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A project on the Puyallup River to keep residents safe, salmon thriving

A project on the Puyallup River is intended to keep nearby residents safe and salmon thriving. (Photo: KOMO News)

ORTING, Wash. -- The return of the rains is a reminder that flood season is coming up. There are new efforts being made to keep people safe and salmon thriving on the Puyallup River at Orting.

Construction crews using heavy equipment are working delicately to change the course of nature or at least add a channel to the Puyallup River. It is to prevent what's happened in years past with heavy flood damage to homes, businesses and farms in the Orting valley.

A new setback levee was put in several years ago to ease the floodwaters pass the town of Orting and work just resumed downstream on a long-term project establishing a man-made second channel to ease the waters pass homes on the eastern side of the river.

It means the water will safely pass by James Hamilton's home on the Puyallup. "I am more than pleased," said Hamilton. "I think it's excellent. What I've read it is to take the water and push it out the backside if it ever does get high."

The second channel not only allows the Puyallup to flow downstream safely, Pierce County Surface Water Management officials said it also allows salmon to easily swim upstream with gravel, rocks and man-made logjams for spawning grounds as a means of fish habitat restoration.

"Very excited," said county engineering technician David Davis. "The idea is to really just set with log jams at fixed points to steer the channel and let the river do the majority of the work. It creates the shapes and pools that it wants."

This whole project started back in 2013 as crews began carving out the new side channel. But work is now nearing completion with the final phase beginning Monday to dig the final 1,400 foot section of channel at a cost of $1.7 million that came from a state grant and matching Pierce County funds.

The plan is one year from now the projects will all be done. The salmon will be coming up stream, and the water will stay within its banks, keeping the Orting Valley residents safe.

The work crews have a short window of opportunity because of environmental concerns for returning salmon. They have to complete this part of the effort by the end of September and then resume next year. Completion date is set for November 2018.

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