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Project to keep White River from flooding Pacific gets last piece of funding

In 2009, Carolyn Lovin and her husband, Larry, were rescued from their flooded home at White River Estates in Pacific by Valley Regional Fire Authority personnel Anthony Rodriguez and Ted Kocher. The flood occurred after an intentional release from Mud Mountain Dam sent the White River over its banks.
In 2009, Carolyn Lovin and her husband, Larry, were rescued from their flooded home at White River Estates in Pacific by Valley Regional Fire Authority personnel Anthony Rodriguez and Ted Kocher. The flood occurred after an intentional release from Mud Mountain Dam sent the White River over its banks. Staff file, 2009

A settlement to pay for historic pollution in Tacoma’s Thea Foss Waterway will provide the final piece of funding for a flood control project 12 miles away, on the White River where it straddles the King and Pierce county lines.

The federal Justice Department announced Thursday that 56 parties to the pollution agreed to settle their liability for natural resource damages to the Foss and Wheeler-Osgood waterways by helping to pay for the flood control project, which has the bonus benefit of restoring 121 acres of historic salmon habitat.

The agreement is the 20th natural resources settlement related to pollution in Commencement Bay, according to a Justice Department news release.

“Through these settlements, more than 350 acres of salmon habitat will have been restored to offset the injuries to salmon and other fish from pollution of Commencement Bay,” the release read.

The cities of Pacific and Sumner also have their eyes on the settlement and its effects on the bureaucratically named Countyline Levee Setback Project. It will create a much larger area to store floodwater by “removing the existing levee and reconnecting the river with 121 acres of off-channel aquatic habitat that has been isolated from the river for nearly a century,” according to a summary.

The project was born after about 100 homes in Pacific were flooded in January 2009, when a deliberate release from the Mud Mountain Dam sent water gushing over the banks of the White River.

The settlement announced Thursday provides the final piece of funding for the almost $15 million job, said Mark Isaacson, the water and land resources division director for King County. That will pay for, among other things, the installation of new levees that will be backed up by a 17-acre forested buffer.

Though the project’s main goal is flood protection, not habitat restoration, it’s impossible not to do both because a river is involved, Isaacson said.

“It’s a good thing,” he said.

The King County Flood Control District is paying the lion’s share, at $8.7 million. A state grant came in at $823,000; Pierce County will provide $500,000; and the settlement will provide the final $4.775 million, Isaacson said.

Isaacson said the project team is in the final stages of property acquisition. Construction is scheduled to begin next spring.

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