Dredge The Nooksack
Dredge The Nooksack
Why this petition matters
To: The Mayors of the cities and towns of Whatcom County, Whatcom County, Tribes, and all Stakeholders withing the areas periodically flooded by the Nooksack River (Including Canada)
Draft Nooksack River Flood Mitigation Proposal – Pilot Program
Developed and submitted by Klaus Klix
As a resident of Whatcom County for the past 68 years, and having lived in the vicinity of the Nooksack River for most of that time, I have witnessed many flood events and the resulting substantial damage and devastation to property and the livelihoods of inhabitants living near or in the flood plains and surrounding areas. Over the years, flood events have become more severe in their devastation to the communities along the river and, although there is always a lot of talk after these events, there is little perceptible action towards actually putting together an effective and comprehensive proactive strategic plan to prevent or minimize these devastating events. It has been my observation that, after the fact, band aids are applied and then the next event is anxiously awaited to see what further damage will be inflicted. We need to revise our thinking and employ a proactive on-going strategy which is also sustainable and environmentally acceptable.
Why are the flood events becoming more and more catastrophic?
The answer is more obvious than it may seem. Gravity and erosion cause a constant movement of sediment and gravel downstream. During high water events this is accentuated. Gravel is brought down from up-river where the current is faster flowing and is deposited in the river channel where the slope flattens and the water slows down thereby raising the level of the river channel floor. As the process is repeated, each time such an event happens, the river channel floor is raised more and the water can no longer be contained in its original channel and consequently spreads out to create a wider channel. As it does this, the adjacent land becomes flooded and top soil, crops, and anything else in its path are swept away to be deposited downstream. The policy of river management has, in recent history, been to let the river do what it naturally does, which allows the problem to get progressively worse and more harmful to property along the river and to expand the flood plain ever farther out.
What is the solution?
Some have suggested raising the levies, digging retaining ponds, and dredging the river. All of these are temporary band aids to a problem that will exist till the law of gravity is repealed. So, what do we do?
First, we need to admit that gravity and weather are with us forever and, therefore, it will require an ongoing effort and operation of active management to keep the problem from getting further out of control. It requires us to keep the river within its banks by not allowing the channel to be continually filled higher and higher with material being brought down from upstream.
How do we do this without breaking the bank and without damaging the environment?
We have to remove the material in the river’s course so that it doesn’t progressively bring up the bottom of the river channel. In the 40’s-60’s, gravel was mined off of the gravel bars within the rivers course. Flooding did still occur, but not as severe and widespread as we are seeing now. Since gravel mining from the river bars has not been allowed in recent memory, the problem has magnified and exacerbated flooding with resultant damage to farmland, homes, and other property. I believe we can do a better job of managing the river with a comprehensive management strategy. An effective strategy would drastically reduce the magnitude of these flood events, thereby preserving our important fish resources, recreational opportunities, and the beauty of the Nooksack River for everyone’s enjoyment while at the same time reducing the real social and monetary costs incurred whenever these events happen in our communities.
Pilot Plan proposal:
Utilize the knowledge of the various communities along the river, Deming, Everson, Lynden, Sumas, Ferndale, Tribal lands, and possibly others to identify stretches of the river, in their respective areas, where the river channel is broad enough to allow mining gravel off of identified bars, during periods when water is confined in its natural channel, and where the mining would be feasible within the dry boundaries of the river channel during normal flow. The mining areas should be as lengthy as practical so that a lower dry channel would be formed as gravel is excavated. The excavated gravel can be sold to offset the cost of the work. A natural dam would be left to keep water in its existing channel during times of excavation. This process would be happening simultaneously in all the designated areas identified. In the next storm season and subsequent high-water event, the gravel dam would naturally be breached and the channel would move itself over into the new excavated channel and new gravel would be deposited there from upstream. When the water subsides and the normal dryer season begins, the excavation would be carried out on the opposite side to again create a new deposition channel. And so the process would just repeat itself from side to side indefinitely and in the process the river bottom would be prevented from rising and over time would lower the floor of the channel along the full length of the projects, and thereby flooding would be controlled and valuable farmland and other properties preserved.
Benefits of this plan:
The obvious benefits of keeping the river contained are; saving millions or perhaps billions of dollars in property loss costs, not to mention the huge social cost benefits to residents who have to worry about being displaced every year and being stuck with overwhelming repair bills. The county would save vast amounts of revenue from reduced emergency road repair costs and at the same time realize more revenue from property tax as the surrounding properties retain higher values. Another benefit is that the process would be largely self-funding, as gravel is a valuable resource, and this would provide a perpetual source of good gravel to support our road and construction needs around the county. The need for ever expanding gravel pits, which have their own environmental issues, would be largely reduced or eliminated.
Local leadership and control:
The process is controlled locally by people who are stakeholders in their respective communities. Local town governments, in collaboration with community, would designate the stretches of river channel most appropriately suited for the projects and would manage the projects in conjunction with other jurisdictions. Local employment would be boosted as well. Remember, according to our Constitution, all public entities serve at the pleasure of WE The People and we need to petition our governments with a list of grievances which We expect to be satisfactorily redressed. If they will not redress our grievances, then We the People have every right under the Constitution to replace them with people who understand that those we elect have a sworn duty to serve us.
Dredging of the actual waterway from the bay up, is the other part of the solution which needs to be in the discussion. The gravel mining should be in perpetuity and the dredging of the channel should occur as needed. Over time, continual gravel mining will greatly reduce the need for dredging as the deposited material is being removed before it can build up in and raise the bottom of the river channel.
I believe the above outlined proposal is a reasonable and commonsense solution to this ongoing flooding problem of the Nooksack River and although it may require some tweaking and fine tuning, I believe it to be a totally workable solution and starting point for a Real action plan.
Klaus Klix, We The People
Online Petition created on behalf of Linda and Klaus Klix, with permission.
Photo credit: Bellingham Herald
We the undersigned consider the continual flooding of the Nooksack River to be matter of emergency concern sufficient to warrant the Whatcom County Executive to declare a disaster emergency that will initiate a process leading an emergency dredging of the Nooksack River. As back up, the County Council must pass a resolution in support.