Giant sandbags that have lined the Green River in Kent for nearly three years will begin to disappear next month.
The city announced Monday that AGR Contracting of Monroe won the contract to remove the nearly 20,000 bags over a 12-mile stretch of the river. The city says the King County Flood Control Zone District will pay for the $900,000 project by delaying other levee projects along the Green River.
Work will begin in mid-July and the city hopes to have all the bags removed by the end of September.
The 1.5-ton bags, covered with black tarps, were placed along the river in 2009 after it was discovered that an embankment at the Howard Hanson Dam was damaged following record rainfall. The Army Corps of Engineers said the risk of major flooding increased dramatically to cities along the Green River, including Kent, Auburn, Renton and Tukwila.
Late last year, the Army Corps announced the dam had been repaired and could again handle full capacity.
While the sandbags offered some level of extra protection, they became an eyesore for people who enjoyed walking along the river.
"Finally we will have our Green River Trail back," said Kent Mayor Suzette Cooke. "I will be so glad to see Kent stop looking like a war zone."
The first bags to be removed will be between S. 200th and S. 212th Streets and a portion of the Horeshoe Bend Levee.
"The bags in these areas are being removed first to make way for other levee improvements currently underway,” said Kelly Peterson, Kent’s sandbag project manager.
Peterson said the removal work must be done carefully to ensure the bags did not cause any damage. Because of how heavy they are, the bags can only be loaded into dump trucks with heavy equipment. Also, crews need to make sure not to break or spill the bags into the river. Doing so could violate some state or federal laws and potentially lead to lawsuits.
As for what will happen to all that sand, Peterson says it’s low grade fill and is not suitable for sanding streets, gardens, sandboxes, or constructing sidewalks and patios. The material will go to Cedar Grove Composting to determine how it can best be used.