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Busted beaver dam floods Snoqualmie neighborhood

Owner Bill Kassian inspects a flood-swamped fir sapling on his Mountain Creek Tree Farm at Ernie
Owner Bill Kassian inspects a flood-swamped fir sapling on his Mountain Creek Tree Farm at Ernie's Grove. A wall of water swept over the Christmas tree farm early Wednesday, June 9, crushing trees and destroying the Kassian family's backyard.
— image credit: Seth Truscott / Snoqualmie Valley Record

A wall of water gave Snoqualmie Christmas tree farmer Bill Kassian a rude awakening Wednesday morning, June 9.

A busted beaver dam at nearby Lake McLeod sent a torrent of water into the Ernie's Grove neighborhood, north of North Bend, inundating fields and stranding dozens of residents.

When the water gushed into the neighborhood around 6 a.m., it backed up at a clogged culvert at North Fork Road, turning Kassian's home into a riverbed.

"It sounded like a train coming through my house," Kassian said. "I got up, looked out my window and used a few choice words."

Deep water

The flood sent large stones and 500-pound chunks of wood ripping through the neighborhood.

"There was an awful lot of water and debris that came out all at once," said King County water and Land Division Spokesman Doug Williamson

Jim Garhart, transportation supervisor for Snoqualmie Valley School District, said bus personnel saw clear water on the North Fork Road at 6:30 a.m.

"By seven o'clock, when my school bus came out here, it was three feet deep and logs," he said. "We did not want to put a bus through."

"We are completely, absolutely stranded," said resident Wanda Neste. She has lived in the vicinity of the North Fork for eight years, but has never gone through a flood this severe.

As flood waters lowered by noon, Weste and other drivers, in trucks and SUVs, braved the murky flow over North Fork Road. Cars and pedestrians had to wait.

"What if there was an emergency, or somebody needed an ambulance?" Neste asked. "Then it's a problem."

Clean up

Waters had subsided by early Wednesday evening, but the creek remained high and muddy 24 hours later.

King County and the Washington Department of Natural Resources responded, and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has issued permits for repairs to a washed-out roadway and the replacement and upgrade of a clogged culvert.

Now, flood-impacted property owners have a big mess to clean up.

About 10 percent of Kassian's Mountain Creek Christmas Tree Farm crop may be ruined by the deluge. His stock for this coming Christmas are fine, but he could have a shortfall for the 2013 holiday season.

Kassian estimates that the flood cost him upwards of $12,000.

Aside from the crops, his home itself is marred by high water. The flood waterlogged his shed, ruined his wife's garden and drug his grandchildren's swingset 100 feet, tearing it to pieces in the process.

For Kassian, the flood capped a spring that was already too wet and cloudy for his firs.

Kassian switched crops from Christmas trees to hogs 30 years ago on the family-run farm at Ernie's Grove after finding it was too wet to raise pigs.

"I'm getting too old for this," he said.

If there's any silver lining for Kassian, it's the patches of mineral-rich silt that might be left behind by the flood. But still, much of his proprrty was also covered with worthless sand instead.

Kassian said he's been through broken beaver dams before, and feels that this flood is different.

In the past, "the water came down and half an hour later, it was gone," he said. "This ain't gone away. It's got to be something more than a beaver pond."

Beaver dam

Another individual who has some repairs to do is the beaver whose dam was washed away to begin with.

However, Jamie Bails, a biologist with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, said the animal has probably already begun repairs.

"Beaver dams impound quite a bit of water," Bails said. "They're quite useful, especially in low water years."

Bails cleared permitting for replacement of the failed North Fork Road culvert with a better, bigger one.

She was unaware of any plans to mitigate the beaver dam at Lake McLeod.

"The beaver will rebuild," she said.

Heavy rains must have undermined the beaver's mud and stick structure.

"They build to codes, but their codes a but more flimsy that ours," Bails said. "They have a lot less paperwork to go through."

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