Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A Tale Of Two Town's Flood Control Projects: Fort Worth & Mount Vernon

Currently, here in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex zone, we are in the midst of a thunderstorm. Usually a thunderstorm is accompanied by rain. Often in copious, flood causing amounts.


No matter how much rain falls, or how high the Trinity River rises, it is highly unlikely a flood would breech the enormous levees that contain the river as it flows past downtown Fort Worth.

These levees, on the Trinity River, were built over 50 years ago, paid for by the kind taxpayers of America, after the downtown Fort Worth zone was damaged by a really bad flood at some point in time in the early 1950s, if I remember correctly.

I read some news in my old hometown newspaper, the Skagit Valley Herald, this morning, that had me being perplexed. Apparently tomorrow the Mount Vernon City Council is expected to approve a plan to borrow $1 million of the town's future federal funds, to close a funding gap on the $12.9 million cost of Phase II of Mount Vernon's Downtown Flood Protection and Revitalization Project.

Let me explain downtown Mount Vernon and its flooding issue to you.

When the Skagit River goes into big flood mode, downtown Mount Vernon becomes like New Orleans. It is below the level of the flooding river. So, a temporary sandbag dike has to be quickly built, on top of the existing dike, to keep the river from destroying downtown Mount Vernon.

In November of 1995 record rains brought record flooding to all the rivers of the Puget Sound zone. I remember watching the flooding, on TV, at 1 in the morning, when  KING  5, out of Seattle, went live to downtown Mount Vernon where the  KING 5 reporter made it sound as if a fevered effort was underway to save the downtown Mount Vernon library. The TV screen showed a beehive of activity by the library.

I remember being shocked. I woke up some help and headed to downtown Mount Vernon. At the library I found out what was actually going on was a sand bagging operation, with the filled sandbags being brought to the revetment to build a secondary dike. That was where the help was needed, so that is where we went.

Sandbag Wall in Mt. Vernon While the Skagit River Rises
There may have been well over 1,000 people in downtown Mount Vernon working to build a sandbag wall.

Hundreds of National Guard troops were helping.

Sometime around 3 in the morning we were told we'd done all we could do, the sandbags could go no higher.

The Skagit River was expected to crest around 11 that morning. It was expected to crest well over a foot above the sandbag wall. All the businesses in downtown Mount Vernon were sandbagged to help stop the expected flood.

By the time of the crest, I, along with a lot of other people, watched from high ground as the river crept to the top of the sandbag wall. Just as it was starting to go over the top, the river suddenly dropped a foot or more. Everyone was mystified. It was like there had been a divine intervention.

But, we soon were to learn what had actually happened, as emergency sirens sounded and helicopters began to appear. A dike, downriver a couple miles, had popped a couple hundred foot breech, flooding what is known as Fir Island.

Needless to say, Mount Vernon and the Skagit Valley were in a State of Emergency.

And then, 2 weeks later, after the Fir Island dike had been repaired, it happened again.

From that point Mount Vernon decided something needed to be done, after coming to the point of disaster, twice within 2 weeks. In 2007 Mount Vernon bought a mobile flood wall from a Norwegian company, the first such thing to be installed in America. Now, just a few people can put up a wall in a couple hours, where previously it took half a day and 100s of workers.

But, this was a temporary solution. Phase II of the Downtown Flood Protection and Revitalization Project replaces the mobile flood wall with a permanent solution that will take downtown Mount Vernon off FEMA's list of vulnerable flood zones.

That is a list that downtown Fort Worth is not on.

Now, how is it that Fort Worth and its bizarro Trinity River Vision Boondoggle has gotten millions of federal dollars for an un-needed flood control project that will build a likely ridiculous looking, un-needed flood diversion channel, so that the levees that have stopped flooding for decades can be removed?

Meanwhile, Mount Vernon, which has an actual, real, flood problem, that has caused problems for decades, scrambles to find the money to build a permanent fix.

Is this a function of the fact that the congressperson who represents the district in which Mount Vernon is located is not a corrupt politician willing to finagle shady deals to channel federal money Mount Vernon's way, whilst Fort Worth is represented by a corrupt congresswoman who stands to make financial gains from the Trinity River Vision Boondoggle which she has helped to fund, which, in addition to providing her financial gain, also provided her son, J.D. Granger, the job of running the project, a job for which J.D. Granger has absolutely zero qualifications?

The installing her son to run the TRV Boondoggle is sufficient cause to attach the "corrupt" label to this corrupt politician, let alone all the other reasons.

Why do not more people find the TRV Boondoggle's wastefulness and lack of need to be perplexing, particularly when there are locations in America where money could be spent to fix an actual flooding problem?

Places like Haltom City and Mount Vernon.

If you'd asked me if the 1995 flood I'm talking about above was the infamous Thanksgiving Day Flood, I would have said, yes it was. If you'd asked me if this was the flood that sank one of the Lake Washington floating bridges, I would have said yes it was.

Well, just a little Googling let me know I was wrong about the Thanksgiving Day Flood. That flood was in 1990 and was the one that sank the floating bridge.

The fact that I get confused about Western Washington's floods and the fact that some of them have names, should be a good indication of how bad the flooding in that rainy zone can be.

I remember watching the floating bridge sink, on TV, at my sister's cabin at Lake Cushman. That fact confuses me for a variety of reasons. One of which is I also remember being at Seattle's Gasworks Park watching my aunt finish a marathon in the rainstorm that sank the floating bridge. But, I'm further confused, because I remember being up in Lynden, at the Dutch Mother's Restaurant, because my grandma wanted to have all her kids and grandkids together for a turkey dinner for the first time in decades. I remember that night as the night the rain started that became the flood known as the Thanksgiving Flood. Apparently I was all over Western Washington during that flooding period, all the way to the Canadian border, to Seattle, to Hood Canal.

That or my memory is really mixed up.

Below is a YouTube video of part of the KING 5 report about the sinking. There is footage of the actual sinking, which happened live on TV, if I'm remembering right, which I've fairly clearly established may not be the case...

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