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Avon Bypass Issue


Historical Record of the Avon By-Pass Proposal (1921-2004)

This document was first created in July 2002.  It has now been supplemented with the historical newspaper articles concerning this issue. The bottom-line is that Skagit County has never been able to afford this project.



GNRR letter and Robert Herzog Report (1st Avon By-Pass Proposal)

This report is significant in that it was the first study devoted entirely to the Avon By-Pass concept and it was authored by private enterprise.


Hogeland letter to GNRR President

Acknowledges breaking of levees saved bridge.  Felt that when levees were improved they would lose bridge.  Wanted to build bypass.

10/16/1936 Map and Plans of 1936 Avon Bypass Proposal Map showing proposed location as well as structures planned to aid creation of Avon Bypass.  Idea included widening what is known today as 3-Bridge Corridor between Burlington & Mt. Vernon.


Letter to GNRR President (re opposition to By-Pass)

Avon By-Pass project to cost $1,832,000.  Locals said they couldn't afford it.  NPRR wanted taxpayers to pay for improvements to their bridge.

3/10/1937 Letter to GNRR President

Tells President of March 2nd meeting in which By-Pass plan was "quite unfavorable" amongst those in attendance due to the cost of the project.  Felt plan would be "indefinitely postponed".

2/21/1952 Report on Survey for Flood Control of Skagit River and Tributaries “The existing reservoirs are not effective in preventing major flooding in the Skagit Valley, Diablo Reservoir is ordinarily maintained at a high level by Ross storage and has no flood storage, Shannon Lake is likewise held at a high level if stream flow permits, but an incidental degree of minor flood protection might be available if the reservoir should be drawn down because of deficient run-off before a flood, Ross Reservoir above Diablo has a large amount of storage, primarily for power, but the Federal Power Commission has required a reservation of winter flood control storage space. Studies are under way to determine the amount of such storage, and it is believed that it will not exceed 200,000 acre-feet. Because of its far upstream location Ross Reservoir storage cannot greatly reduce major floods on the lower Skagit River, The effectiveness of Ross storage in reducing peak discharges depends upon location of the storm center and other variable storm characteristics, Estimates based on average conditions indicate that crest reductions varying between 15,000 and 25,000 second-feet may be expected at Sedro Woolley.
8/19/1952 Letter to Division Engineer Declares Avon By-Pass "Inactive".


GNRR Chief Engineer letter

Corps of Engineers reported that the By-Pass proposed in 1936 did not meet their minimum cost benefit ratio.

12/16/1955 Minutes of Meeting of Skagit County Chapter, Puget Sound Flood Control Council Serious discussion amongst all dike and drainage district regarding potential Fir Island dredging cutoff project involving “Valentine Bend” and revetment work.
2/3/1961 USACE Seattle District  Plan of Survey Skagit River Flood Control Study  With regulation at Ross and Upper Baker Dams, a 150,000 cfs flow at SW has a frequency of about 25 years. ... Flows of 210,000 cfs at SW have frequencies of about 200 years under existing conditions.  (NOTE:  REMEMBER THIS IS BEFORE ADDITIONAL STORAGE BEHIND UPPER BAKER.) ... damages from flows of this magnitude would total about $6,600,000.  ...  objective of this study is to find the most economically feasible solutions.
See also: Public Hearing on Flood Control for the Skagit River Basin, 8 February 1961
2/8/1961 Summary of Public Hearing on Flood Control The Bypass project was favored by the Dept of Game and Fisheries because it would have no effect on the existing Skagit River fishery resources.”
2/8/1961 Public Hearing on Flood Control for the Skagit River Basin, 8 February 1961

I am particularly interested in securing information on the nature and scope of the flood control improvements desired; the problems and difficulties encountered under the present conditions, and the proposed developments which would utilize the desired improvements that you would suggest.” (Col. Young, US Army Corps of Engineers)

2/8/1961 Summary of Public Hearing on Flood Control The Bypass project was favored by the Dept of Game and Fisheries because it would have no effect on the existing Skagit River fishery resources.”
2/8/1961 Public Hearing on Flood Control for the Skagit River Basin, 8 February 1961

I am particularly interested in securing information on the nature and scope of the flood control improvements desired; the problems and difficulties encountered under the present conditions, and the proposed developments which would utilize the desired improvements that you would suggest.” (Col. Young, US Army Corps of Engineers)

9/5/1962 BOC letter to Corps re Avon Bypass County formed committee re Avon Bypass project.
10/2/1962 Letter to Division Engineer re Avon Bypass Total construction cost were estimated to be $19,000,000 with a $4,000,000 local share.


Letter to GNRR President

Avon By-Pass again being considered.  GNRR concerned about involvement of Milo Moore (Fisheries Director) in development scheme in Fidalgo and Padilla Bays.


Letter to Congressman from Mrs. Don Mapes re Avon By-Pass

Mrs. Mapes was opposed to bypass as it ran through her  father-in-laws farm (dike dist 12 comm. for 20 yrs), people are in an economy mood and certainly against this government spending spree.  "I surely want you to know there are many people back here who are violently opposed to this plan...".
9/17/1963 MFR re 8/26/63 Corps meeting with locals re Avon Bypass The Corp attended a meeting in Burlington with approximately 50 residents owning property in the vicinity of the proposed Bypass.  Opposition to the project was based on cost, considered it a “pork barrel project” and that it would not eliminate flooding.

7th District Congressman ltr to Corps re Sauk River Dam

"This proposed project would involve the building of a dam some four and a half miles above the mouth of the Sauk River. Construction of this dam would result in the destruction of a large portion of our King Salmon and Steelhead spawning grounds."
10/21/1963 Letter to Westland re Avon Bypass Corps advised Westland that there was no outstanding opposition to Avon Bypass.
Ltr to Senator Jackson From G.A. Flanary re Avon By-Pass "This Avon By-Pass smacks of a typical pork-barrel, patronage, buy-vote deal that is becoming the trade mark of our times.  Believe me, people are in rebellion against big-government do-goodism.  Our neighbors of both political persuasions are of the same mind."
10/31/1963 Corps Internal Memorandum re Cost of Avon Bypass $23,202,000 with a local share of $4,141,000

USACOE Avon Bypass Reactivation Report

Unregulated 100yr fld 250,000 to 300,000 cfs (pg 2); The 35-year level of flood protection provided by the Avon Bypass with levee and channel improvements would protect against 79 percent of average annual flood damages under present conditions.  These flood damages are 75 percent agricultural and only 25 percent urban.  Therefore, the project is now required essentially for the protection of agricultural lands, and the 35-year level of protection is well suited to present development.  . . .  The semi-pervious foundation conditions preclude any general raising of levees without extensive broadening of the levee sections, construction of cutoffs to reduce seepage, and relocation of the road systems adjacent to the levee system. (pg 4)  To achieve the same results as the Bypass and levee improvements, the channel would have to be widened from 300 to 600 feet from the downstream limits of Sedro Woolley to the mouth of the river, a distance of over 20 miles.  (pg 6)  ... At Mt. Vernon the 1932 flood of 140,000 c.f.s. has a 12-year frequency; the 1921 flood of 182,000 c.f.s. has a 30-year frequency; and a flood of 245,000 c.f.s, would have a 100-year frequency.  ... 278,000 at SW (Table 2)
11/1963 Objections to Avon Bypass by Swinomish Indian Tribal Community

Salmon fishing is the major source of livelihood for the Swinomish Indians, and denial or deprivation thereof would cause great hardship.

11/08/1963 Ltr to Senator Jackson in response to ltr fm C.A. Flanery "We have considered dredging and found it to be infeasible..."  . . . "Our studies to date have confirmed that flood control measures are urgently needed in the Skagit River Valley." ... "Benefit to cost ratio estimated to be about 2 to 1."  ... Avon Bypass would increase protection from a present average 5-yr flood to 30-year flood frequency.
See also: 10/23/1963 Ltr to Senator Jackson From G.A. Flanary re Avon By-Pass
11/22/1963 Corps Avon Bypass Plan Informational Bulletin Plan would create a 8 mile long cold clear lake. U.S. Fish and Wildlife developed resident trout fisheries in Bypass. Minimum flow of 100 cfs required. Lower section of Bypass would be used for migratory fish rearing.

MFR re mtg with Skagit Officials

Corps discussed long range flood control "either by upstream storage or bypass".  "A motion to support the Avon Bypass was passed."

Ltr to Corp fm Wa. State Parks & Recreation endorsing the Avon Bypass concept.

"Please be advised that the Commission went on record saying that, "they believed that the Avon Bypass area has a great recreational potential, and Congress should be so informed."

MFR re moving intake for Avon By Pass.

This MFR shows how things really get done in Skagit County.  "Lloyd Johnson, Skagit County Engineer visited the office on 5 December.  He requested that we relocate the entrance to the Bypass about 1,500 feet to the south.  His reason was to take advantage of lower value right-of-way and to placate an influential property owner located at the present entrance."
12/16/1963 U.S. Army Corps letter to BCC re Avon Bypass and local cooperation “The Avon Bypass, together with minor levee improvement downstream of the Bypass, would increase flood protection in the area below Burlington for a flood with recurrence of once in 30 years. For the 1951 flood the Bypass would have lowered flood stages 3 to 5 feet in the Skagit River and 2 to 4 feet in the North and South Forks of the Skagit River.”
See also: 1/4/1964 Skagit County Ltr to Col Perry fm Skagit County re recreational benefits of Avon Bypass
12/31/1963 Ltr to Corps fm Wa State Hwy Commission re Avon Bypass Evidently WSDOT has the elevation of the 1909 flood event with respect to state highways.  "In all but one instance, we find that these highways have either been reconstructed within the last six of seven years or will be reconstructed within the next three of four years.  Plans for this reconstruction work provide for elevation of the highwys above the 1909 flood elevation."

Memo to Portland District fm Seattle District re Reactivation Report for Avon Bypass

The lower Sauk River is the only location in the Skagit River basin at which major upstream storage is possible. At such time as other multiple purpose uses for storage require development of the Sauk site, sufficient flood control storage could be included to increase the 30-year protection that would be provided by the bypass and improved levee system to more than 100-year protection.  
1/4/1964 Ltr to Col Perry fm Skagit County re recreational benefits of Avon Bypass Response to 12/16/1963 U.S. Army Corps letter to BCC that requested local cooperation.  Dike districts signed off on adding recreational benefits to Avon Bypass project.
1/9/1964  Daily Log Engineering Division Basin Planning Branch re Avon Bypass mtg with State Representatives The State representatives appeared to have a mildly hostile attitude about the Bypass and were reluctant to indicate that State assistance might become available to the County in meeting the local cooperation requirements. They voiced a number of concerns such as, they had not been advised of the comprehensive nature of the planning, the information bulletins were too promotional, the work should not be undertaken piecemeal, etc. 
1/10/1964  Public Hearing Transcript; Corps mtg with Skagit County residents re Improvement Downstream Levees and adding Fisheries and Recreation to Avon ByPass. This public hearing transcript covers everything from dredging to the Sauk River Dam, to levee improvements, the Avon Bypass.  It is a wonderful snapshot in time on the issue of flood control.  Unfortunately, many of the views expressed at the public meeting are the same views being expressed by the uniformed today.  One of the better quotes from the document is from an old timer who passed away a few years ago.  "Let's have protection now, rather than 'Aid to a Disaster Area' later."
Zell A. Young, Welder, West Mt. Vernon, January 10, 1964 public hearing on Avon Bypass  
1/10/1964 Exhibit #19 submitted to the Corps from the Bay View--Padilla Civic Association re Avon Bypass The Civic Association had many questions concerning the Bypass.   "Summing up our point of view, we would state that the recreational and fishing aspects are not needed, that they would prove costly, and that the Avon Bypass itself is detrimental to the best recreational interests of the County."
1/22/1964 Basin Description and Summary of Corps of Engineers Investigations, Skagit River, Washington Great documentation with respect to population, land valuation, employment, logging, and manufacturing in the 1960's plus past efforts by the Corp.  ,  "Encroaching on the agricultural land are the urban communities of Burlington, LaConner, end part of Mount Vernon, occupying a total of 1,270 acres." . . . 100 yr  flood = 278,000 cfs at Sedro Woolley. . . The raising of the levee system to increase the degree of flood protection is not feasible because of these adverse foundation conditions.  . . .  Under average conditions Ross Dem storage will reduce flood crests by 15,000 to 25,000 c.f.s. at Sedro Woolley.
1/31/1964 Corps Ltr to Senator Jackson re: Citizen Concerns The individual (Mrs. John Swisher), felt there was "mutual interest" between flood control advocates developers at Padilla Bay and Samish Island.  Corps manipulates information to Senator.  Left out any mention of the 725 signatures on a petition in opposition to the Bypass.  However, Seattle District corrected this in a letter dated 3/30/1964.  (See 3/30/1964 Corps letter to Senator Jackson re Avon Bypass)
3/30/1964 Corps letter to Senator Jackson re Avon Bypass Corps justifies Avon Bypass plan despite local opposition.  Stated that 180,000 cfs flood was a 30 year event.  In 1990 & 1995 we had 157,000 cfs and they called that a 35 year event.
5/13/1964 Corps Seattle District MFR to Portland District re Reactivation Report, Avon Bypass It appears that funding was a major problem back in 1964 like it is today.  "We are certain that in other interim report submissions now planned, no other basin will have a comprehensive plan more specific than that for the Skagit River at this time.  . . .   With respect to the Reactivation Report, we have modified our proposed funding schedule to reduce the initial year's requirements from $400,000 to $80,000.  This change has been made to undertake alignment studies necessary to establish a firm basis for local participation costs as the first item of work. After this determination is made, local interests will hold an election to vote on a bond issue to underwrite their costs. Until a positive affirmation of local interest capability for participation is received, we do not plan to undertake further studies. This revision adds one year to the completion time shown in the Reactivation Report schedule.
5/26/1964 MFR re Revision to Water Surface Profiles, Flood Plain Information Study 200-year flood = 310,000 cfs at Concrete, 325,000 cfs at SW, 290,000 cfs at Mt. Vernon.  50-year flood 225,000 Concrete, 235,000 SW, 210,000 Mt. Vernon
7/7/1964 MFR re Gages Lake Part of Gages Lake (a/k/a Goose Lake) was included within the Avon Bypass.  Corps wanted to utilize as part of recreational component.  
7/8/1964  MFR re Frequency Curves The Flood Plain Information Report will be published at about the same time as the Interim Report, but will contain conflicting information.   Mr. Gedney stated that he did not believe this situation would cause any problem as the two reports would have much different distribution.  
9/8/1964   Disposition Form re: Preliminary Sauk River storage determinations a. Storage in the amount of 134,000 acre-feet is required in the Sauk River Reservoir to control a 100-year flood to 180,000 c.f.s. at Mt. Vernon.
b. A 30-year flood, requiring 130,000 acre-feet of storage in Sauk River Reservoir, is the maximum flood that can be controlled to 120,000 c.f.s. at Mt. Vernon.
c. A 10-year flood, requiring 77,000 acre-feet of storage in the Sauk River Reservoir, is the maximum flood that can be controlled to 91,000 c.f.s. at Mt. Vernon.  

Ltr to Corps from George Dynes

Supported construction of Avon Bypass.  Invited Corps to Burlington City Council meeting where his brother was a councilman. 
2/17/1965 MFR re Corps meetings in Burlington re Avon Bypass Document contains great questions and answers concerning the flood issue.  Prior to mtg had "secret" dinner with County Commissioners and was assured of County cooperation..  "There was a hard core of about 3 or 4 persons, including Mr. Mapes of Diking District 12, who completely oppose the Bypass."  . . . "Removal of the dikes on Fir Island would only have a minor effect on flood stages in the vicinity of Mount Vernon." Cost made project prohibitive.
4/2/1965 Corps MFR Addressing Questions Raised at a Public Meeting on 3/29/65 Only 45 Skagit County residents attended the meeting.  List of those are attached to MFR.  Appears to be mostly dike district commissioners.  Example:  Question: If you levee off the Nookachamp Creek Area, how can you be assured that it will be available when we require it in a flood emergency?  Answer: The right to flood would be made a legal part of the agreement turning over the project to local interests to operate. The right to flood this type of project has been utilized many times in flood control projects of the Mississippi River.
See Also: 5/5/2011 Southeast Missourian: Floodway long a source of legal contention, 5/6/2011 After Birds Point: The Army Corps’ Missouri Floodway Boondoggle, 5/13/2011 People in bayou communities prepare for flooding from swollen river  and 5/13/2011 'What gives them the right to flood us?' asks Gibson woman,
9/7/1965 Corps letter to Congressman Meeds re Avon Bypass Extensive letter justifying the Bypass concept.  Addresses why dredging won't work and setback levees too expensive.
1/15/1966 MFR re mtg in MV re Recreational Benefits of Avon Bypass Corps and Bureau of Outdoor Recreation met with Skagit County Parks Board.  Addressed dredging, Ross Dam Storage and support for recreational element of Bypass plan.
2/7/1966 MFR re levee raising instead of Avon Bypass Corps explored the possibility of abandoning the Avon Bypass in favor of increased levees. The County engineer had “no objections” to a levee alternative if the “blowout problem” could be solved.
6/7/1966 Corps DF re Avon By-Pass Skagit River Widening By widening the river in the 3 Bridge Corridor the 180,000 cfs profile was lowered to approx. 120,000 cfs.
6/8/1966 Corps DF re Estimate of Cost to Raise Railroad Tracks Total cost of two plans was $1,500,000.
6/14/1966 MFR re Alternatives to Avon Bypass The most feasible alternative to the Avon Bypass and downstream levee and channel improvement was found to be raising of existing levees. The cost was estimated at $27,400,000. That cost was $4,682,000 less than the Avon Bypass and downstream levee improvements which had soared from the original cost of $9,600,000 to $32,082,000.


Letter to GNRR President

Letter discusses how Avon By-Pass plan would impact their bridges.

8/13/1966 MFR re meeting with Skagit County re Avon Bypass The Commissioners stated that the maximum contribution that Skagit County could make toward the proposed $6,000,000 local contribution was $2,000,000. This would be accomplished by a 2-mill levy on current property assessments. The Commissioners would only support the Avon Bypass project if it was approved by the voters and the diking districts would have to sponsor the project for the County.
8/23/1966 MFR re status of Avon Bypass Plan Corps twisted arm of State Government to threaten Skagit County with withdrawal of State "band-aid" approach to flood control unless they move forward on flood control.  "Skagit County facing a flood control crisis due to lack of a county-wide flood control plan.
8/25/1966 Corps letter to County re Avon Bypass Plan Letter clearly shows frustration factor Corps had in dealing with Skagit County.  "In effect, it appears that Skagit County is facing a crisis in their planning not only for maintenance of the existing levee system but for attaining a higher level of flood protection in the valley."
9/6/1966 BOC letter to Corps re Avon Bypass County backs out of commitment to Avon bypass project.  "Considering the inadequate time element and the lack of interest in flood control at this particular time, it is our decision not to place a bond for local matching funds on the November ballot."
1/4/1967 Daily Log re mtg with George Dynes Dynes told Corps about basin-wide commission for consideration of flood control and other water resource developments.  Dynes also wanted to use the Avon By-Pass for dumping water from the nuclear power plant so it could be used as irrigation water.
8/25/1967 DRAFT Resolution from WRAC to County Commissioners Purpose of FCZD was to raise taxes for flood control activities.  Agreed to comp plan (attached) that would raise levees to 8 year protection to include "fuse plugs" to eliminate critical levee failures.  In addition, a program of public information and control of the flood plain will be adopted to insure that developments are controlled and a false sense of security does not exist.
11/01/1967 DF re Maximization Study of Avon Bypass Bypass would have maximum benefits at 83,000 cfs.  . . . Benefits were based on 1963 study.
6/7/1968 Corps Draft Response to 5/14/1968 ltr to Senator Magnuson Re: New Building Regulations for Mt. Vernon Library "Executive Order 11296 of 10 August 1966 requires the heads of executive agencies to prevent uneconomic development of the Nation's flood plains, particularly in connection with Federal lands and installations and Federally financed or supported improvements."  . . .  "The architect has given the proposed finished floor elevation of the library as 22.18 feet above mean sea level. The elevation of the protecting levee in this area varies between elevations 28 and 30 feet above mean sea level. This levee is estimated to provide flood protection with adequate freeboard for a flood having a recurrence interval of once in 8 years. With a combination of flood fighting efforts and the use of minimum freeboard the probability exists that protection could be provided for a flood having a recurrence interval of once in 15 years."
See also: 5/14/1968 Mt. Vernon Public Library Ltr to Senator Magnuson Re: New Building Regulations
8/25/1968 Ltr to County Commissioners fm Corps re Avon Bypass Project ("ABP") and Diversity of Opinions Amongst Local Individuals One of the most important letters ever written on the flood issue.  ABP reactivated in 2/1965.  Study completed in July 1966.  Channel would have been located at Avon to Telegraph Slough.  Project included channel widening  upstream of Avon and extension of levees upstream of Burlington.  Same plan as 1965 except entrance was 3 miles downstream in order to accommodate Burlington area from future expansion.  Cost increased from $23,250,000 to $28,200,000 with local cost being $6,100,000.  . . . ". . .Skagit County is facing a crisis in their planning. . ."
10/9/1968 Corps MFR re mtg with Skagit County Planning Dept. re Avon Bypass "... both the Avon Bypass Project and the Levee and Channel Improvement Project are authorized for construction, but due to a lack of local sponsorship, are not being constructed."  . . . : "a change in operations at the upper Baker Power Dam could provide additional justified flood protection in addition to the two projects already authorized.
9/18/1969 BCC letter to U.S. Army Corps re: assurances of local cooperation for the Avon Bypass Project “Eighteen (18) years have transpired since the last major flood.  The public interest in flood control is complete apathy.
11/25/1970 DF re Avon By-pass and using trash for levee fill Locals wanted to know if they could use "encased solid waste" for levee construction.  We could change Mt. Vernons name to Mt. Trashmore.  County also wanted to know if they could "bid" on the levee projects.


Skagit Conservation District ltr to Corps SCD wanted public meeting in Sept. so the Corps could discuss Sauk River dam and Avon Bypass concepts and the impacts of the Wild & Scenic River act because, "It has been a long time since either the Avon Bypass or the Sauk Dam have been discussed here."
7/26/1974 Corps ltr to Skagit Conservation District Corps agreed to come to meeting with SCD on September 18th to discuss Avon Bypass and Sauk River Dam.
4/22/1975 Ltr to Representative Meeds fm BCC re Wild & Scenic River Study "The immediate purpose of this letter is to request that you direct the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to undertake feasibility studies of a flood control dam on the  Sauk River and that you secure necessary funds to allow completion of these studies as soon as possible."
7/17/1975 Series of letters re Congressman Meeds inquiry re changes in the deferred to active project list. Congressman used recycled paper for his stationary.  BCC wanted to activate the 1966 Levee and Channel Improvement project; achieve additional storage behind Baker Dam; have a study done on the feasibility of the Sauk River Dam; agreed that if Sauk not feasible then would look at Avon Bypass.  "We, as a Board, know that we are sitting on a "Time Bomb" in the Skagit Valley.
7/23/1975 Draft Corps ltr to Representative Meeds re response to BCC ltr re 4 potential flood control projects in the Skagit Valley Corps was waiting on Congressional approval of 58,000 acre feet of storage behind Upper Baker dam; expected levee project to become "active" in the near future; waiting of Senator Magnuson to request feasibility study for Sauk Dam; Avon Bypass to be kept in "deferred" status pending a change in position by the county.
10/16/1975 Corps internal communication re "Reclassification of Authorized Skagit River, WA, Levee and Channel Improvement Project "The subject project (authorized in 1966) would provide flood protection to some 68,000 acres of delta flood plain at the mouth of the river. The improvements would increase the level of protection from once in 3 to 10 years, to a minimum of once in 8 years.  The authorization report noted that if the levee improvements were constructed- with the Avon Bypass, protection would be accomplished for floods with an expected recurrence of once in 35 years. To avoid a false sense of flood security, the report concluded that the levee and channel improvements should be constructed as an integral part of a basin plan for flood control, which as a minimum should include provision for construction of Avon Bypass project or upstream storage."
10/29/1975 Corps "FACT SHEET" on Skagit River Basin Document looked at Upper Baker Storage; Levee and Channel Improvement; Avon Bypass; and the Lower Sauk Project.  Characterized the Avon Bypass as "authorized in 1936 as a "make work" project.
5/6/1977 ACOE District Engineer ltr to Portland District Headquarters re:  scope and design for the Levees and Channel Improvement Project reformulation ". . . primary concern of the Levees and Channel Improvement Project should be urban flood damage reduction for Mount Vernon, Burlington and Sedro Woolley areas . . .   " . . .  During the last decade, conditions in . -the area have changed considerably and the scope and level of flood damage reduction should be reevaluated  "  . . .  "In order to accommodate this need for considering a higher level of flood protection for the urban areas, more extensive surveys, foundation investigations, hydrology, hydraulic and economic studies will be required than were previously anticipated."
5/9/1977 ACOE MFR re: Avon Bypass Deauthorization - Meeting with Skagit County Engineer We told Mr. Johnson that we would be sending out a letter alerting local officials to the deauthorization study.  We told Mr. Johnson that the first element of work which we would be getting underway would be a survey contract to map the existing levees and provide topography for use in our hydrologic and hydraulic studiesNOTE:  This strongly suggest that the entire $4 million dollar GDM was done in two years.
6/8/1977 ACOE DF re: All Hands Meeting to agree on the "plan of study" for the 1979 Levee and Channel Improvements Study. ". . .no significant problems are known at this time."  . . . ". . .during the last decade, urbanization has increased considerably and the scope and level of flood damage reduction should be reevaluated for the urban areas."  NOTE:  This is an amazing document that shows us that as of June 8, 1977 the GDM had not been started, yet it was published in 1979.  
6/24/1977 ACOE  Headquarters in Portland ltr to Seattle District Engineer re: extending Levee project upstream through Mt. Vernon and Burlington ". . .Assuming the Avon Bypass is not deauthorized, your report must include a "last added" analysis of each element of the overall protection plan of the basin.  Your proposal to extend the study scope upstream through the areas of Mount Vernon, Burlington and Sedro Woolley does create a separate set of problems  ". . . ". . . extension of the. project that far via a phase 1 report would require a significant Post Authorization Change report requiring Congressional action."
6/24/1977 Northern Pacific Division (Portland) Headquarters ltr to Seattle District re Skagit River Levees and Channel Improvements

". . . based on a review of the authorizing document and assuming such extension is justified and desired by local interests, extension of the project that far via a phase 1 report would require a significant Post Authorization Change report requiring Congressional action." . . . An alternative course of action would be to proceed with a GDM report covering the general project area reconsidering the degree of protection to be provided. At the same time preauthorization studies could proceed on the area upstream under the authority of the PSFAW study or under Section 216. Such a procedure would permit early construction capability and at the same time cover the full flood control needs of the area."

7/11/1977 Corps ltr to Skagit County Planning re deauthorization of the Avon Bypass project

Document contains attachments:  Avon Bypass Information Sheet; Project Deauthorization Review; Basin Map
'. . . a. Additional Flood Control at Upper Baker Project. The Upper Baker Project recently received congressional approval. The operation of the Upper Baker Dam will be modified for flood control purposes by providing up to 58,000 additional acre-feet of flood control storage by increasing reservoir drawdown in the period 1 November to 15 November of each year. Implementation of the project will not require structural modifications to existing facilities. Coupled with flood plain management, the project will increase flood protection in the Skagit River flood plain below Concrete, Washington, by decreasing peak discharges from those now experienced.  . . . b. Levee and Channel Improvements  . . . the project involves raising and strengthening existing levees downstream from Burlington and Mount Vernon, Washington, and making minor channel improvements to increase minimum channel capacities.  In conjunction with the Upper Baker Project, the levee and channel improvements project, if constructed as authorized, would increase the minimum level of flood protection in areas downstream from Burlington, Washington, from 3 years to an average recurrence interval of 11 years, with 3-foot freeboard.  Together with the projects mentioned above, the Avon Bypass Project would increase minimum flood protection from 11 to 59 years for the area downstream from Burlington. ' . . . The county has developed a comprehensive flood control plan for the Skagit Valley,  one element of which is the Avon Bypass. However, local cost sharing requirements currently are beyond the means of the county.
7/25/1977 SCBCC response to 7/11/1977 ltr from Corps

"... Skagit County's county-wide flood control zone will be an asset should any large projects, such as the Lower Levee Project or the Avon Bypass Project, be undertaken..." . . . "All of the Diking Districts and the County Engineering Department feel that we should keep working against the deauthorization of the Avon Bypass.

7/27/1977 Corps MFR re responses to 7/18/1977 letter from Congressman Meeds re "Dry Dam" on Sauk River A "dry dam" for FC only would be "engineeringly sound." The economic justification has not been determined in any studies and would not be available until after re :on level survey studies. We do not understand the term "environmentally safe" but do believe an "environmentally acceptable" project could be formulated.  A detailed study of the Sauk could be completed in 4 years at the cost of $400,000. Checkpoint 1 could be reached in 1-1/2 years at a cost of $150,000.
8/15/1977 Corps Draft Maps of the Avon Bypass Two sets of maps with different intake locations.
8/17/1977 Corps "River Mile" maps March 1965 maps.
8/23/1977 Corps Portland Division Headquarters MFR to Corps Headquarters in Washington DC re Reclassification of Avon Bypass Project Agreed with Seattle District that Avon Bypass should be reclassified from deferred to active.  "... Avon Bypass Project authorized by the 1936 Flood Control Act would be constructed as a part of an overall Skagit Valley flood control plan. The authorized project includes construction of the by-pass in the vicinity of Avon as well as construction of upstream levees in the vicinity of Sedro Woolley. and Burlington.NOTE:  As of this date studies needed for project had not yet began.
8/23/1977 Ltr fm Corps DC Headquarters to Division Engineer (Portland) re Reclassification of Authorized Skagit River, Wa Avon Bypass Project This document provided the authority for the Corps Seattle District to expand the study to include the area from I-5 to Sedro-Woolley. "The Avon Bypass is a separable element in a 3-element flood control plan for the Skagit River below Sedro-Woolley."  . . . Previous reclassification of this element to the "deferred category was based on local interests unwillingness to provide the required local cooperation." . . .  "Therefore in the absence of any reasonable expectation of obtaining local cooperation in the near future, the rationale for reclassification of the bypass at this time is not apparent since conditions have not changed."
8/31/1977 Corps ltr to SCBCC re Skagit River Levee and Channel Improvements Project Current authority for project does not include the Burlington-Sedro Woolley area.  Corps wanted to use the 1936 authorization for the Avon Bypass.  Bypass had been in "deferred category since March 1972."  Corps told County to send a letter asking that the Avon Bypass project not be deauthorized.
Corps Seattle District ltr to Division Engineer (Portland) re Office of the Chief of Engineers ("OCE") Reclassification of Avon Bypass Project  OCE rejected Seattle District request to reclassify the Avon Bypass from a "deferred" to "active" status.  Seattle District did not "wish to rebut the OCE decision on Avon Bypass Project."  . . .  " We support the local assessment of need, and believe the lower Skagit valley is the most serious flood threat in western Washington."  . . .  We are proceeding with base surveys, hydraulic and hydrologic studies for the Mount Vernon to Sedro Woolley reach because this information will be needed for the authorized project, as well as any extension of the authorized work. Foundation and exploration work and detail layouts and estimates will be proceeding after the first of the year.  
2/1/1978 Corps MFR re Formulation of Alternatives--Skagit River Levee and Channel Improvement Project

This document walks you through the 1st and 2nd iterations of Corps thinking on proposed projects.

"This project is one part of the comprehensive basin flood control plan. The other two parts are potential upstream storage and the authorized but deferred Avon Bypass (due to lack of local assurances).  . . . Both the Avon Bypass and the upstream storage have serious problems and may never be built."
2/9/1978 Corps MFR re Formulation of Alternatives Early discussion of the hydrology, Sauk River Dam; flooding the Samish; Avon ByPass: and levees for the 1979 levee improvement project.  Hard to see much difference from what is being considered today. 
See also: 5/9/2012 Corps of Engineers GI Study Presentation
2/13/1978 Corps "Fact Sheet" justifying an Amendment to Skagit Levee and Channel Improvement Authority The Skagit River Levee and Channel Improvement Project was authorized by Section 203, Public Law 89-789 dated 7 November 1966 "The Avon Bypass Project was authorized by Section 5, Public Law 74-738, dated 22 June 1936."  It was designed to handle 60,000 cfs, ironically the same amount of cfs that Dike District 12 is currently sending downstream towards Mt. Vernon and Fir Island.

Corps reply ltr to Edna Breazeal re Avon Bypass

The Avon Bypass project, as authorized by the Flood Control Act of 1936, included a bypass channel to divert excess Skagit River floodflews from the main river near Burlington through a bypass channel to Padilla Bay and also an improvement and extension of the right bank levee from Burlington to Sedro Woolley. The Flood Control Act of 1966 added recreation as a project purpose.  Preconstruction planning studies were started in Fiscal Year 1966 and stopped in Fiscal Year 1968 because of lack of a local sponsor.  
1/11/1979 Corps MFR re Skagit River Levee and Channel Improvements MFR describes 3 mtgs: Al Swif in his Everett office, a luncheon with the Elks Club, and the County Commissioners .  Corps gave Congressman draft legislation for 79 Omnibus Bill on Skagit.  Congressman told Elks Club mtg that they had to choose between levee improvements, Avon Bypass or Sauk Dam because only one stood a chance of making it through Congress.
4/13/1979 NPD Portland MFR referencing 3/13/1979 Portland Headquarters comments on Seattle District draft GDM and mtg with General Wells re discussion on Draft GDM. “Discussion included a control structure at Avon Bend to discharge flows exceeding the 100-year event; requiring flowage easements downstream of Avon; independent plans for Stanwood; and adding recreation as a project purpose.”
See also:
3/23/1979 Portland Headquarters comments on Seattle District draft GDM
8/2/1999 DOE Ltr to USACOE Seattle District re: GI Study -- Concerns over Swinomish Bypass Impacts on Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve Although the final nail in the coffin of a Bypass concept was not to come for several years (See County e-mail killing diversion channel efforts), this letter was the beginning of the end of one of the more responsible flood control alternatives.


County e-mail to Corps

“I would also like you to inform the group of the plan to involve Ron Thom and a little about his background.”  (NOTE:  Dr. Ronald Thom, who leads the Coastal Assessment and Restoration technical group at the Battelle Marine Sciences Laboratory in Sequim, Washington, has over 35 years of experience as an estuarine and coastal ecologist, and fisheries biologist.  It was eventually Battelle’s estimate for the ell grass study that sunk the By-Pass proposal.  See 12/20/2002 e-mail

10/22/2001 Governor Gary Locke Endorsement of the GI Study “Of course, any flood bypass proposal must address decisions concerning future land use of the existing floodplain, as well as design features critical for fish habitat. In addition, it must consider transportation corridors and impacts upon stream flow, existing water rights, and the Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. An Environmental Impact Statement that satisfactorily addresses these concerns could be the critical next step in this project, and we stand ready to assist you in its preparation.”

Letter fm Governor to BCC re Skagit Process for flood issues

“. . . this river poses one of the greatest threats of flood damage in the western United States, and I am pleased that you have invited the Department of Ecology to participate in your efforts.  . . .  any flood bypass proposal must address decisions concerning future land use of the existing floodplain, as well as design features critical for fish habitat. In addition, it must consider transportation corridors and impacts upon stream flow, existing water rights, and the Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve.
12/10/2001 BCC letter to Corps in response to NMFS letters “The Bypass Alternative favored by the County is estimated by the Corps to cost approximately $221 million and would displace less than 150 families with a local cost share of approximately $79 million. The Levee Setback Alternative preferred by the federal agencies has a price tag of $290 million and would displace more than 450 families with a local cost share of approximately $98 million.  The increased real estate costs are a 100/o obligation of the local sponsor. This is a significant increase in both the number of local families displaced and the amount of local cost share for a rural county of our size. The Levee Setback Alternative will be analyzed during the Environmental Impact Statement; however, unless other financial partners present themselves, this option is not affordable to Skagit County.”  . . .  “The long list of mitigation and restoration suggested by the Agencies at this early stage indicates their unwillingness to look at this as a realistic project with budget and schedule constraints- 'We view the list as a mild form of extortion required to get agency endorsement of the project.”
1/3/2002 Department of Ecology Letter RE: Skagit River GI Study/Skagit Feasibility Study/EIS & Avon Bypass Impacts on Padilla Bay “An EIS for the Skagit Feasibility Study that fails to evaluate the effects of diverting floodwater into Padilla Bay will be flawed and potentially undermine successful funding and permitting of the project. ... The Department of Ecology has committed over $1 million to Skagit County in support of the Skagit Feasibility Study. It is essential for the project to have an EIS that fairly and objectively analyses potential project impacts. Competition for public funds, permitting issues and public trust in the project hinge on a viable EIS.”




LaConner Resolution

Burlington Resolution

Sedro-Woolley Resolution
Resolutions by local cities endorsing efforts by County Commissioners with respect to flood damage reduction projects, specifically the Swinomish By-Pass diversion channel.
11/20/2002 MFR for USACE Re: Policy and legal issues created by a diversion alternative that directs floodwater to the Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (PBNERR) and CZMA The purpose of this memorandum is to discuss whether the designations of a Marine Protected Area and a National Estuarine Research Reserve impose protections on Padilla Bay that would be relevant to a diversion alternative which directs floodwaters to PBNERR. After careful review, it is the legal opinion of this office that the designations enjoyed by Padilla Bay present significant legal issues with regard to the viability of the proposed diversion alternative.
See also: 12/20/2002 County e-mail killing diversion channel efforts


County e-mail killing diversion channel efforts

Say, could you look at the attached memo, and let me know what you think? By way of  background: after our last "executive" meeting with the Seattle District COE staff, it  was apparent to Public Works staff that the emphasis on the flood bypass part of the  proposed flood project was sinking this thing like an anchor on the Titanic. Federal  resource agencies are dead set against it, Tribes are killing it with faint praise, and  our local cities are ambivalent at best. In short, we are continually trying to carry  the baggage on this project, attempting to sell it, and those who will be most  negatively affected by the floods are mostly sitting back and watching. In addition, we  are at a good transition point in the project, because we now know the makeup of our own  County Commission. Also, the Corps is working (very slowly) in crafting a new Project  Management Plan which will call for studying the effect of the bypass on the eelgrass of  Padilla Bay. The study will be done by the smart (and sheltered) people of Battelle  Labs, and cost $2 million. Or so. What the heck, cost is no object. We think that  study will say: armagedden is at hand if the bypass goes forward. Further, the Corps  in their brilliance had one of their under informed attorneys write a legal decision that  basically said we're toast if we don't handle the whole Padilla Bay issue with kid  gloves (i.e., poor money into studies).   Given all this, we in Public Works want to change the focus of the discussion. That  focus would be getting the 100-year flood through the "3 bridge" corridor, which is the  constriction that exists now which will force water to jump the river east of Burlington . As you can see from the outline, I believe if we focused on this as "Phase I" of the  flood project, then we might be able to actually get something done. And at a much  reduced federal construction cost.

5/7/2012 E-mail to Corps fm Anacortes Public Works Director The alternative involved a bypass channel essentially east of the Anacortes plant through the River Bend area traversing what used to be the Ledger Lake location.  The proposal involved a meandering continuous flow channel with the ability to increase capacity during flood events with a removable structure on the upper end. There were low flow channels, ponds and opportunities for salmon habitat and a host of other aquatic uses [duck hunters etc]. Except for the continuous stream, the area could remain in productive farming during non flood events.  . . .  Admittedly does not provide much relief for the bridge corridor or the downtown MV area but it might be worth looking at, in lieu of widening in the vicinity of the plant and the intake.
5/9/2012 Swinomish Tribal Concerns RE: Skagit General Investigation Study Tribe is concerned about changing hydrology due to climate change; Baker River Dam Operation and Storage; floodplain growth patterns due to flood control efforts; water rights; Fir Island Bypass; leaving existing levees after building setback levees; alleged shortcuts “to the analysis of Treaty-reserved fisheries resources.”

Furthermore, “We are concerned that although we have been involved .in this process since 1993, it is only now, after an expenditure of millions of dollars, that the necessary environmental studies are being identified. It is unclear to us how studies associated with impacts to fish, fish habitat and consequences of climate change, can be accomplished in the next few years and with the limited budget that your staff has identified. In the past, when inadequate resources were available to undertake studies, assumptions mutually agreeable to the Tribe, federal agencies and the Corps of Engineers ("Corps") were identified to expedite environmental review. It is unclear to us how the Corps intends to fill in these gaps at this point in time. Having stated this overreaching concern, the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community (the "Tribe") would like to identify the following concerns that may constitute "fatal flaws":”