Big Lake Mudslide

Water and mud from an Oct. 29 beaver dam breach in Big Lake blocked part of West Big Lake Blvd.

BIG LAKE — Neighbors on the west side of Big Lake continue to seek solutions to a beaver dam that breached and flooded their properties last year, and threatens to do so again.

One resident has engineered a possible fix, but the neighbors still need to get access to the private property where the beaver dam is before any progress can be made.

The Oct. 29 breach in the dam, on a stream in Coots Cove on the west side of the lake, was responsible for water and mud covering roads and damaging at least 14 homes.

At a community meeting Thursday, neighbors uniformly called it the worst flooding they’d seen in the area, and are concerned that without action it will happen again.

Charlie Arik, who lives on the west side of Big Lake, has designed a device that he said should relieve pressure on the dam and at least reduce the risk of another burst.

Adapted from an existing device called a Beaver Deceiver, his design would create a slow leak to relieve pressure on the dam, he said.

Arik said it would cost about $30,000 to build such a device.

Later this month, Arik and representatives from state and county departments are scheduled to take a tour of the property to determine whether his device would work.

Aside from funding, access to the property is still a major barrier to coming up with a solution.

The property owner and his family told the group through their lawyer they aren’t interested in working with residents due to liability concerns.

However, Skagit County Commissioner Peter Browning said he hopes residents can convince the family that the real liability issue is in failing to address this problem.

“The person who owns this property should have some liability,” he said. “This is not a surprise, this is not an act of God, this is an ongoing problem.”

Browning, who lives on the other side of Big Lake, is working with the residents to help resolve the issue. However, he’s made it clear they can’t expect funding from the county because the dam is on private property.

Similarly, representatives of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife and Department of Natural Resources have said they have no funding available, and are unaware of grants that could fund such a project.

Former Skagit County Commissioner Ken Dahlstedt was hired by residents to look into possible grants.

He said flooding caused by dam breaches damages two county roads, and he believes the county could fund a fix as a way to protect those roads.

“I’m not totally convinced that it would be impossible to participate in some way, because they have so much risk to those roads,” he said.

Dahlstedt also suggested residents reach out to state and federal representatives, who may be able to find discretionary funding.

Either way, he said, funding discussions hinge on whether Arik’s design will work. Everyone should know more after the tour later this month.

— Reporter Brandon Stone:, 360-416-2112, Twitter: @Brandon_SVH

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