Construction Moratorium Proposed and Rejected in Mudslide Area

The mudslide on March 22 shocked Washington and the nation with its sudden devastation. But as area residents know all too well, it was hardly an isolated case.

Western Washington’s damp oceanic climate creates the perfect topographical conditions for landslide. While not every slide results in a staggering number of casualties like the most recent one in Snohomish County, they typically leave heartbreaking destruction in their wake.

Attorney Ron Perey, of the Perey Law Firm, has heard several such stories from mudslide victims in the past. For victims like these, he says there is a consistent need for specific information on the day-to-day risks posed by the area’s unique topography. He said recently that residents must rely on the government’s scientists to make the right decisions about this “hyper-specific” area of science.

‘We Just Didn’t Know When’

Perey’s opinion is confirmed by a 15-year-old report filed with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Back in 1999, this report plainly spelled out the dangers of the area. The report’s co-author, geomorphologist Daniel J. Miller, told the Seattle Times:

“We’ve known it would happen at some point. We just didn’t know when.”

Miller and his wife Lynne have researched and documented the landslide conditions of that specific hill, east of the town of Arlington, for years. As far back as the 1950s, studies showed that the hill was unstable, despite all efforts to shore it up. In one news story from 1967, residents referred to it at “Slide Hill,” while the creeks below it were called “Slide Creek” and “Mud Flow Creek.”

It appears the area’s proneness to mudslides was common knowledge.

But that is not the line that the local government was taking.

The Snohomish County’s Department of Emergency Management claimed utter shock at the landslide. Department head John Pennington told the news:

“This was a completely unforeseen slide. This came out of nowhere.”

This is the take that has allowed new construction to consistently take place in the area, even within the slide zone. Only three days after the mudslide of 2006, locals were shocked to see new homes going up on the hillside.

At this point, however, that may be about to change.

A Moratorium?

A moratorium was been proposed that would make most of the unincorporated areas of the county off-limits to builders. The Snohomish County Council was divided over the moratorium, and it was pulled from consideration in early May.

‘Get the Help You Need’

The Perey Law Firm may be able to help you win the resources you need to recover your life in cases of mudslide and other negligence. Contact us today at (206) 443-7600 or fill out the form on this page for a no-cost consultation.

Video credit: Seattle Times

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