HAMILTON — Residents helped out last week on a project to reduce flooding from an area slough while also opening habitat for fish.
The nonprofit Skagit Fisheries Enhancement Group and the Herrera Environmental Consultants team hired to design the project shared a computer model being developed that reflects how the area around what is known as both Alder Slough and Carey’s Slough floods, and get feedback from those who have seen the flooding firsthand.
“That’s too much water. There wasn’t water on my fields,” Randy Good, who lives northeast of town, said while pointing to the consultants’ model of flooding in November 2015.
Good’s neighbor Larry Bauman has also provided information about flooding on his property, where he has lived since the 1980s.
Skagit Fisheries Restoration Ecologist Sue Madsen said Bauman’s high water markers — plastic triangles he nailed to fence posts after floods — provided valuable perspective.
Bauman said he’s working with those involved on the project in hopes it will help.
“It’s not going to do any more damage. It can only improve,” he said. “I get back-flooded from a lack of drainage. As the water comes in, it doesn’t go back out because of those culverts.”
Input from residents such as Good and Bauman will help the consultants make the flood model more accurate, Hererra project engineer Gus Kays said. The model can then be adjusted to show how changing or removing culverts in the area could reduce flooding.
The model has been developed using Federal Emergency Management Administration flood maps, data gathered by Skagit Fisheries staff, and photos and other evidence of past floods.
The flooding problem is caused by culverts that are too small and are often clogged with debris. Madsen said Skagit Fisheries has discovered beavers are responsible for some of the blockage.
The group’s goal is to develop a plan to replace the culverts. That will improve the movement of water in and out of the slough, making it more accessible to fish and allowing floodwater to retreat more quickly.
For Ed and Kathy Lipsey, the frequent flooding from the slough became too much, and they relocated to Lyman after 25 years in Hamilton.
The Lipseys recently sold their Hamilton home to the Skagit Land Trust, which is collaborating with Skagit Fisheries and the town to create wildlife habitat in frequently flooded parts of town.
“Carey’s Slough cuts through the property, and the Skagit River is along the property also,” land trust land specialist Jane Zillig said. “They get flooded first thing in that area and it’s just good to get people out of there, provide open space for the town and create good habitat.”
The Lipseys’ property is one of three the land trust has purchased in town. Zillig said it was the only one with a home on it.
As the trust purchases properties such as the Lipseys’, it gives the properties to the town. The idea is to leave those properties vacant to reduce concerns about flood damage.
Meanwhile, Skagit Fisheries Enhancement Group is using an about $200,000 grant to design fish habitat for the slough.
Coho and chinook salmon, as well as steelhead trout use the slough, according to the state Department of Fish & Wildlife.
Madsen said Skagit Fisheries also found young coho there this summer, and has gotten reports about cutthroat trout and other fish.
She said Skagit Fisheries plans to have a draft design for the project prepared in June.