant General of the Washington National Guard and the Director of the State's Emergency Management program to specifically discuss the Puyallup and White rivers.
Can we get those large sand bags we're seeing on the news?
They are an option. However, we only want to get them when we're sure we can place them in a way to really do any good against a high, fast-moving river. That's why we're doing the study.
The additional challenge with those large sand bags is that once they're in place, they can't be moved. The third challenge is how to fund them. They're not cheap.
How does King County have the money for all this?
King County has a flood control district. This isn't another committee; rather, it's a way to fund flood protection measures. Every property owner in King County pays a property tax each year to the flood control district just like they do to the school district, fire department, library, etc. In King County, it's $0.10 per $1000 of property value, and again, everyone pays that, even if they live on the top of Queen Anne Hill. That gives King County the money to pay for what you see in the news. Plus, they're getting Federal support because it's the Army Corps' dam that is the issue. There is no dam on the Puyallup River and never was, so we can't claim that they owe us assistance. (And if we try, they catch on quickly!)
Can we dredge again?
The City Council passed a resolution calling for dredging the river, specifically, to remove the sand bars that have built up.
The City of Sumner participates in the Puyallup River Executive Task Force that brings together everyone who has jurisdiction over the river, including the State, the County, the Tribes and the Federal government. The Task Force is talking about test dredging a section of the river, something that wouldn't have even been considered just a year ago. Mayor Enslow has written the County Executive to urge that Sumner's section of the river be used for the test.
Some citizens have asked that the City just go out and dredge. It would be illegal to do that. Whether or not citizens (or elected officials) like it, State and Federal laws, particularly the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water Act, require permits and significantly complicate, if not prohibit, work in the river.
Plus, if dredging is to ultimately be a vital solution, it will require a program to dredge or remove sediment from a significant stretch of the river. 
Is the sewer treatment plant in danger?
The last few floods, the water has come close to flooding the plant. (Interesting trivia: with State Street under water, staff used a boat to access and continue operations at the plant.)
The City's Public Works department has identified the best solution to protect the plant. This solution is to raise the curb around it and store water tubes that can be filled to block the entrance in a flood. The department is currently seeking funding to move forward on these modifications as quickly as possible.
What about other options?
Some have asked about moving the treatment plant, but it is a multi-million dollar facility that opened four years ago. Rebuilding is much more expensive in time and money than these few modifications. Plus, the plant is next to the river for a reason since treated waste flows right into the river. Any other potential location would add the cost of expensive long-distance tunneling.

Would Pierce County look at a flood district?
Yes. There is talk about instituting a tax on all Pierce County residents similar to King County's flood district. This may go to voters as early as spring 2010. The City of Sumner itself will have very little say in that Flood Control District's formation. 
City's flood protection e-newsletter: view past issues or sign up to receive
Congressman Adam Smith's flood protection e-newsletter: sign up at his website
Pierce County's Puyallup River Executive Task Force: view past meeting notes, studies, information or sign up for alerts 
Pierce County River Revitalization Task Force: final report binder is available in City Hall at the front counter.
National Weather Service's Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service: graphs show how high the Puyallup and White rivers are and how high they are expected to get in the near future with predicted rainfalls. View graphs