Clear cutting & rain & mudslides

Seattle was built on steep slopes. Eventually the more extreme hills were leveled. Walking up from the waterfront to downtown Seattle is still a steep uphill trudge. Snohomish county is north of Seattle and the steep hills remain as does the uncivilized practice of clear cutting the trees which might have kept the soil or clay mud on place.

I have lived in the Northwest long enough to see many mudslides after long periods of heavy rains. During the reign of Reagan and then Bush the elder there was a clear cutting orgy as if there was a race with a prize at the end for the killing of the very last old growth tree left standing. Clear cutting trees with the slash and burn piles on steep slopes followed by months of soaking rain equals mud slides. Often there is an effort to replant trees – with a mono species commercial tree. But it takes several decades for the roots to go down far enough to serve as an anchor against human stupidity.

Time will tell us if anything has been learned by the state and local governments who allowed the clear cutting and then the view homes to be built in mud slide prone areas. Studies were made and reports were filed and ignored. There is a mistrust of scientists by many folks in rural Washington. My friends who happen to have a college degree and who make their home in rural, logging friendly parts Washington were told not to mention their degrees to the local folks.

Putting what I know about local politics and prejudices aside I hope that something will be done by the politicians in Olympia next legislative session to get the scientific reports about unstable cliffs that could become the next tragic mudslide.

The western side of Washington State also has slide prone areas along the Puget sound – there are many slide areas visible from the water. Homes have been buried by slides created by clay soil which liquefied after months of rains. On the clear cut cliffs above the beach level home sit the high tax revenue, view homes. The now dead home owner in the sea level homes – are they in the wrong place? Or are the local county officials who ignore the scientific reports the ones at fault? Mud slides are nothing new – the liquefaction of certain types of soils has been demonstrated in laboratories for generations. I remember watching a lab created demonstration put on by the Engineering department at the University when I was a student.


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