After hearing a recap of how rising water in Turner and Nookachamps creeks impacts residents in and around Clear Lake, the Skagit County Board of Commissioners passed an emergency declaration Tuesday in support of drainage work.

Skagit County Public Works Director Dan Berentson and Skagit County Drainage District No. 21 Commissioner Peter Janicki described how the rising water affects roads, septic systems and agricultural lands, and puts the community’s safety, health and income at risk during the wet season.

Berentson said because of the “ongoing flooding caused by blockage and debris in the drainage system” and the challenges in getting timely permits, particularly from the Army Corps of Engineers, “an emergency declaration is necessary to move forward.”

Janicki said the drainage district has been in discussions with community members for years, and following a large gathering in February where short- and long-term plans were discussed, the drainage district applied in March for permits to improve flow in the creeks.

Although support has been received from the Skagit County Sheriff’s Office, the local fire district, the Sedro-Woolley School District, the state Department of Fish & Wildlife, the Upper Skagit Indian Tribe and other stakeholders, the Army Corps of Engineers hasn’t issued a decision or a deadline for making one.

The hope is that the county’s emergency declaration puts pressure on the corps to issue the necessary permit so that work can be done within the next month.

“The work is well thought through,” Janicki said. “We need this emergency resolution.”

Because of their shared last name, Skagit County Commissioner Lisa Janicki recused herself from the vote on the emergency declaration.

County commissioners Ron Wesen and Ken Dahlstedt approved the emergency declaration.

“I think they built the pyramids faster than the Army Corps of Engineers approves permits, and it’s just not acceptable,” Dahlstedt said.

Peter Janicki said while it wasn’t the drainage district’s intent to rush the work, it decided to make a last-ditch attempt to alleviate flooding for residents this year. To get ahead of rain and rising water levels, as well as the return of salmon, work needs to be completed before mid-October.

“If we’re not working next week it’s too late,” Peter Janicki said. “We have no choice this year but to work at the last minute because that’s all that’s left.”

— Reporter Kimberly Cauvel: 360-416-2199, kcauvel@skagitpublishing.com, Twitter: @Kimberly_SVH, Facebook.com/bykimberlycauvel

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