By Lee Fenley

I own property off the Martin Road in Rockport residing on Stafford Lane where the Skagit Rivers System Cooperative (known as SRSC) is trying to divert the “wild and scenic” Skagit River into the Barnaby Slough area.

The SRSC has offered four options and are trying to make a decision to settle on one. Options one, two and three basically involve removing infrastructure and opening existing channels to the river for fish. Option four, which they believe would be the most beneficial for fish, and we believe would be the most dangerous for the community, is the option that they are eagerly pursuing.

Option four would involve digging a channel on the northeast end of Barnaby Slough to connect to the main stem of the Skagit River. They plan to divert approximately 30% of the river to flow into the slough to create a new side channel of the Skagit River, and then dig a channel to let the new side channel flow to the Skagit River. By the construction and removal of the infrastructure in Option four, they would create a new oxbow bringing the Skagit River directly in behind our homes and property. This will create the risk for flooding to parts of the Martin Road community that have not yet been at risk and could devastate homes on the north end of the Martin Road that are already susceptible to flooding.

The SRSC staff have stated the goal of diverting 30% of the Skagit River into the new channel created in the Barnaby Slough. But by the admission of their own hired engineering firm (Natural Systems Design), as stated to a group of concerned citizens that attending the meeting held in Sedro-Woolley, WA on February 23, 2015, it would be IMPOSSIBLE TO CONTROL what the Skagit River would do once the main stem of the river was connected to Barnaby Slough.

The engineer firm representative told the group that there would be NO GUARANTEE that the flow would continue at the 30% rate and not dramatically increase, causing damage to homes and property on the Martin Road community. If there was any blocking of flow — such as erosion, log jams, sediment build up, beaver dams, and so on — the water will flood the area and find its own path back to the Skagit River, which we fear will be through our homes and property. The SRSC seems to dismiss this as an impossibility. Anyone who has lived on or near a river knows there is no controlling where the water and debris will go, but that it will always take the path of least resistance.

I have lived here for the past twenty years of marriage and our children are fifth generation of family living on the property. We would like to see our future family be able to benefit from this property, because it means so much to us. This property was homesteaded by my wife’s grandparents and this property was chosen due to the fact that the property was not threatened by either the Skagit or Sauk Rivers. We have not and are not required by a financial institution to purchase flood insurance. This additional cost to obtain flood insurance would be a hardship to our family, and SRSC seems to think that we already have a flooding issue or have a flood insurance policy in place.

To summarize my feelings on this project, the SRSC is more than willing to put fish in front of people, families and property in this community. They have been asked by property owners about what type of protections they could put in place to help alleviate our fears, and they cannot tell us what the protections could or should be.

I believe the SRSC staff is truly stunned that we haven’t willingly climbed on board with them and given up our homes, property and lifestyles. I believe this project should be “PUT ON HOLD” until a common sense approach can be taken to alleviate fears of property loss and damage to the community.

The community should be part of implementing a plan that everyone can agree will keep people safe and maintain property values while trying to enhance fish in the area we love to live in.


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  • Melinda Hews
    September 24, 2015, 3:07 am

    This is a wonderful article, Lee Fenley!


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