As soon as the Skykomish River begins to rise, residents who live near Mann Road just outside of Sultan start to wonder how long they will continue to have access in and out of their properties. And to those that live there, the problem seems to be getting worse.
As a result, Mann Road resident Kathleen Morrisson organized a meeting with representatives from Snohomish County, in hopes of creating a line of communication regarding what can be done to mitigate the issue.
The meeting took place on Friday, Feb. 13, on Mann Road at the entrance to the Skyline View neighborhood. Several county officials were present, including Snohomish County Councilmember Dave Somers, Public Works Deputy Director Owen Carter, Surface Water Management Hydraulic Engineer Dave Lucas, Surface Water Management Supervisor Gregg Farris and Public Works Project Specialist Brett Gaddis. Approximately 40 residents were in attendance.
Morrisson has lived on Mann Road for 11 years, and has been trapped by water over the roadway on numerous occasions GÇô sometimes for days at a time. During the meeting, residents discussed two major points of concern; Haystack Creek and the area unofficially known as Devil's Elbow.
"I know there have been some winters that have been easy,GÇ¥ Morrisson said. "This winter's been incredibly tough and that's why you've gotten some response from us.GÇ¥
Carter explained that the first thing that needs to happen is a river reach study GÇô a formal process that would examine the river as a whole, including relevant land-use changes in the area, in order to better understand how all the different waterways function together.
"We don't want to make some change that's going to impact your neighbor or somebody else,GÇ¥ Carter said. "We want to go in with a good idea of what's happening, what the plan should be to fix what's happening and go from there.GÇ¥
The study would allow officials to gather comprehensive data regarding the ubiquitous waterways in the vicinity that are contributing to the flooding.
"It's a complex area because you've got streams coming down off the hillside, and you've got the river channel and side channels,GÇ¥ Lucas said. "It's low here, so it all interacts and because we're in a flood plain here you have Chinook salmon constraints.GÇ¥
Officials estimated that it has been roughly 10 years since a detailed analysis on the area was performed, and committed to funding the study. Once the study is complete and potential projects are identified, residents might have to seek alternative funding opportunities, such as special assessments, in order to actually fund a flood mitigation project.-á
Concerns were raised over how long a study will take, and one woman asked if it could be accomplished in a three-month timeframe.
"One thing we're committed to is we'll start this study,GÇ¥ Carter said. "I cannot guarantee that it's going to be three months. I think it's going to be longer than that because this is a complicated [area].GÇ¥
In the Mann Road area, the Skykomish River is tracked by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), via a gauge located near Gold Bar. At 15 feet, the river is considered to be at flood stage, 17 feet is considered moderate flood stage and 19 feet is considered to be a major flooding event.
Marty and Steve Scott have lived on Mann Road, just east of Devil's Elbow, for 15 years. From the point where Mann Road and Ben Howard Road join at the three-way stop near Sultan, Mann Road traverses east, on a twisting, roughly 3.8 mile course, which comes to a dead-end at the Mann Road trailhead. Devil's Elbow is located approximately a half-mile from the intersection of Mann Road and Ben Howard.
"Typically, what used to happen is we would wait for it to go over the gauge up in Gold Bar and we'd have a couple of hours before we had to worry about this road,GÇ¥ Steve said. "Now, at 13, 13-and-a-half [feet], we're covered.GÇ¥
Vehicles will attempt to cross the flooded roadway, often with unfavorable results. According to the gauge in Gold Bar, on Nov. 28, 2014, the waters reached 18.22 feet. Sultan experienced moderate flooding throughout the city, and Mann Road was covered near Devil's Elbow. One motorist attempting to defeat the flow got stuck, and had to be rescued by first responders.
Morrisson pointed out to county staff that Mann road was flooded to the stage of being impassable three times in 2014; however the gauge in Gold Bar only recorded two instances of waters exceeding 15 feet. To residents, this affirms what they already know GÇô that the roadway is becoming submerged before the waters officially reach flood stage.
Several residents commented on emergency management, pointing out that when Mann Road is flooded, residents have extremely restricted access to emergency medical services.
"The last flood they couldn't get through,GÇ¥ Steve said. "They had a medical emergency [and] had to have someone carry the person across the flood to get to the ambulance.GÇ¥
Haystack Creek, another point of concern, flows under the roadway east of Devil's Elbow, approximately a mile-and-a-half from the intersection of Mann Road and Ben Howard.
Lucas explained that the county is already looking at Haystack Creek to see what can be done to abate flooding there. He said one of the problems is that a large amount of sediment comes off the hill in that area and, as it encounters the flattened out ground below, it fills in the channel, causing the creek to jump over the road. There are possible man-made contributing factors that exist as well, and the county is considering installing a sediment trap to help in that area, he said.
Officials are hopeful that they can get the project accomplished over the summer, but it's contingent on permit approval. They also pointed out that any mitigation tactics employed at Haystack Creek will not have an impact on Devil's Elbow.
"Over at Devil's Elbow, it's a different situation,GÇ¥ Farris said. "The flows in Tychman Slough actually rise up and cover the road GÇô from what we've observed.GÇ¥
Several county employees took a tour of the area near Devil's Elbow to get a closer look at the topography during the meeting. Morrisson drove Gaddis over Devil's Elbow to show him new disturbances in the pavement, which have left her concerned about the structural integrity of the existing roadway.
At the close of the meeting, Melanie Noyes thanked the county for their responsiveness to the concerns of the residents.
"This is pretty incredible and I just really appreciate it,GÇ¥ she said.
To receive updates on Mann Road or to reach out to Kathleen Morrisson, visit the Sultan Block Watch Facebook page, www.facebook.com/groups/SultanBlockWatch.-á