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2008 Historical Quotes of the Month

Table of Contents


Once heard an analogy between building a house on a train track and building a house in a floodplain: you may not know exactly when the train or flood will come, but you know that it will.

(Source: The American Surveyor, "Vantage Point: Fiddling with Floods" by Wendy Lathrop, LS, CFM, 12/06/2008)

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We have done a little wading and done a little swimming, And we hit for good tall timber when the river got to raging, But we didn’t lose our horses, our cattle, nor our women, Though the water was rather wet and quite above its staging. . . .So here’s to good ole Mt. Vernon and the fertile Skagit valley, We don’t care for the river if she does go on a spree, Let her fill her banks and gurgle, and boil, and foam, and sally, It’s the land of milk and honey she is kissing, don’t you see?

(Source: The Skagit News-Herald, "True Flood Report", 11/19/1906)

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Levees diminish floodplain storage of water during floods, and confine the river within a walled in channel, pushing the flooding farther downstream, and adding pressure to extend the levee. As a result, the river can no longer move across the floodplain and no longer support the natural processes of channel migration that create the side channels and off-channel areas that shelter juvenile salmon.

(Source: Final Biological Opinion on Implementation of the National Flood Insurance Program in the State of Washington by National Marine Fisheries Service, Northwest Region, September 22, 2008, page 4)

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The fetish "progress" can be called by many names.  Too often it is used to make the cash register ring oftener, now, with little thought of the future. New, large businesses coming in always seem to bring many new workers with them and also more new businessmen, leaving us pretty much the same as we were before, except that we are taxed more heavily to provide additional facilities. How much new industry would it take to produce the ideal economy?  You can't have your cake and eat it too, but there are some that think you can.  Once we attended an Indian fishing rights trial. Sitting beside me was an avid sports fisherman. A very old Indian witness was answering questions. Yes, the Baker River used to teem with salmon, but the dam virtually destroyed the runs. Strangely enough, my bench companion, a supposed friend of the fish, excused this by saying, "Well, you just can't hold up progress you know." The dam was okay with him. The Indians were the villains.  Sometimes we are confused as to what is progress and what is deterioration, and so are many others.

(Source: Yarns of the Skagit County: Ray's Writin's by Ray Jordan, 1974, Page 244, Chapter 85 “Whose Crazy Now”? (1974))

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People of this county have been awakened to the fact that existing dams on the upper Skagit do not insure against floods, he stated.  This is an opportune time to demand that something be done.

(Source: Charles Gaches, local farmer in the March 17. 1932 Mount Vernon Argus)

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JULY 2008

Strawberries, raspberries, peas, lettuce, carrots, wheat, apples and tulip bulbs are among the products of the 100,000 acres of farmland on either side of the Skagit River, which twists through the North Cascades on its way to Puget Sound. The valley produces nearly 75 percent of the nation's cabbage seed and half its beet seeds.  In the last five years 13 percent of the farmland here has been lost, mostly to development of new housing and businesses. Nationwide, 3 million acres of farmland are converted to other use every year, Federal Government figures say. . . . ''It took the Skagit River nearly 20,000 years to create this valley,'' said Dave Hedlin, whose family has farmed the valley for three generations. ''Let's not pave it over in a few years' time.''

(Source: Dec. 4, 1989 New York TimesSkagit Journal; Farmers See Park Plans As Plague in the Making” by Jan Null and Joelle Hulbert)

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JUNE 2008

"Rebuilding in a known floodplain is at best an act of futility and possibly proof of insanity doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result."

(Source: May 10, 2008 Letter to The Chronicle Editor by Jae Bell, Chehalis who experienced both Hurricane Katrina's aftermath and the 2007 Chehalis Valley flood)

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MAY 2008

"...Rivers were here long before man, and for untold ages, every stream has periodically exercised its right to expand when carrying more than normal flow.  Man's error has not been the neglect of flood control measures but his refusal to recognize the right of the rivers to their floodway_ _ _ ."

(Source: Original Feb. 1965, updated & revised Jan. 1968 Skagit County Comprehensive Plan, page 30)

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APRIL 2008

Our repairs are generally so localized in nature that they will have no impact on the prefailure hydraulic conditions in the river. However, I also realize that for every change man makes to a river's levee system, a change in the river may result. As you know, the Corps has been involved in the Skagit River and its flooding problems for many, many years. Neither I nor my staff want to do something that will make the problem worse or result in coming back at a later date and developing a solution to redress our previous actions. As much as we would like to, we do not have the authority or funding under the PL 84-99 program to evaluate the cumulative impact of levee repair works along with all other existing and anticipated works on the Skagit River valley. If requested by Skagit County, we could accomplish this type of evaluation within the upcoming flood control feasibility study.

(Source: Colonel Donald T. Wynn, US Army Corps of Engineers 10/15/1996 Wynn Letter to Leonard Halverson)

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MARCH 2008

Widespread Flooding

When considering buying property or insurance, many people use the 100-year flood line as a safe benchmark. However, California's 30 days of rain in December 1861 and January 1862 was the equivalent of at least a 30,000-year event. In San Francisco, the storms resulted in a 10,000-year event, while in Sacramento, the flooding was "only" a 2,300-year event.

(Source: January/February 2007 Weatherwise "California Washed Away: The Great Flood of 1862" by Jan Null and Joelle Hulbert)

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“You have chosen to live where you live. If you chose to live in certain locations, you're accepting a certain risk.”

(Source: Bill Ivy, roads manager for the San Juan National Forest in Colorado, 2/3/2008 Durango Herald, "On forest roads, clearing snow homeowners’ job")

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A practical remedy is needed and needed badly.  Just what this remedy should be has been discussed by many ranchers during the past week.   President Nelson of the Mount Vernon Commercial Club brought the matter up at the meeting last Monday evening and a general discussion ensued.  The club members, while perfectly willing to take hold of the matter and assist in solving the remedy were reluctant to do so, believing that the first move should come from the farmers.  If the club can do anything toward helping in the solution of the great problem, the ranchers are privileged to call upon the business men of Mount Vernon and every assistance will be given.    The remedy is believed to be found in the construction of spillways.  Several plans and suggestions have been made during the week, but this matter, being of such enormous proportions, will require more than talk to get something started.    Where there is a will, there is a way.  Let all unite in finding the way.  Concentrated action is needed.  It is believed that government aid can be secured to help in this big undertaking.  The ranchers should arrange meetings in their various sections, and select two or three to represent the section in a larger body.  Let this larger body plan out the remedy, or the way and then GO AFTER IT.

(Source: January 10, 1918 Mt. Vernon Herald Editorial)

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