Flood program saves livestock in November storm

Last month’s extensive flooding on King County rivers provided a critical test of the flood protection measures that King County approved last year to help farmers.

Revised land use rules allowed farmers to construct livestock sanctuaries, or farm pads, which are raised mounds of earth where livestock can be moved safely above flood waters temporarily. Several farmers used their new farm pads to harbor cattle, horses, other livestock and farm equipment as flood waters overflowed from the Snoqualmie and Tolt Rivers and inundated the Snoqualmie Valley.

Following the record-breaking flooding of November 2006, in which a number of livestock suffered hypothermia or drowned, King County approved a demonstration project to improve existing farm pads. At the recommendation of the Snoqualmie Valley Flood-Farm Task Force, the county agreed in June of this year to make farm pads a permanent protection measure for farmers located in a floodway in the county’s Agricultural Production Districts.

“Amid the dangers of the flooding, it was very encouraging to hear reports and to see video and news coverage of farms where animals had been saved by taking refuge on the higher ground created by a farm pad,” said Councilmember Kathy Lambert, who represents the Snoqualmie Valley. “In some cases, just a few feet or inches above the rushing water was all that was needed to save farm animals as well as feed and supplies. King County’s flood protection efforts were just in time to save local farmers from losing everything in this latest locally declared emergency. This important flood protection measure is now working to support local agriculture and sustainable communities.”

“I was pleased to learn that farm pads helped Snoqualmie Valley farmers avoid more serious losses during the recent flood emergency,” said Councilmember Dow Constantine. “This shows that minor, common-sense changes to land use regulations can bring major benefits to property owners and the community.”

The Snoqualmie Valley is home to the largest agricultural production district in King County, but is subjected to regular flooding that damages crops, drowns livestock and destroys farm equipment, hay, seeds, bulbs and farm supplies.

“The farm pad that we have worked marvelously,” said Michaele Blakely of Growing Things Farm in Carnation, who was able to move three pigs and about 1,000 birds as well as equipment to safety. “It was a lifesaver for us. We lost so much equipment in the 2006 flood. This time we were able to save everything. If we had not finished that farm pad in September, we would have lost things again.”

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