Task force will discuss Lower Puyallup River flooding

Recent floods and threats of flooding have once again underscored the need to do something to improve the Puyallup River...

Recent floods and threats of flooding have once again underscored the need to do something to improve the Puyallup River levee system, according to Pierce County officials.

The Lower Puyallup River Task Force, made up of representatives from local area governments, announced this week it will meet on Fri., Jan. 30 from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Fabulich Building, Port Business Center, Room 104, 3600 Port of Tacoma Road, in Tacoma, to identify funding sources and commitments necessary to implement levee solutions.

Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy will attend to lend her support for the task force’s work.

Flood protection measures being considered include a combination of improvements to existing levees, construction of new setback levees or bypass channels, upstream improvements, changes to land use regulations, and selective river dredging.

According to county officials, current surface water management fees are insufficient to upgrade existing levees. The county estimates that it could cost as much as $140 million to implement new flood protection measures along the lower Puyallup River that will protect people, property and the environment.

The cost estimate comes from a recent economic study that determined $140 million to be the maximum spending limit that would still result in a positive benefit/cost ratio.

Currently, the county’s surface water management utility is only able to allocate about $5 million annually to capital improvement projects county-wide. Fixing the levees is not something they can afford to do by themselves. Added to this is the fact that the lower Puyallup River is not the only county location where improved flood protection is desired.

Furthermore, surface water utility fees are collected only from residents of unincorporated Pierce County, but the river flows through several incorporated cities. It is important that the county partner with the incorporated areas of Tacoma, Fife, Puyallup, Sumner and Orting, as well as federal and tribal entities on the design and funding for levee system improvements.

If funds can be found, improved flood control systems can be added to protect the communities from the 100-year flood.

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