Wednesday, May 28, 2014

EarthFix: Whatcom County's Approach to a Landslide Risk

Ashley Ahearn with EarthFix/KUOW produced a story about Canyon Creek: I appreciated that John Thompson with Whatcom County was able to help with this story. Whatcom County should be proud of how the this hazard was addressed.

Ashley is one of several reporters I talked with after the Oso/Hazel Landslide event. Overall a good experience. The key decisions made at Canyon Creek in Whatcom County took place at roughly the same time that key decisions were made regarding buyouts of properties below the Hazel/Oso Landslide area. The Whatcom County Council that voted for the buyout was a very strong property rights/conservative council.

Ken Mann, a current County Council member, noted in the story that he likely would have voted against the buy out of properties and he makes an argument that is essentially the exact same argument the majority of the Council made at that the time the issue first came up. It took several votes and a lot of education before the Council opted for the buy out approach. The position Ken takes is a good argument; however, in this case as in other cases, property buyers and home owners had no way of knowing they were in a hazardous location at the time of purchase. At the time of approval of the subdivision and creation of the home lots, the county planners likely thought the area safe. The hazard became apparent after the fact. Furthermore, the original levee the county had built had actually increased the risk of a catastrophic event. Besides the risk to the home, the levee alignment was proving to pose a significant risk to the State Highway. (I always thought the State DOT should have helped fund the project as the cost post failure would have been very high). There were also significant salmon habitat issues with this project that allowed for a fair bit of the project being funded via state and federal grants.

1 comment:

terri Plake said...

I was surprised to hear you and John on the radio this morning! Great job! sounds like you had a good time out there. Awesome!