By Puget Sound Business Journal (Seattle)

A series of wells and drains should make the Howard Hanson Dam operate at design capacity for many years, removing the danger of flooding in the Green River Valley, but those repairs wonâ¿¿t be completed until the rainy season of 2011-2012.

Local and federal government officials and the Army Corps of Engineers, at a press conference Friday in Seattle, discussed the work that will be undertaken starting this fall.

The delay was a bittersweet pill for people in the Green River Valley, who must live through one more season of flooding without repairs to the damaged dam, which holds back water in the valley and helps protect communities such as Auburn, Renton and Kent from flooding.

With backing from Sen. Patty Murray, the U.S. Senate on July 22 approved a bill that included the $44 million in emergency funds needed to make critical repairs. The wells and drains will prevent the seepage through the earth dam that has threatened its collapse.

The funding was part of a supplemental appropriations bill approved by the House, and signed Thursday by President Barrack Obama.

At the press conference, local government officials praised Murray for her efforts to secure the funding.

⿿Today is great news for Green River Valley,⿝ said King County Executive Dow Constantine. ⿿You⿿ve shown yourself to be a true friend of the homes and businesses of the Green River Valley.⿝

The Army Corps discovered damage to the Howard Hanson Dam after heavy rains in early 2009. Communities stocked up on sandbags; the damaged dam prompted a flurry of evacuation plans and prompted more residents and businesses to purchase flood insurance.

Figures released by the City of Auburn estimate that 12 percent of the stateâ¿¿s gross state product is generated in the Green River Valley, and that area businesses employ 95,000 people. Flooding with levee failure would cause $3.7 billion in building related-damage.

The Boeing Co. (NYSE: BA), for instance, in 2009 built berms around two Kent Valley facilities to guard against flooding. Those wonâ¿¿t be removed until the new installation is complete, said a spokesman.

In November 2009, the Army Corps installed a temporary grouted seepage barrier and closely monitored the dam. In March 2010, the Army Corps of Engineers identified interim repairs that would cost $44 million.

So far, the dam has kept flooding in check during the rainy season. But the Corps has warned that it may have to release water to avoid a catastrophic collapse that could send floodwaters as far south as Pierce County.

Copyright 2010 American City Business Journals

Copyright 2010