Cantwell Applauds Army Corps Support of Critical WA State Water Projects

Corps announces support for Swinomish Channel dredging, Elliott Bay seawall replacement, Skagit River and Puyallup River flood prevention

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) applauded an announcement by the Army Corps of Engineers that it will allocate funding to various projects in Washington state.

The projects receiving Army Corps support include:

  • Dredging of the Swinomish Channel ($2.277 million)
  • Moving forward on Seattle’s Elliott Bay seawall replacement study ($100,000)
  • Studying how best to mitigate flood risk within the Skagit River basin ($700,000)
  • Studying how best to mitigate flood risk within the Puyallup River basin ($450,000)

Cantwell has long encouraged the Corps to support these projects, which provide critical economic and safety functions to the communities that rely on them.

“Water is central to our state’s economy and quality of life,” Cantwell said. “I am pleased the Army Corps is helping to move these projects forward. Clearing vital maritime traffic routes, protecting the vibrant Seattle waterfront and helping to prevent flooding damage in two major river basins are all projects vital to our economy and way of life.”

The Swinomish Channel provides a critical link for the Coast Guard, commercial and private vessels between Saratoga passage and the San Juan Islands, by a faster and safer route than Deception Pass or around Whidbey Island. Deception Pass, with its narrow waterway and very strong currents, is often too hazardous to navigate, and navigating around the south end of Whidbey Island requires vessels to travel a significantly longer distance. The Channel provides access to the La Conner waterfront, Swinomish Tribal commercial facilities and several marinas and is used by recreational boaters and for log and barge towing.

Marine businesses and boaters utilizing the Swinomish Channel generate approximately $92 million per year. A recent study commissioned by the Port of Skagit found that the channel would have become impassable as early as 2015 without dredging, which would have put hundreds of jobs at risk.

“The Swinomish Channel is a vital inland marine waterway for this region,” said Patsy Martin, executive director of the Port of Skagit. “More than 500 jobs depend directly on that waterway as a transportation corridor, and it provides a safe route for thousands of boaters going in and out of the San Juan Islands each year. The channel must be maintained.”

The $100,000 announced today for the Elliott Bay seawall replacement study will help determine how best to replace the more than 70-year-old Alaskan Way Seawall. This vital structure is failing due to marine organisms that are weakening its wood timbers and damage sustained during the 2001 Nisqually Earthquake.

Also receiving support are the Puyallup River and Skagit River studies to help identify flood mitigation strategies. The Puyallup/White River caused significant flood damage in the January 2009 floods. In the Skagit River basin, under existing conditions, a 100-year flood event would cause in excess of $1.4 billion in damages.

“The news is absolutely fantastic for Skagit County,” said Sharon Dillon, Skagit County commissioner. “This support is crucial for our next steps in the project. We really appreciate all the work Senator Cantwell has done to help move this project forward.”