Efforts ongoing in mudslide prevention | Mayor's Message
Many of the homes of our friends and neighbors in Mukilteo overlook bluffs. Perhaps you are among the lucky Mukilteans with a great view from your home.
The gulches and ravines, and great views of Puget Sound are one of the great things about our community. We appreciate our perch above the water, but must remember that below us, the water and earth interact in beautiful but also dangerous ways.
Those risks and consequences became apparent in heart-wrenching ways with the landslide in Oso. I am proud that Mukilteo fire service professionals immediately joined a region-wide response in the first hours following the slide.
Our Assistant Chief Brian McMahan has been at the side of Darrington Mayor Dan Rankin, as a public information officer in that community. He has worked long hours as part of the Northwest Incident Management Team, serving our neighbors.
Our firefighter/paramedics have also been on site, and continue to do so, taking care of injured search and rescue workers, and people in the community, as the local first responders search for victims.
After long days there, they bring our reserve ambulance back to Mukilteo covered in the mud of the Oso slide. Should a major disaster occur in Mukilteo, we will need that same help.
This is the first major response for the Northwest Incident Management Team, which Mukilteo joined in 2011. This regional response team is an integral part of our disaster response.
There are landslide risks in Mukilteo: Namely, the steep slopes that many of our homes are built upon. We regularly hear about events in the region which halt the Sounder and Amtrak service.
Just last week, a slide in Mukilteo covered the tracks for 150 feet, with up to 15 feet of debris. That debris included mostly rocks, trees and soil.
There are big projects that can be done to protect the hillside, and small steps that we can take, as well. I am proud that our city is partnering with a number of agencies to help reduce landslide risks along our rail corridor.
WSDOT, BNSF Railway, Amtrak, Sound Transit and other agencies, are working together to develop short- and long-term solutions. They are sharing data, identifying locations and mitigation strategies.
In 2013, WSDOT received $16.1 million in federal funding to identify, design and construct slope stabilization projects along tracks.
One of those projects was completed in Mukilteo. There is more that can be done.
Last month, I had the opportunity to visit Washington D.C., along with Councilmembers Bob Champion and Christine Cook. We attended the National League of Cities conference for training and education.
For instance, I attended a session on building resilient communities in the face of climate change and extreme weather events.
Later, we visited Sen. Patty Murray along with other Washington city councilmembers and mayors. In a discussion of infrastructure needs, the senator mentioned the challenges our community faces with frequent mudslides.
I will continue to reach out to Sen. Murray and her staff for their assistance with federal funding for these projects. There are several more places where slope stability improvements can help keep the tracks open and protect homes in Mukilteo.
I met last week with BNSF staff and our Planning and Public Works departments to identify how we can expedite these projects.
The council will hear a briefing on May 5 about the Landslide Mitigation Workgroup, a coordinated effort that has led to slope stability improvements, and is targeting further projects inside Mukilteo.
There are also other tasks to be done: Each homeowner can do their part and watch for warning signs. Keeping slopes vegetated, collecting surface water away from slopes and not disposing of yard waste over slopes are some of the actions that can help.
Long-term improvements will require substantial investments. That’s why I will continue to build those relationships with our federal representatives and encourage federal investments in these projects.
It could take decades to fully shore up our hillsides. While we expect these efforts to have a positive impact on reducing landslides, adverse geologic conditions, steep hillsides and historic landslide patterns continue to exist.
The city is undertaking a comprehensive stormwater study to fully catalog our needs and understand how to best handle water runoff in our community.
The gulches, ravines, the Sound, and our perspective of all these features make Mukilteo a wonderful place to live. To live responsibly amongst our natural environment, we have to grow carefully and wisely, and do our part to take care of the land and water around us.