AUBURN—Auburn city leaders are outraged that vandals would even think of tearing up a massive flood wall designed to protect several cities from the Green River.
Sarah Miller, who is the emergency preparedness manager for the city of Auburn, says they've seen everything from graffiti and cut sandbags, to large areas of tarp cut away, or burned.
"We've seen a lot of damage to the bags, both malicious and accidental," says Miller.
The big problem is that the several mile stretch of sandbags is part of a major system through Kent and Tukwila that is meant to protect everyone from a massive flood that could happen if the Howard Hanson Dam gives way and levies failed.
"They are here to protect people, we spent a lot of time, and a lot of money to put them out here, to protect people's lives and property," says Miller, "so the fact that people steal pieces of it, that they damage them is, it's disappointing and disturbing."
Miller says even something as simple as people crawling over the sandbags to go fishing is a problem. That's because the sandbags themselves are only designed to be exposed to the sun for 1200 total hours before they become useless.
Miller says they have to last the five years its expected to take for the Army Corps of Engineers to replace the dam.
"We're going out at least once a week, we've got volunteers going out and checking and looking for damage," says Miller, "if its small, they have to photograph it, note it, and fix it and report back to us, if its larger, or on the riverside, we have to send someone out, a crew out, to determine the damage."
Miller says that's where the frustration grows. The volunteers who find the damage use river mile markers to relay where the damaged chunks of wall are to crews so they can go out and fix them. But even the river mile markers have been getting stolen, and needing to be replaced. Miller says the damage has been non-stop.
"The first damage we saw happened before we even completed the wall," says Miller, "that particular instance was graffiti, but someone also cut one of the bags."
Over a million dollars went into building the wall, and Miller says it's a simple message that vandals need to realize; mess with the wall, and you will put people's lives at risk.
"The King County Prosecutor has said that any case involving the sandbags will be reviewed for felony prosecution," says Miller, "but we've yet to catch anybody."
Miller says they hoped that getting the word out about it being a crime as bad as a felony would deter vandals, but it hasn't.
"We need people to report activity that they see out here, if people see people on the sandbags, or doing damage to the sandbags they need to call 9-1-1 so we can have someone come out" says Miller, "if they find damaged sandbags, they need to call our offices and let us know."
If you spot anything, you can call 253-931-4008 or 253-288-3138 to report what you found to the city of Auburn.