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2010 Historical Quotes of the Month

Table of Contents


“I believe the conditions here are so serious that the Railway Co. cannot handle this proposition alone. If the present dykes should be raised and strengthened so that they would hold against flood waters, there is not room between the dykes to pass the water under our present bridge. The bridge would have to be raised considerably if we should construct another long opening near Burlington for the passing of flood waters, this would assume the breaking of the dykes and if the dykes should break, such an arrangement would take care of the railway. We can hardly assume, however, that such a condition will always exist. Sooner or later a very radical improvement must be made to take care of the flood waters of the Skagit River, to relieve the farmers and the towns from the present hazard.”

 (Source: GNRR Letter to Chief Engineer from Oscar Bowen, Assistant Engineer of GNRR letter and Robert Herzog Report, Sept. 26, 1922)

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“One can also find problems in the placement of the dikes in regards to stream flow characteristics and future development. As previously mentioned, a river bend has two distinct shores. The outside bank erodes and the inside bank gains material. In many places the dikes are adjacent to the river. This location could possibly create several problems. First, the dikes (especially the outside bank in the river bend) have the erosional forces of the river working against them. Due to this situation, rip rap must be added in order to protect the dikes which may become weakened as the river displaces their base material. Thus, locating dikes next to the river in these areas increases maintenance costs as well as increasing the risk to people who depend on those dikes for protection. One other problem with the dike locations is relationship to present development. It has been pointed out previously that with a widening of the river channel, more discharge could be accommodated. Thus, one way of improving flood protection would be to move dikes further away from the river edge.”

 (Source: Pages 109-110 of Comprehensive Land Use Planning Alternatives for the Skagit River Floodplain and Related Uplands, April 1973)

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Hydrology is not a pure science,” he (Don Nelson) said, adding that if an engineer starts his study with a different set of assumptions he could come to a different set of conclusions.”

 (Source:  Argus (Mount Vernon, Wash.), “Flood Elevation Audit Possible” , June 1, 1982)

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The thrust of a good Comprehensive Plan should be to try and reduce the flood damages that will occur by stopping any further growth in the flood plain and by trying to open up existing floodways that been blocked by development. ... One example of poor flood plain management is the Gages Slough floodway in Burlington. Historically this floodway has seen flows from 30,000 to 60,000 cfs with significant flooding in Burlington and out to Padilla Bay and Samish Bay. This floodway has been blocked by road fills, malls and Interstate 5. This development will cause significant damages to itself and increased damage to the rest of Burlington. The current plan recommends an Urban Growth Area (UGA) right across the upstream end of this floodway. ... There is significant pressure to increase the tax base of the cities and the county by developing the flood plain.  Hopefully this leadership will be enlightened and visionary enough not to recommend any further development within the flood plain.

 (Source: Seattle District USACE Public Testimony, Re: Burlington Land Use Practices 4/6/1994)

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“These small towns easily nestled on the edge of the river or bay alongside the ebb and flow of the tides and flood-prone river.  With the clear-cutting of thousands of acres of timber, much viable land for farming was available by the 1870s.  The marshes were diked to make additional rich delta farmland, and the rise of homesteading, subsistence farming, and agriculture grew.  However, as the towns grew in population, their “nestling” became more difficult, and today the towns and cities of the flats share a complex relationship with the dynamic Skagit River and its flooding.  Every few years the river sends a wet warning against further building in the floodplain – a hard message for human enterprise bursting at the seams and eager to expand, yet a fortuitous message for the valley’s agriculture, wildlife, and rural character.”

 (Source:  Pages 57-58 of Skagit Land Trust’s Natural Skagit: A Journey from Mountains to Sea: “Greater Skagit Flats: Living in the Flood Plain” by Howard Armstrong, ©2008)

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JULY 2010

“The problem with studies is that they use a lot of words to hide unpleasant choices.”

(Source: Brown and Caldwell Letter to Skagit County Public Works 4/30/1982)

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JUNE 2010

“Flood Damage Reduction: 29,700 acres of land would be provided rural protection (50-year), and 22,000 acres of land would be provided urban protection (100-year). The project would prevent 100-year Skagit floods from overflow to the Samish. However, flooding would still occur due to Samish River flows on 14,500 acres. The Nookachamps-Clear Lake area would experience an increase in the 100-year water surface elevation of about 4.5 feet.

(Source: USACE Levee Improvement Study Studygram December 1978)

AC Note: Please see Draft as of June 19, 2010 of Chapter 7 of CFHMP: History of Flood Management

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MAY 2010

“In response to the question, how do upstream or downstream dike districts handle impacts of improvements to the levee system by others, a local dike district commissioner answered, "Get more sandbags." ”

(Source: SCFCZD Advisory Committee Meeting, 5/17/10)

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APRIL 2010

“Why is it so hard to get an acceptable cost benefit ratio for diking protection of the Skagit River, when in 1936 Congress approved the Avon Bypass and supported dike systems. Please refer to paragraphs 68, 91 and 92 of the 1952 copy of "Report on Survey for Flood Control of Skagit River and Tributaries", Copy No. 43. Your report suggests a design of 250,000 C.F.S. at Mount Vernon. We fail to reconcile these statements with our record of eleven floods from 1896 to I960 and with a flood volume of 100,000 C.F.S. to 195,000 C.F.S.”

(Source: May 3, 1960 Letter from Frank Gilkey, Skagit County Government to Colonel R. P. Young, Seattle District Corps of Engineers RE: Legislative Council Meeting)

AC Note: Please see Excerpts from Report on Survey for Flood Control of Skagit River and Tributaries

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MARCH 2010

Ross reservoir by itself cannot, with any amount of storage, prevent all damaging floods in the important downstream areas. Ross reservoir can, however, achieve reductions in flood peaks which are particularly significant for medium floods which start to damage the downstream levee system.

(Source: August 14, 1953 Letter From Lt. Colonel Lloyd L. Ball, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Seattle District to Division Engineer, North Pacific Division Corps of Engineers RE: Flood Control Requirement and Operating Procedure for Ross Reservoir, Skagit River, Wash.)

AC Note: See re: promises of Ross Dam storage: 1/22/22 C.H.1/7/32 Argus

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In considering the solution of the Skagit River flood problem, several possible methods are being studied.  These methods include storage of flood waters, deepening the present channel, together with raising and strengthening of the present diking system as recently suggested by local interests, and construction of flood water diversion channels.  The studies are not complete, and definite conclusions as to the desirability of any particular method have not been made.

(Source: January 11, 1950 Letter From Colonel E.C. Itschner, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Seattle District to Skagit River Control Association RE: Corps of Engineers Involvement in Skagit River Flood Control Affairs)

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It’s just like, hello, how hard do you have to beat your head against the wall and realize don’t build in the floodplain,” said Montesano Mayor Ron Schillinger, adding it was also difficult to get behind someone who allows filling in the floodplain. “You can’t create additional problems and then allow someone to bail you out.

(Source: The Chronicle, Chehalis, Washington,  Twin Cities Hold Out Against Army Corps Plan, November 10, 2009)

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