Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Skagit Overfloweth

Floods are awesome acts of nature and part of the continuous cycle of life, death, renewal. But if you live on a floodplain, floods are simply destructive and to be feared. Nearly 40% of the 120,000 people who call Skagit County live on the Skagit River Floodplain. Practically the entire cities of Burlington and La Conner are completely on the flood plain. Excellent soils for agriculture-terrible place to live. The county has maintained decent dikes and levees to protect folks and their property from a swelling river--and the county has done a pretty darn good job seeing to it that no more development occurs on the floodplain. It is some of our best agricultural lands after all-excellent wildlife habitat too-and a safety zone for when the river spills over its banks.

I live on higher ground overlooking the floodplain. I am well aware of the folks whose nerves must rattle when the skies open up and the monsoon rains fall. I pray that they do not become victims of a broken levee or a failed dike-and I pray that we stop developing floodplains so that nature may take its course and needless property damage can cease. When I watch the river overflow, for me safe on higher ground-it is truly awesome-man has no dominion over nature when she is raging with water. I marvel when the floodplain suddenly-overnight in many instances sports new lakes. And being in the center of some of the largest wintering grounds for swans-the new lakes soon become dotted with these majestic birds. I love to run down to the new lakes and see these birds-and the clouds reflecting on the murky water. It is eerie and beautiful. Nature recharging right in front of my eyes. In the circle of life, floods are good-they flush nutrients and recharge wetlands-they make new channels and oxbow lakes-they are an important part of of our natural world. But to humans who live and conduct commerce on the floodplain, they wreak havoc and instill fear. Nature is an awesome force and she needs to remind us of that fact every now and then.

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