128th Street Comprehensive Setback Levee Feasibility Study

About the Project

Pierce County Planning and Public Works is conducting a feasibility study to reduce the flooding risk and impacts along both the right and left banks of the Puyallup River, near the 128th Street East bridge crossing. Though levees are present along both banks of the Puyallup River, this area experiences widespread flooding due to insufficient channel capacity and existing levee protection. Setback levee features can help to reduce risk from flooding to nearby property, infrastructure, and also improve fish and wildlife habitat. 

The objective of this study is to learn how levee setbacks or other flood risk reduction measures would benefit the public, residents, and natural environment. 


Throughout this study, Pierce County is committed to working with the community and nearby property owners to develop alternatives and prioritize potential future projects. To hear more about the project background and what we are working on, please watch the video below.


Angela Angove

Project Manager

(253) 798-2460 [email protected]

Randy Brake

Project Manager

(253) 798-4651

[email protected]

Recent Survey Results

To better understand residents and stakeholders' priorities with developing flood risk reduction measures, Pierce County recently conducted an online open house, an online survey, and a series of workshops. Thank you to those of you who responded! Your responses will make sure that we are including important information in the study and prioritizing the right problems and opportunities as the work continues.

What did we hear?

  • Most people who participated in the outreach period are interested community members. Some live or own property near the study area, and a few live near or on the Puyallup River.
  • The community’s most common concerns regarding the Puyallup River include environmental and habitat concerns, flooding and property concerns, and development and roadway concerns.
  • Most participants agreed with the identified problems  and disagreed with the identified opportunities.
  • Most participants think that flood risk reduction is an important, habitat creation is less important, and feel neutral about cost as a benefit.
  • Participants suggested that additional benefit categories should include impacts to local residents and farmland conservation.

What will we do with the feedback?

  • This results from this survey help us learn about the community’s priorities with flooding near the 128th Street Bridge. We will use this to identify additional problems, opportunities, and benefits that will inform the alternatives development.
  • We heard that you want to stay connected, so as this study progresses we will send periodic updates about progress in the field and we will continue to be available for community briefings and questions.

Project Funding

This project is funded through a combination of SWM funds, Flood Control District funds, and grants.

What’s Happening

The 128th Street Comprehensive Levee Setback Feasibility Study will prioritize up to four setback levee projects to reduce flood risks to areas that have experienced repeated flooding. Of the four proposed levee setbacks, any one setback will likely influence all three of the others. Therefore, all the setbacks need to be evaluated concurrently. 

Field crews have completed the data collection portion of the study. The technical team is now working on developing several hydraulic modeling scenarios which will be shared in the draft report anticipated in 2022.

Pierce County is consulting with Environmental Science Associates (ESA) for conducting research for this study. Findings will consider stakeholder feedback and community safety as well as potential benefits to agricultural operations and salmon habitat.

Stakeholders & Community

We are committed to engaging stakeholders early and keeping the community involved throughout this study process.

A series of open houses, mail notices, surveys and interviews and will be available to the community and to those directly impacted by this project. Based on current public health guidelines from local, state, and federal public health agencies, open houses and other outreach may take place online throughout this project. We will share the most up to date information here as it is available.

Thank you for taking the 2021 outreach survey to share your ideas about existing conditions, future project opportunities, and benefits. The survey portion of our online open house is now closed. You may still visit the page for additional resources. 

Study Location

The project area is east of State Route 162, west of McCutcheon Road East, south of 112th Street East and north of 144th Street East and along both the right and left banks of the Puyallup River between river miles 15.7 and 17.5, bisected by the 128th Street East bridge crossing (and north of the City of Orting limits).

(Click the Image to Enlarge)

128th Study Area Map

This area is divided into four quadrants: NE, NW, SE, and SW to help assess the unique existing conditions, flood risk reduction opportunities and problems in each. A proposed levee setback in one quadrant may influence flood risk reduction in all three of the others. Therefore, all the quadrants are being evaluated concurrently.

The Puyallup River is Evolving

Over time, rivers erode rocks, dirt, and other sediments and deposit them downstream. This is one of several factors that can cause rivers to change course and flow into new areas over time. The maps below show how the Puyallup River near the 128th Street East bridge crossing has changed its course over time. The Height Above Water Surface Map (shown to the right) shares more information about this. For example, the purple areas on the mapping indicate locations on the floodplains that are relatively lower than other areas, and the darker the purple color the lower the floodplain surface. The patterns that are evident in the mapping show old river meander locations and other depressions that can provide increased flood storage and more frequent seasonal habitat benefits if re-connected to the river.

The Height Above Water Surface Map shows shows the difference in elevation between floodplain land surfaces and adjacent river water surfaces.

REM project area HAWS

Historical Channel Occupation

The Historic Channel Occupation Tract Map (shown to the right) reflects how the dynamic Puyallup River has shifted its active channel over time. Starting in 1880, the US General Land Office did a survey to start tracking river meanders. Incorporating this with the historical aerial photos taken between 1931 and 1998, we start to see a picture of how much the Puyallup river systems has changed in the last 140 years. 

This Historical Channel Occupation Tract map is produced using a compilation of active historical Puyallup River channel occupation location areas changing over time. With this ever evolving channel, it’s important to understand the changes in history so we can help protect for the future.

Puyallup River (and 128th ST E Bridge Crossing) 1931 Historical Aerial Photograph


As the river moves and changes, flooding can become more pronounced during times of heavy rainfall. This flooding can damage property and public infrastructure, impact travel and evacuation routes, and cause a loss of fish habitat. Moving existing levees back from the river’s edge and reconnecting floodplains provide increased storage for flood waters. This additional capacity helps to reduce flood risks to the public, residents and property, create more reliable access to roads, reduce flooding of structures and risk of damage to the levees, fields and farmland, and create more fish habitat and spawning areas.

Historic Channel Occupation Tract map shows how the dynamic Puyallup River has shifted its active channel over time

  Existing Conditions and Project Opportunities

From our work to date, we have analyzed existing flood conditions in the study area, identified opportunities to reduce flood risk, and are starting to develop conceptual alternatives.

The video below shows a flood event passing through the study area. This animation was generated from a hydraulic model simulation of the November 2006 flood event on the Puyallup River. The animation shows the pattern, timing, and the spatial extent of flooding for existing conditions during a major flood. The peak discharge in the Puyallup River for the simulated flood event is 40,300 cubic feet per second.

Please see the maps and details below to learn more about what we expect to see if no changes are made, as well as some opportunities that we would expect to see if setback levees or other project opportunities are implemented into the area. Each quadrant has Existing Conditions and Opportunities, and Maps. Click on each Map to review in detail.

  1. Project Opportunities
  2. Existing Conditions
128th Ave E Existing Conditions and Opportunities 4-15-2021_Page_2Click on map to review in detail
What do we hope to accomplish?
  • This study is looking at strategies to address those problems shared on the previous page and that are in alignment with identified project goals. The opportunities that the team have identified to date include:
    • Reconnecting low elevation floodplain areas to the river can provide significant flood storage and high value fish habitat where the restored floodplain will experience frequent flooding and inundation.
    • Reconnecting additional areas to the river floodplain can provide flood storage and perennial wetland habitat sustained by frequent flooding.
    • Reconnecting areas farther from the river can provide flood storage during severe flood events and seasonal wetland habitat sustained by less frequent flooding.
    • Sediment deposited in the floodplain can help maintain channel conveyance and reduce flood risk.
    • Reduce risk of damage to levees and bridges by spreading out flood flows.
Next Steps: Prioritizing Future Projects

Our next step in this work is to identify and develop several different conceptual alternatives or how we can manage levees in this area to best meet project goals and fully realize identified opportunities in this area. This work will likely involve balancing different needs for the project and it may involve some tradeoffs.

As we look ahead to developing alternatives, we want to make sure that we’re keeping important needs, and benefits, in mind. Part of our analysis of the alternatives we develop will be to evaluate and score each one using a set of benefit measures (which are general benefit categories at this point), and then determine whether or not the alternative strikes the appropriate balance between tradeoffs and opportunities. 

We need your help with providing initial input about what benefit categories you value the most. The high-level elements that we have in mind as we start to examine feasibility study alternatives include:

  • Flood risk reduction
  • Habitat creation
  • Cost
 Project Timeline

128thST_Levee_Timeline(Click image to enlarge)

Other efforts are underway that address infrastructure in the area. 

For information regarding other Pierce County Projects: