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City officials beat drum for dredging

Post by Melissa Santos / The Olympian on April 1, 2009 at 1:37 pm with No Comments »
April 1, 2009 1:37 pm

Well, sort of.

What officials in flood-prone cities like Orting actually are looking for in the Puyallup River basin is something called scalping, gravel skimming, or — to use an even milder term — sediment management.

The difference? They only want debris to be removed from above the water line, not below. That approach is thought to be less damaging to fish habitat below the water. But local officials say it would still increase the capacity of the river, helping alleviate some of the major flooding Pierce County cities are starting to see on an annual basis.

Orting building official Ken Wolfe took me out today along one of the levees along the Puyallup River in Orting. He was trying to show me the extent of the sedimentation in the river, and how much the capacity of the river could improve just by skimming all that dirt off the top.

The topic has been a hot one among Orting citizens and business owners as well. Wolfe said if the gravel was removed from the river, it would take a more downpour for the river to flood surrounding housing communities.

This is some of the sedimentation he showed me today. In the foreground is the edge of a levy, while the gravel in the river and on the far side is all debris.

I’ll be writing a story for next week on the issues surrounding dredging or scalping the river, and all the communities who are now asking for it. Besides Orting, there’s also Sumner and plenty of private citizens and business owners.

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