King County dam compromised in recent weather

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by By GLENN FARLEY / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @GlennFarley

KING5.com

Posted on August 15, 2009 at 3:00 PM

Updated Friday, Sep 18 at 2:38 PM

Video: Howard Hanson Dam compromised in recent storm

KING COUNTY, Wash. - Fingers are crossed that the Army Corps of Engineers can fix the Howard Hanson Dam, which keeps the Green River in King County from flooding.

The dam was seriously compromised in the recent severe winter weather.

Kent homeowner Ralph Zerr has always kept an eye on the Green River, but has never seen it overtop the levee. He lives across the street.

"Oh, it gives me a lot of concern," he said.

The levees also protect businesses that employ thousands in the valley.

During this month's storm, the Howard Hanson Dam held a record amount of water for days.

When it was safe, the Army Corps of Engineers started letting the water out. They spotted a 6-foot deep depression that could be a sign of trouble deep underground. The depression isn't in the dam itself, but is in an area called an abutment.

"It could be caused by many things and that's what we're trying to investigate," said Richard Smith, hydro-geologist with the Army Corps of Engineers.

The Army Corps says it's taking a conservative approach, but to allow the dam to fill up again without knowing what's going on could invite disaster. It's not something they're prepared to do.

"The Corps of Engineers has not had a dam failure," Smith said.

"The remaining month or so of flood season, that's the critical part we've got to get through right now," said Dennis Fischer, soil engineer.

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