Researched, assembled and organized by: Josef and Larry Kunzler
Index prepared by Larry Kunzler, 2/25/2007







Skagit River Flood Control – County Asks for More Than Offered

Skagit County officials asked for more flood control measures than the Army Corp of Engineers has tentatively agreed to give them, during a public hearing held by Corp officials here last night.

A current project bearing the funding stamp of approval by Congress calls for $15.6 million of improvements to Skagit River levees, from the mouth to the Burlington Northern railroad crossing, at the north boundary of Mount Vernon.  The proposed levees would give an 11-year flood protection, meaning the city and rural areas could expect protection for a flood expected to occur every 11 years.  However, the project requested by county officials – termed “Alternative No. 3” by the Corp – calls for the same improvements as described previously, but also asks for protection from the larger 100 year floods in the Mount Vernon and Burlington areas.  The estimated cost of the project is $27 to $53 million with a projected local share cost of $3 to $7 million.  . . .  Larry Kunzler of Mount Vernon asked if diking in the urban areas would cause the water to back up and flood the farm areas.  He was told by a Corp engineer that it might.

Alternative 3, Cost


Corps originally authorized to spend $15.6 million for 11 year protection.


Cost of “new” project 27 to 53 million, local cost 3 to 7 million.


Diking urban areas “might” back-up water into the Nookachamps.  And so it began.  My life has not been the same since that one little comment.



Dial-a-flood coming

Yesterday the Skagit County Commissioners, on prompting by a citizen, authorized creation of a telephone service by which county residents could call to get flood information.  The phone line would serve as a early warning system, giving the reports by the weather bureau of the expected flood level and reports of the rising river at Concrete.  If the Skagit River reaches flood stage at Concrete, Mount Vernon area residents have about 12 hours before the flood reaches them.  . . .  The action by the commission follows the appearance of High Hopes Hog Farm owner Larry Kunzler last week, who asked that an early warning system be installed to let farm owners know well in advance that a flood is coming, so they can move livestock to higher ground.  . . .  Installation cost of all four phones was estimated at $115, with a $16 monthly flat rate.  Cost of the four tape recorders was estimated at $600.

Flood Early Warning System


Things are done a lot differently now but this was the beginning of providing a service to floodplain residents that had previously not been available.


County Commissioner Bud Norris, currently the Mayor of Mt. Vernon was instrumental in implementing this system.



Flood control hearing Wednesday – Nookachamps opposition to latest plan


Nookachamps area residents opposed to the latest Army Corps of Engineers proposals for Skagit River levee improvements promise they will flood a public meeting scheduled Wednesday night by the Corps. . . .  When Congress deleted a clause which could have allowed construction of a flood containment dam on the Sauk River from legislation designating the Skagit as part of the nation’s Wild and Scenic Rivers system, the valley’s best chance at flood prevention went with it, according to Nookachamps dairy farmer and county planning commission member Ken Johnson.  Around 40 percent of the Skagit’s floodwater comes from the Sauk, he stated.  . . .  “Until about a month ago, I thought we would get flood prevention,” Johnson told the commissioners.  “But our great senator (Henry M. Jackson) has dropped the ball on the Sauk flood containment dam.  Now we have no choice but to play catch-up.”  . . .  “We will take the water nature gives us but we won’t take the water that other dikes would give us,” Johnson commented.  Johnson said although he had opposed the Avon bypass in the past, he now favors the plan.  . . .  Recent public meetings on the bypass plan drew considerable opposition.  County Public Works Director Gene Sampley commented, “It’s my understanding the Corps got beat up pretty bad on the Avon bypass.”  “The cost of $70 to $90 million was what worked against the bypass,” commissioner Bud Norris recalled.  

. . .  But commissioner Bud Norris had another view.  “I can’t say that your statements are too harsh, Larry,” Norris responded.  “I don’t see how a person could stay calm when he’s threatened with flooding.”  “I feel we owe it to you to reconsider and study the options to see if there might be another alternative,” he added.

Nookachamp opposition, Sauk River Dam, Avon Bypass, Levees.


By this point in time it was clear that higher levees meant additional flooding in the Nookachamp/Sterling/Clear Lake area.


“We will take the water nature gives us but we won’t take the water that other dikes would give us,”


Interesting from a personal perspective is that at the time this article was written I supported the building of the Dam on the Sauk River.  That’s because at the time, NO ONE, including the Corps of Engineers ever mentioned that the Sauk River drains the active volcano Glacier Peak.


Cost of Avon Bypass was 70 to 90 million dollars.


Flood workshop told – Reinstatement of Sauk dam is up to U.S. Congress

If Skagit Valley residents want a flood containment dam on the Sauk River, they’ll have to go back to Congress for a change in the Wild and Scenic River legislation for the Skagit, officials from the Army Corps of Engineers said here Wednesday night.  . . .  “Everyone here agrees that the Sauk dam is the best answer,” Sterling area farmer Elinar Knutzen stated.  “Have we given up on it since the politicians sold us down the river?”  . . . That alternative calls for a ring dike around the north side of Burlington and a weir structure between Burlington and Sedro-Woolley, which would allow flood waters beyond a 50-year level into the Samish River drainage area.  Floods of a 100-year frequency would be no worse for the Samish and would keep backwater flooding in the Nookachamps-Clear Lake area below that of other options.  . . .  No matter which option the county commissioners decide to pursue, the Nookachamps-Clear Lake area will get more flood water, according to Cook.  Even if the commissioners decide to do nothing, flood waters would be deeper in the Nookachamps area, he said.  Side effects of projects are called consequential damages, he explained.  As a general rule, consequentially damaged areas are not compensated, he added.  That comment seemed to bring out the frustrations of the Nookachamps residents, who asked repeatedly if they weren’t being asked to suffer the consequences of 100-year protection for Mount Vernon and Burlington.  . . .  Several of those who spoke asked that the county choose the Avon bypass option and begin a program of dredging at the mouth of the river.  . . .  The Avon bypass, authorized by Congress in 1936 and since relegated to “the back burner”, is estimated to cost $80 to $90 million, with a local share of $15 to $20 million and annual maintenance costs of $150,000 to $200,000.  That price tag has resulted in a less than enthusiastic response in the past, Cook said.  The bypass would require widening of the river from the railroad bridge above Mount Vernon to the beginning of the Avon bend.  From there, flood water would be carried across the flats, across the route of State Highway 20 to Padilla Bay at Telegraph Slough.

Sauk River Dam, Alternative 3E Levee Improvements, Avon Bypass CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES


Project would flood Samish River in any event above 50 year flows.  Floodwater would be deeper in the Nookachamps.


Consequential Damages became the battle cry of the people in opposition to the project.  Imagine how that sat with the impacted communities.  We are going to take your tax money and flood your homes with it and by the way, that’s just consequential damages.



Avon By-Pass too expensive in 1979 at $80 to $90 million dollars.  In 2003 it was projected to cost 300 million.


Letter to the Editor:  Skagit River flood control

Somebody gets paid for dumping rock, same as the helicopters, pictures, maps and so on.  Realtors want more development to make more and more money.  Fishermen want their fish, bird watchers want their eagles, power companies and shareholders want more profits.  We could have all this without being too greedy.  . . .  We were told by the power company that every dam that was built in our valley was for flood control.  . . .  I think there should be a group of people, besides the Corps of Engineers and business men doing the planning for our valley’s flood control.  The government needs more ideas.  It takes all of the horses pulling together to make a team.

Rip Rap


Interesting letter to the editor.  Appears to be mostly based on emotion with little facts.


“It takes all of the horses pulling together to make a team”.


Nookachamps, Clear Lake – Corps to study flood control problem area

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will study the effects of proposed Skagit River flood control measures on the Nookachamps and Clear Lake areas.  Corps and Skagit County officials said Tuesday.  . . .  Five levee improvement proposals offering 100-year flood protection to Mount Vernon and Burlington and 50-year protection to rural areas below Mount Vernon are already under consideration.  A sixth alternative incorporating the Nookachamps study could include remedies for the side effects of the overall project, according to Corps Project Manager Vernon Cook.  Mitigating measures could include relocation of those buildings which would suffer the most from higher water due to the higher dikes on the Skagit, he said.  Although recent legislation favors non-structural flood control, relocation has never been used before, he commented.  Other measures for the Nookachamps area might include a ring dike around the town of Clear Lake, higher mounds used to shelter livestock during floods and extension of the Skagit dikes up Nookachamps Creek.  Diking of the Nookachamps is the least likely measure, Cook stated.  The Avon bypass, authorized by Congress in 1936, would face considerable opposition from farmers in its path and from environmentalists, Col. Poteat stated.  Requiring the construction of eight new bridges, the bypass to Padilla Bay would be very expensive.

Nookachamps, Avon By-Pass, Sauk Dam


Diking of the Nookachamps is the least likely measure, Cook stated. 


Avon By-Pass would be opposed by environmentalist and farmers and would be very expensive.  NOTE:  In 2003 it was estimated to cost nearly 300 million dollars.



Levee improvements – Swift promises legislation

Congressman-elect Al Swift (D-Bellingham) said he would introduce legislation authorizing an expanding U.S. Army Corps of Engineers levee improvement project on the Skagit River if county officials give their okay.  . . .  But Swift said he was unsure how the Skagit legislation would be received by Congress and by the Carter administration.  The White House took a hard line against water projects in the last session, vetoing as inflationary an appropriation bill containing $300,000 for work on the lower Skagit.  Congress later passed a scaled down version which included all of the Skagit funds.  . . .  The Corps would ask for $18 million of the $55 million total for the levee improvement project from the coming Congressional session.  . . .  Other flood control alternatives, including an Avon bypass and a flood containment dam on the Sauk River, would require a delay in the entire project and may not be politically or economically feasible, he stated. 

Skagit Flood Control Congressional Funding



Chances of approval seemed slim.


Commissioners haven’t decided – Levee project not funded

Money for the Skagit River levee improvement project was not included in President Carter’s budget proposals for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers construction projects, an aide to Congressman Al Swift confirmed this morning.  . . .  At the time the proposals were submitted, the Skagit County Commissioners had not decided to go ahead with the flood control project, Pettus explained.  Skagit County Commissioners have yet to decide if they want to go ahead with an expanded levee improvement project suggested by the Corps.  The recommended option, costing an estimated $55.3 million, would extend dikes upriver between Burlington and Sedro-Woolley, giving 100-year flood protection for Burlington and Mount Vernon and 50-year protection to rural areas below Mount Vernon. 

Skagit Flood Control Congressional Funding



Corps blamed County Commissioners for failure to make a decision.


Levee between Burlington and Sedro-Woolley would mean all farmland between I-5 and Sedro-Woolley would be able to be developed.


Letter to the Editor:  Skagit River flood control

The Army engineers have a big expensive flood control plan for Skagit County, but only for part of the county.  If you are unfortunate and live east of the pipe line in Sedro-Woolley, you get none of this.  We are secondary citizens.  We do not have the same rights or protection as others in Skagit County.  It is like living on the wrong side of the tracks.  We cannot have protection for our farms and our homes, because Washington, D.C. has decided it wouldn’t be scenic.  Is it scenic to watch a flood destroy our homes and farms?  How scenic are cattle drowning?  Do you think it would be scenic if it was your farm being destroyed?  There is one place in Skagit County where we are still equal, that is paying taxes, on land we can’t protect.

Upriver Residents Second Class Citizens


This letter to the editor explains how a lot of people living from Sedro-Woolley to Concrete to Darrington to Newhalem feel about flood control in Skagit County.  Their concerns need to be addressed or flood control in Skagit county will fail once again.


Lower levee okay is expected today

A final go-ahead on legislation for the expanded lower levee improvement project is expected from Skagit County commissioners today.  Commissioner Jerry Mansfield said he will take a letter with him to Washington, D.C. next week asking the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to submit funding legislation for the levee improvements.  . . .  Mount Vernon reportedly had sought closer involvement by elected officials with Corps of Engineers planning.  Corps project manager Vernon Cook said after the meeting that progress had been made to improve city-county-Corps cooperation.  Acknowledging that a problem had existed, Cook commented, “Coordination is moving along now.  Communication is improving all the time.  Things have changed in the last two or three weeks.”  Pointing out that Mount Vernon would feel the greatest impact of any Skagit County city, Cook explained Corps plans for levees through the downtown area.  Much of Mayor Jack Miller’s concerns centered on Lions Park, where the Corps plans to build a tilt-up flood wall, and on revetment parking.  Dick Swanson of the Corps explained that the tilt-up flood wall would lie flat to the ground, resembling a sidewalk, during normal river conditions.  During high water, the wall could be tilted upright to form a wall.  In other areas where Mount Vernon fronts the river, a 12-foot stationary wall with gaps for access would provide the 100-year protection the Corps foresees, Swanson said.  The stationary wall is half as costly as the tilt-up wall, he stated.

Lower Levee Improvements, Mt. Vernon Floodwall and Levee



Seems that some things never change.  Communication problems “existed” between the Corps and the County and Mt. Vernon.


Floodwall would have been a “tilt-up” model along with a 12 ft. stationary wall.


Two chances for Skagit flood control

Authorization for the proposed $55 million U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project could come from either an omnibus public works bill or from separate legislation, Swift staff member Drew Pettus said this morning.  . . .  Under the proposed project, the levee system would be extended upriver from Mount Vernon to Sedro-Woolley and levees below Mount Vernon would be raised by 2 to 8 feet.  An expanded Skagit River project would provide 100-year flood protection for Mount Vernon and Burlington and 50-year protection for rural areas below Mount Vernon, the Corps claims.  The present levee system provides 5 to 15-year protection.  . . .  The original levee improvement project was authorized by Congress in 1966.  A general design memorandum on the levee improvements is expected to be released next month.

Skagit Flood Control Congressional Funding



Project authorized in 1966.  GDM ready in 1979.  13 years.  Current study began in 1995.  GDM ready in maybe 2013. 


Swift enters Skagit flood protection bill

Legislation to expand flood control and greatly reduce the risk of flooding in the Skagit River Basin was introduced today by Congressman Al Swift.  The measure would extend protection upriver from Mount Vernon to Sedro-Woolley.  Levees below Mount Vernon would be raised.  . . .  The Army Corps of Engineers told Swift the estimated cost of the project would be about $38 million.  Earlier estimates have placed the total at $55 million.  Swift said local officials, who have worked closely in developing the project, would pick up part of the cost, to be repaid to the federal government over a period of 50 years.  “The local community is to be congratulated for the excellent manner of coordinating its efforts and for working so effectively with the Corps and the state congressional delegation,” the 2nd district congressman said.  . . .  According to earlier estimates from the Corps, the county share of the project would be $9.4 million, with $3 million in road relocation, $3 million in acquisition of rights of way and $1.6 million for other costs, which could include relocation of boat ramps, connecting dikes and flood gates.

Skagit Flood Control Congressional Funding


Cost of project “estimated” at 38 million down from 55 million.


The local community is to be congratulated for the excellent manner of coordinating its efforts and for working so effectively with the Corps and the state congressional delegation.”  Haven’t seen that kind of statement for awhile.


County share would increase to 14 million  by the end of the year.


County must pay flood control easements—Nookachamps residents form defense fund

The county must acquire flowage easements from Nookachamps-Clear Lake property owners before work on a proposed flood control project can begin, it was announced Tuesday.  . . .  Cook told the group that no plan would satisfy every county resident, but alternative 3E “seems to satisfy the most wishes and looks most feasible.”  This alternative calls for a ring dike around the north side of Burlington and a weir structure between Burlington and Sedro-Woolley, allowing flood waters greater than a 50-year level into the Samish River drainage area.  “To the Nookachamps-Clear Lake area, this can only do one thing,” Cook acknowledged.  “When you try to force the same amount of water through a smaller opening, it goes up.”  Anything greater than a 25-year flood would add an estimated two feet of water to whatever flooding the area would otherwise receive, he said.  Studies by the Corps have not produced any structural measure with a favorable cost-benefit ratio that would lessen the impact on this area, Cook said.  . . .  Cook then announced the change in policy on consequential damages.  After consultation with other corps officials, he learned the county will be required to “make the property owners whole” if the project will reduce the values of their property.  “Somebody has got to pay for the right to flood the land,” he said.  “We can with some degree of certainty predict what will happen if the project is built.  The local sponsor must acquire the right to do that.”  . . .  Any property owners who refuse to sign an agreement would be taken to court by the county, which has “eminent domain” over the whole area.  A jury would then determine a fair value for the land.  Cook estimated this would add $3 million to the local $10 million share of the $50 million project.

Nookachamps – Flowage Easements


Project would add 2 feet of water to any event greater then a 25 year event to the Nookachamps.  If the 1990 and 1995 flood events were 30 to 40 year events every resident would have had 2 feet more water with the proposed project. 


“When you try to force the same amount of water through a smaller opening, it goes up.”


Assuming the above statement is true, and I think it is, wouldn’t this mean that the SRIP proposal for levees in the Nookachamps would raise the floodwaters at the Mt. Vernon gage and upstream at Sedro-Woolley for lesser flood events?


Flood control  -- Samish basin residents want more protection

At the Midway House in Bow last night, residents told officials from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers they want more protection than would be provided by the favored flood control proposal.  (Alternative 3e) Diagrams for this alternative show a ring dike around north Burlington and a weir structure between Burlington and Sedro-Woolley.  This weir structure would allow flood waters greater than the 50-year-level into the Samish River drainage area, which does not sit well with residents of that area.  . . .  But those at the meeting indicated they preferred alternative 3C, which would run a solid dike between Burlington and Sedro-Woolley rather than a weir, and provide 100-year protection to the Samish area.  . . .  But the cost of alternative 3C is estimated at $93 million, giving it a negative benefit-cost ration.  This would lessen its chances of authorization by Congress.  Some concern was expressed about the likelihood of development on farmlands if flood protection is increased.  “In protecting the farm land, there’s a chance we’re going to lose it,” one man said.  County Commissioner Bud Norris said the commissioners would attempt to protect agricultural lands, but acknowledged “this board isn’t going to be around forever.”  “We’d be kidding ourselves if we didn’t think pressure would be extremely great (for development) once it gets protection,” he said.

Samish River Protection, Farmland Preservation, Weir, 100 yr levee at Sterling


Samish River residents didn’t like the idea that they were being asked to absorb Burlington’s water.  And therein lies one of the dilemmas for any flood control project.  Protect the farmland from 100 year floods and you will lose the farmland.



County Commissioner Bud Norris said the commissioners would attempt to protect agricultural lands, but acknowledged “this board isn’t going to be around forever.”  “We’d be kidding ourselves if we didn’t think pressure would be extremely great (for development) once it gets protection,” he said.  No truer words have ever been spoken by now Mayor Norris.


Flood impact statement – Confirm opponent’s fears of Nookachamps flooding and housing growth

A draft environmental impact statement of the Skagit River flood project substantiated two major concerns of opponents: the possibilities of induced farm damage and development of farm land.  . . .  The EIS was prepared by the Corps of Engineers to study the temporary and long-term effects of the proposed levee improvement project.  . . .  In all, 40,000 acres will receive 50-year flood protection and 11,800 acres will receive 100-year protection.  . . .  The EIS notes the possibility of increased flooding in the Nookachamps/Clear Lake area, the right bank near Sedro-Woolley, the right bank at west Mount Vernon, and the Sterling Road area east of Burlington.  At a 100-year flood level, the project would increase the water level from zero to two feet over current conditions, depending on the location, it says.  To minimize the effects on these areas, the corps studied several possible measures.  The most feasible is the purchase of flowage easements on property that might be adversely impacted, the EIS says.

DEIS Levee Project


Impacts from the project include:

-          Reduction in flood damage

-          Possible induced flood damages in four unleveed areas.

-          Pressure to develop farm lands provided with 100-year protection.

-          The loss of about 40 acres of deciduous forest and wetlands.

-          Relocation of eight homes and 26 buildings (locations not specified).



Fine tuning – Reduced flooding impact

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has done some “fine tuning” to Skagit County’s proposed flood control plan to an attempt to reduce the impact to the Clear Lake/Nookachamps area.  In addition, the Corps has proposed eliminating the somewhat controversial weir structure.  Cook presented the latest proposals to a group of Clear Lake/Nookachamps residents last night.  Those present, however, still weren’t convinced they could live with the project.  In a vote following the meeting, 39 of 42 voted against the project.  No one voted in favor of it.  . . .  The weir, a cement structure that acts as a metering device to allow a controlled overflow of water, has been deleted from the latest plans.  The weir was planned between Burlington and Sedro-Woolley.  In its place would be a constricted opening bordered by rocks to prevent erosion.  Toward the Samish area, pilings would be inserted into the ground to control erosion.  These measures would accomplish the same purpose as the weir, Cook said.  . . .  Although residents of the Clear Lake community would now be protected by a levee, they chose to support farmers in the outlying areas who still would be impacted.  Residents of the unprotected areas did not savor the idea of their homes being raised any higher.  They also noted no flood protection is available for their livestock.  Existing livestock mounds would be raised, but local farmer Larry Kunzler said this would affect only one farmer.  The Corps might have been able to sell its plan if some protection for livestock was proposed, Kunzler said.  . . .  The entire project still must be authorized by Congress.  Funds also must be appropriated by Congress and raised locally, most likely through a countywide election to sell bonds.  This whole process could take more than two years, county officials say.

Corps Improvements Rejected by Nookachamps Clear Lake Community


39 of 42 people voted no to approve Corps new plan.  Plan did away with weir between Burlington and Sedro-Woolley; put levee in front of Clear Lake; raised homes in Nookachamps and Sterling.  Plan would not have created new livestock mounds for those that would have needed them.











We still didn’t have Congressional authority for the project.


Clear Lake residents work with county, Corps on flood levee

Clear Lake residents, who have actively opposed proposed flood control measures for Skagit County, are working with officials of the county and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers toward reconciliation.  . . .  They also want adequate protection to farms and livestock outside the protected area, Austin said.  “These (farms) are businesses the same as those in Mount Vernon or Burlington,” she said.  “Other businesses are getting protection, and these should be addressed in the same vein.”  Farms that would be adversely impacted by the flood control project should be examined individually to determine the best solution for each, she said.  The group also wants impacted homeowners to have the option to stay in their homes rather than relocate.  . . .  Commissioner Jerry Mansfield said he thinks the county owes a firm commitment to these residents.  Commissioner Bud Norris agreed, saying “Before this gets much further, we should cement a commitment.  “It’s imperative to do this because the success of the project and its acceptance by the community depends on groups such as yours that are closely involved with the project.  It isn’t too much to ask us to approach each business on an individual basis, and see what the impact will be.”  . . .  The Corps now is proposing to extend a levee around Clear Lake, which would give three-fourths of the residents 100-year flood level protection.  Homes outside the protected area would either be raised above the flood plain or bought out, depending on which is more economically feasible.

Clear Lake, Nookachamps


Farms are businesses too. 



County Commissioners promised to put in writing a commitment to carry out mitigation measures. 


Skagit flood legislation is promised

Senator Warren Magnuson has announced that he and Senator Henry Jackson will introduce legislation this month to authorize expansion of the Skagit River flood control project.  . . .  The bill, similar to one already introduced in the House, would authorize expansion of the flood control project to include Burlington and Sedro-Woolley.  . . .  The commissioners had thought the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is designing the project, would give it full support.  Last month, however, they learned the Corps could not support Congressional authorization of the expanded project until a study and review process was complete which could take two years.


Skagit Flood Control Congressional Funding


Corps did not support congressional action until study was done.  Study process could take an additional two years.


EditorialHamilton property tax assessments questionable

This is the case in Hamilton this week where the town did just that.  And perhaps the protest has some merit.  If you owned a lot and laws forbid you from building on that lot, then certainly the value of your piece of property has to be affected.  If you own a home which is damaged, and you are not allowed to rebuild, nor add new buildings to your property, certainly the value of your property has to be affected.  Floodways in Hamilton include most of the town.  And as one property owner stated, a lot which can’t be built on, was reassessed from $500 to $2,000.  With building restrictions like this, it seems questionable that this is a fair assessment to the property owner.  Considering the “floodway” ruling, it is not surprising that the entire town has protested the higher assessments.

Hamilton Tax Relief


Skagit flood meeting – Army Corps to discuss flood control measures for county Tuesday night

Col. John Poteat, district engineer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Seattle District, and members of his staff will conduct the meeting.  Poteat will tentatively recommend a plan for flood damage reduction and invite public comment.  The plan will include structural and non-structural flood damage reduction measures for the entire flood plain downstream of Sedro-Woolley.  . . .  Alternative 3E, as modified, would provide more than 500-year flood level protection to 2,200 acres in Mount Vernon, and 100-year protection for about 12,000 additional acres in urban areas.  It would also provide 50-year flood level protection for about 39,000 acres of agricultural land.  Improvements to the present flood protection system would include raising and widening the levees, erecting flood walls through Mount Vernon, construction erosion control sills near Sterling Hill to prevent river channel change, and relocating some county roads.  . . .  The benefits would be offset by some disadvantages, however:  Potential adverse impacts of the plan include an increase in flood water levels in some areas, relocation of some houses and buildings, pressure for development of farmland provided 100-year flood protection, and temporary community disruption during construction.  . . .  Mount Vernon.  Flowage easements and/or floodproofing will be provided for the Stokely warehouse and Moose Hall.  Nookachamps Creek and South Sedro-Woolley.  Residences will be raised above the flood plain if possible, otherwise relocated, purchased, or compensated with flowage easements.  Sterling.  Addition of a levee along the west side of District Line Road to provide 100-year protection for United General Hospital and other structures northeast of the road.  Clear Lake.  Addition of a levee west of Highway 9 and across the East Fork Nookachamps Creek to provide 100-year flood protection to Clear Lake.  The levee would parallel Mud Lake Road, run along the railroad and Highway 9, and cut across Francis Road through farmland for about 1,800 feet.  A 150-foot segment of Mud Lake Road would be raised to provide an access ramp over the road.  West Burlington.  The levee from Burlington to Bayview Ridge was relocated to Johnson Road at the request of property owners and the local sponsor to lessen impacts to farmland.  Impacts to property owners due to levee construction will be reduced by this levee alignment revision.  An additional 500 acres will be provided 100-year flood protection.  Sterling.  The weir structure has been eliminated as a result of further engineering and economic studies.  These revealed that a more effective method of maintaining 50-year protection to the Samish Valley would be through buried erosion control sills.  This sill will prevent the Skagit River channel from eventual relocation around Sterling Hill.  As a result of this modification, the levee from Sterling Hill to Burlington Hill was realized.

The Plan – Alternative 3E


Cost of plan 3E is estimated at $55 million, with $10 million from local sources.  The local share is expected to be less, however, because the county already has several necessary right-of-ways.



The plan still must receive Congressional authorization and funding before it can be implemented.



Cook Road farmers oppose levee plan

In a meeting with the Skagit County Commissioners and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, about 30 residents of the Cook Road area and Samish basin indicated they were not satisfied with alternative 3E, the flood control plan that the Corps considers most feasible for the county.  . . .  Although the project would increase protection to that area from 40 to 50-year level floods, the farmers felt their area would be the first to receive flood waters and wanted to know how they would be compensated for any damages.  As proposed, alternative 3E, with a series of rural and urban levee improvements, would give 50-year flood level protection to the rural areas downstream of Mount Vernon and in the Cook Road area.  Burlington, west Mount Vernon and Avon would receive 100-year protection, with urban Mount Vernon receiving 500-year protection.  . . .  Several said their tax dollars would be used for a project that would give protection to most the county, but not this area.  Commissioner Howard Miller reminded them they would be receiving 50-year protection like most the other farming areas.  . . .  Some of those present favored alternative 3D, which would run a levee from Sterling to Sedro-Woolley.  But Brooks said this had no chance of obtaining Congressional authorization because of its poor cost-benefit ratio.  This alternative would give farmland in the Samish Valley 100-year protection, increasing pressure to develop, he said.  In addition, it would send more water into the Nookachamps area, which already will be adversely affected by the proposed project.  And it would require raising several bridges.  The Sauk River containment structure and dredging were brought up again, and Brooks again explained why they are not considered possible alternatives.  . . .  Dredging also is not feasible because of the high cost of maintenance, Brooks said.  The channel would have to be dredged every year or two, and could have detrimental effects on the environment.  In a show of hands, most indicated they preferred no flood control project to 3E, contrary to a vote taken at a meeting in Allen in April when most voted for some sort of flood control project rather than nothing.

Samish/Cook Road Opposition, Sauk River Dam, Dredging, 100 yr Levee Between Sedro-Woolley and Burlington


Cook road and Samish farmers would be forced to receive Burlington floodwaters on a more regular basis.  Very legitimate argument that their tax dollars would be used to flood their properties.



Sterling levee would increase development pressure on farmland and raise floodwaters in the Nookachamps.




Most residents preferred no flood control vs. the Corps project.  And that’s what they ended up getting.



Commissioner Bud Norris told the group he understood their concerns, and will discuss them further with the Corps.


Realtors claim floodway may hurt property values

The floodway designation here should definitely affect property values, according to two local attorneys and two realtors.  Despite this fact, sales are taking place without the buyer’s, and often without the seller’s knowledge that the property is in the floodway.  . . .  Hamilton city council requested in May that all property in Hamilton be reevaluated because they believed severe building restrictions that accompany the floodway designation lowered property values.  Although Hamilton has been designated as floodway since 1972, council members learned of the floodway designation in May.  . . .  George Campeau, a realtor with Bi-Century Homes, said that realtors are obligated to inform a prospective seller of the floodway designation.  “Sometimes we don’t know for a fact because the Corps of Engineers is changing their areas all the time.  But a floodway designation has a bearing on the value of a home, and if we know, we’d be obligated to tell.  Of course if you don’t know you’re not obligated to dig it up.  If the seller knows, that’s something he should let us know about,” Campeau said.  . . .  Bill Nielson, a Mount Vernon attorney, said it’s a “real good question” whether a sale would be valid if neither the buyer or the seller knew of the floodway designation.  Nielson, a former chief civil deputy for Skagit County who dealt with changes in housing ordinances and with the effect of the floodway designation on zoning.  “I guess a buyer could back out if not too long a time has gone by since the purchase.  I’m sure the floodway designation would have some effect on property value.  But whether or not it would relieve the buyer of the obligation is hard to say,” Nielson commented.  Gary Jones, another Mount Vernon attorney, called the floodway designation “a very significant incident of ownership”.  “The buyer would want to know, and it’s the seller’s duty to disclose it.  But the liability on it is a fuzzy area…appeals (to the Board of Equalization) might have some merit.  Property in the floodway is less valuable because of the restrictions on building.”  . . .  Paul Shelver, Skagit County zoning administrator, said it is the responsibility of the buyer to find out beforehand if the property being sold is in the floodway.  “Anybody who comes into the county planning department gets an answer.  You can’t force people to ask questions.  What I have of floodway maps is public information,” he said.  Shelver said no public hearing was necessary before the designation went into effect because the county is enforcing federal regulations and he said no press releases were issued on the floodway designation because “many things that occur in government come out in steps.  And many things that would be noteworthy wouldn’t be written right by the newspapers. 

Floodway Designation


Cape Horn and Hamilton are the two major residential areas in the floodway, said Shelver, but there are residences in other areas.



The county, through court action, has had to become more restrictive in enforcing floodway regulations since January of 1976, said Shelver.

“If anything, we’re not being as restrictive as we should be,” he said.



County’s $14 million levee share—Flood control financing plan goes on ballot

A $14 million excess levy proposition to finance the county’s portion of the proposed Skagit River flood control project will be placed on the November general election ballot.  A resolution placing the proposition on the ballot was approved by the Skagit County Commissioners Wednesday.  The commissioners said they recognize the need for a flood control project, but because of state-mandated limitations on revenue, they are unable to fund the local share from existing revenue.  . . .  “It appears that the only way we’ll be able to meet our portion of the project is through an excess levy,” Commissioner Bud Norris said.  Norris added, “Any time the county expends that large a sum of the public’s money, it’s a good idea to go to the public with a vote.”

Levee Improvement Project On The Ballot


Norris added, “Any time the county expends that large a sum of the public’s money, it’s a good idea to go to the public with a vote.”


One has to wonder if the current Mayor of Mt. Vernon feels the same way today.


Proposed levee on Skagit River. . .  brings variety of opinions

Skagit County residents will decide Nov. 6 whether they want to pay for the county’s portion of the $55 million Skagit River levee project.  The project, to be paid for primarily by the federal government, is designed to provide 50- to 100-year flood protection in the Skagit Valley, and 500-year protection to Mount Vernon, said Don Nelson, director of flood control for the county’s Public Works Department.  Nelson said the county’s portion of the project is about $14 million.  “We have about half of that under our belt,” he said, adding that the county already owns land and rights-of-way for the proposed levee improvements.  Property taxes would be increased if voters approve the levee measure, Nelson said.  “Different rates could be established for residents who would obtain more benefit from the levee project,” he added.  “It will be resolved prior to elections.”  . . .  Levee construction will be completed about 1984 if the appropriations bill is approved and Skagit County residents agree to pay for the county’s share.  Nelson said the proposed levee protection will begin west of Sedro-Woolley on the north side of the Skagit River and continue downstream along the north fork of the river.  . . .  The Nookachamps area will act as a natural drainage basin, Nelson said.  And the county will provide flood protection in that area by raising houses and by building a levee around the city of Clear Lake.  Most residents, however, agree that some flood protection is needed.  A series of serious floods have occurred over the past 70 years.  They include:

-          1909, -a 90- to 100-year flood;

-          1917, -a 75- to 80- year flood;

-          1921, -a 80- to 90- year flood;

-          1951, -a 20-year flood;

-          1975, -a 12-year flood.


Levee Improvement Project – How we are going to pay for it.


Local Cost 14 million.  Already have about 7 million.  Property taxes to be raised to pay for the rest.  Different rates for different benefits.  So lower valley urban areas would pay more then Hamilton area residents or people living on the hills?  Is this how the current proposal for the Countywide Flood Control District would work?



There is nothing “natural” about the drainage basin in the Nookachamps.  The current levees system in the 1990 and 1995 flood events stored an additional 4 feet at Francis Road to 2.5 feet in Sterling to .5 feet at the Sedro-Woolley sewage treatment plant.  That is anything but natural.



The figures listed were provided to the Skagit Valley Herald by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Seattle District.



Proposed levee on Skagit River. . .  brings variety of opinions

The Johnsons own a dairy farm in the Nookachamps, a flood plain cut by the Skagit River about 10 miles northeast of Mount Vernon.  Their 64-year-old house never has had water in it.  But a $55 million levee project to protect Skagit Valley residents from floods will add more water to their fields and disrupt their lives.  . . .  Burlington residents will be able to walk on dry ground.  . . .  Skagit County administrators say the 53-mile stretch of levees will provide 50- to 100-year flood protection to the Skagit Valley and 500-year protection to Mount Vernon.  . . .  The project will not proceed unless Skagit County voters are willing to pay the county’s portion of the estimated cost.  A proposition for a levee tax will be on the November ballot.  . . .  “I don’t think it’s going to go through,” said Dave Parker, owner of a grocery store in Clear Lake.  “It’s not fair for the tax payer in Anacortes.”  . . .  Orville Branson, a salesman for Lundquist Realty in Burlington, said he needed more information before he could vote.  He also represented an attitude reflected by numerous residents – he said he didn’t want county residents to benefit from the project at the expense of others.  “If we’re thinking about ourselves we’d be all right,” he said.  “But the county needs to protect the whole valley.  If they can provide protection, then it’s all right.    . . .  But one resident whose West Mount Vernon home along the river has sat in 4 feet of water was skeptical about any flood protection project.  They’ve been talking about it so long,” said Andy Lilja, who will be forced to move if the project proceeds.  “It doesn’t matter to me.”

Opposition against Flood Control Project


“It’s not fair for the tax payer in Anacortes.”


he didn’t want county residents to benefit from the project at the expense of others.


the county needs to protect the whole valley.  If they can provide protection, then it’s all right.


They’ve been talking about it so long,


Pro Proposition 2 Ad for Flood Control

Both of these ads pretty much sum up the for/against arguments concerning the flood control project.


Against Proposition 2 Ad


Editorial – Yes on flood control

. . .  The Skagit has a history of severe flooding and the Skagit River Levee Improvement Project, backed on the November ballot by Citizens for Flood Control, is the last viable means of flood protection for the Skagit Valley.  The Avon Bypass has been jeered out of all practical existence.  It is highly doubtful if any more dams will be allowed to be built, especially with major portions of the Skagit and its tributaries included in the federal Wild and Scenic Rivers system.  In this century alone, the Skagit River has flooded the Lower Valley 16 times.  This is an average major flood about once every five and a half years.  In the years of 1906, 1909, 1917 and 1921, all within the lifetime of many residents, the mighty Skagit has approached floods of 100-year frequency – a term applied to about 200,000 cubic feet per second.  Floods of this magnitude have catastrophic effect, wreaking tremendous damage on Skagit County and resulting in large scale loss of property and probably loss of life.  . . .  It should be pointed out, too, that the urban areas of Skagit County, if this proposition is passed, will be relieved of the burden of flood plain insurance, the annual cost of which now exceeds the proposed bond assessment.

Editorial Board Endorses Project


Avon Bypass dead.  No more dams.


Lower Valley flooded 16 times in 79 years.  4 of those flood events were estimated by Mr. Stewart.  History shows us that levees busted or overtopped around 32 foot elevation.  All of these events were before we had the levee system we have in 2007 and before storage was achieved behind the dams we currently have in place.  Excluding the 4 Stewart estimates, current levee system and dam storage could have held back the flood waters in each of those events.  Justification:  In 2003, unregulated would have carried 202,000 cfs at Sedro-Woolley.  Far greater then any of the other 12 flood events.


Letter to the Editor:  Flood control: our last chance to head off a disaster

. . . This project is the culmination of the efforts of Skagit County people knowledgeable about and responsible for the flood protection of our community including the county commissioners, county engineers, and the local dike district commissioners who have historically been charged with maintenance of our protection system.  We simply do not have the capacity in our diking system to take care of any more flood waters than we had in the recent December of 1975 flood, and we know from past floods that we must prepare for water in many places at least three feet higher on our dikes.  Federal and state authorities recognize the seriousness of the threat.  In the words of one agency, Skagit County is a disaster waiting to happen!”  Burlington and Mount Vernon, which will receive 100-year flood frequency protection, will get permanent protection, lower insurance rates, lower building costs and protection for their growing business and residential areas.  . . .  We your neighbors, the Dike Commissioners of Skagit County earnestly ask your support and a vote FOR PROPOSITION 2, the Flood Control Bonds.

Skagit County – The Disaster Waiting To Happen


Diking system could not take any more water then they had in 1975.  They had to prepare for water “in many places” three feet higher on the dikes.


The figures mentioned by Mr. Walker are very interesting.  In 1975 the Mt. Vernon gage reportedly read 130,000 cfs 35.66.  In 1990 152,000 cfs 37.37 and in 2003 129,000 cfs (<1975) 36.19 (>1975). 


Pete Walker was the Dike District Commissioner for Dike District 12.


Decisive defeat at polls –Flood control future unclear

Proposition 2, a $14 million bond issue to finance the local share of the project, was soundly defeated by a 71.4% “no” vote.  That percentage was generally consistent throughout the county, including Mount Vernon and Burlington, areas described as having the most to gain from the project.  Mount Vernon, which would receive protection from floods with a 1-in-500-year chance of occurrence, voted against the project by a 68.3 percent vote.  And although Burlington would receive 100-year flood level protection from the project, voters there rejected the proposition by a 65.9 percent vote.  . . .  Magnuson aide Duane Trekker said the Senator “wants to have a look at the entire matter again” before he continues to push for congressional authorization.  When the local people speak at the polls, he (Magnuson) certainly does not want to ram something down their throats,” Trekker said.  . . .  Bud Norris, chairman of the Skagit County Board of Commissioners, said today the county would have to take a second look at the plan and examine alternatives.  He said he is hesitant to push the present plan further because of the overwhelming mandate.  “We’ll have to reassess our flood control philosophy and talk with a lot of people involved in the formulation of the plan to see where to go from here,” he said.  “The idea of flood protection for the Skagit Valley will not be dropped,” he added.  “We’ll continue to work at some type of plan that would be more acceptable to a greater percent of the population than this plan (3E).”

Voters Say No to Flood Control; Flood Plain Management Recommendations


71.4% of the voters said no to flood control.  Burlington and Mt. Vernon voted against the project by over 65% in both communities.  Will the powers that be allow the voters to vote again on any flood control project or will they “ram something down their throats”? 



Bud Norris “…is hesitant to push the present plan further because of the overwhelming mandate.  “We’ll have to reassess our flood control philosophy and talk with a lot of people involved in the formulation of the plan to see where to go from here,” he said




Flood experts eye new measures

Faced with voter rejection of a flood control project for Skagit County, officials might now turn to “non-structural” measures to guard against flood damages.  “The only thing that will get support (for flood control) is if we have a major flood,” Miller said.  . . .  Vernon Cook, project manager for the Corps of Engineers, said a flood damage reduction plan might be the best approach now.  This could include prohibiting construction in the flood plain, requiring flood plain insurance, removing some levees, and purchasing property in flood areas for conversion to recreational use.  These “non-structural” measures, he explained, would reduce the damages that would occur during a flood, as opposed to preventing a flood. 

Floodplain Management Alternatives


Prohibiting construction in the flood plain, requiring flood plain insurance, removing some levees, and purchasing property in flood areas for conversion to recreational use.