Researched, assembled and organized by: Dan Berentson, Josef and Larry Kunzler
Index prepared by Larry Kunzler, 4/1/2005





The Skagit News

(“TSN”) [1]


to the senate and house of representatives

            The undersigned citizens of Skagit County, State of Washington, believe that a fair consideration of the conditions surrounding the Skagit River and tributary country will induce such liberal action on the part of Congress as will meet the requirements of our present environments and prevent any disaster in the future such as we have suffered in the past.  . . .  The surveys already made, and the map attached hereto sustains the statement that there are tributary to Skagit River about forty Townships, or over fourteen hundred square miles of land.  A large proportion of this country is now, and all of it, when developed, must be largely dependent for its commerce on this important River.  It is navigable for light draft Steamers from its mouth to Sauk City, a distance of about seventy miles, and at some seasons to Marblemount, fifteen miles above Sauk City.  . . .  A system of dikes extends on both sides of the River from its mouth to and above the village of Avon, about fifteen miles; and connecting with the main system, are other dikes, running across the level country toward LaConner and other points to the North and South of the River.  This diking system has been rendered necessary by the filling in of the bed and mouths of the River, from causes which will be explained, and ought to be remedied.  The system, already constructed and maintained, embraces one hundred and fifty-eight miles of dikes, and has cost in money and labor expended in construction, the large sum of three hundred and thirty-five thousand dollars.  All of this has been expended by owners of land in the Skagit valley, including the residents of towns liable to inundation.  . . . 

Before the mouth of the river began to be obstructed, the accumulating waters of the greatest freshets did not overflow the banks.  A channel varying in depth from twelve to twenty feet was a sufficient outlet for all the water that passed in swift torrents from the mountains and highlands of the North and East.  . . .  The main channel or mouth of the River is now closed from an accumulation of logs, driftwood and sediment.  Where a few years ago Steamers could safely navigate in fifteen feet of water persons can now walk from one bank of the River to the other on logs, or other obstruction.  The only entrance from the Sound into the Skagit is by way of a small Slough, narrow and unsafe, and through which Steamers at high tide can find only about six feet of water.  The North fork of the River, through which navigation was formerly maintained, is now practically closed, and no boat can traverse its waters.  The South fork is only navigable from Fir, where it flows through and becomes a part of Steamboat Slough, heretofore mentioned.  Various reasons may be assigned for the obstruction and closing of the two mouths of the River, but until Boom Companies were permitted to place obstructions in the River and to locate their booms and appliances near the mouths, there was no trouble about overflows.

            We call your attention to the fact that since November, 1892, the floods in the Skagit have four times swept over the banks, broken the dikes and inundated the surrounding country.  The destruction of property by the overflow in November, 1892, and January, 1895, was not very great, but the overflow in May, 1894, and June of that year entailed a direct loss on the people of the Skagit Valley as shown by estimates attached hereto, approximating one-half million of dollars.  The town of Mount Vernon was entirely flooded, small boats and rafts navigated the streets and the people were driven from their homes for safety to the hills.  The damage to public and private property was great, and the suffering from exposure and sickness was distressing.



Unfortunately the newspaper did not publish the names or who wrote this Memorial.



The first documented “investigation” of the Skagit River was done by the Corps of Engineers in 1890.  On October 13, 1890 Capt. E.H. Jefferson wrote:  “There are several sloughs and channels through which the river finds its way to salt water.  Steamboat Slough is the principal one, and used by the Steamers.  The others are inferior and operated by the log-boom companies.” 


158 miles of dikes.  Cost $335,000.







These paragraphs strongly suggest that before the log boom companies came that the river did not flood.  This of course was not true.


The 1897 Corps survey map shows that the “Old Main Channel” was completely obstructed with log jams.  One has to wonder how much of this log jam was created by the removal of the log jams further upriver at Mt. Vernon.






Previously it has been believed that the only time downtown Mt. Vernon went underwater was in the flood of 1897. (See Skagit Argus article 12/15/21.)  Clearly this Memorial contradicts that statement.  It is also the first time that a summer flood was documented as having hit the valley.  Why didn’t Stewart find any evidence of this flood event or for that matter even mention it?


The Highest Water Known

The highest water in the Skagit River known to white men occurred last night.  On last Thursday a Chinook wind commenced to blow which was accompanied by a warm rain.  This rapidly cut away the snow which for several weeks had been creeping down the mountain sides.  The wind continued over Friday when the river commenced to rise rapidly.  By Saturday afternoon the river was booming and many thought it had reached its highest stage.  This however, was not the case as it continued to creep upward during yesterday, and until last night.  As the water gradually rose on the levees it became apparent that unless strenuous efforts were made to raise them, the town would be flooded.  The experience of former occasion was enough to induce all parties to lend a hand, so that when the fire bell rang out the alarm, not for fire gut water, an army of men turned out with shovels and commended to build a dike on top of the levee, commending at the hill and working clear down through the city.  This work saved the town, and but for it, from ten to eighteen inches of water would have swept over the levees and through the city. 

. . . Six hundred feet of the Great Northern railroad track between the bridge and Burlington were washed out, . . . The protection pier at the Great Northern bridge was knocked out and that structure was in great danger of being washed away.  . . . Two big breaks in the levee on the west side occurred.  One near F.C. Ward’s place, the other at D. Storr’s place.  The whole west side including West Mt. Vernon, is a lake.


USGS (Stewart) says 185,000 cfs  at Sedro-Woolley.  No figure for Concrete.


“The experience of former occasion was enough to induce all parties to lend a hand…”  This statement confirms that downtown Mt. Vernon had indeed gone under before.

According to COE reports there were 3 floods in 1896.  January, June & November.  The COE Taylor Report 12/11/1897 stated that “River reportedly was 24 ft on Great Northern Railroad Bridge 6 miles above Mt. Vernon.”, which was 2 ft and 4 ft above the January and June floods respectively. 


Burlington levees broke.  Westside Mt. Vernon levees broke.

Clearly damage not as great as 1917.


Protecting the banks

One of the most important questions for the consideration of the settlers of the Skagit Valley is an adequate protection to the rivers banks from wash during high water.  It is possible to build a levee of sufficient height to prevent overflow, but it is impossible to build a levee that shall withstand the slow undermining of the river at its base.  So far, several methods have been tried but none of them are entirely satisfactory.  The New Orleans Picayune of Aug. 16 has a description of a system which has been tried along the banks of the Mississippi, with the most satisfactory results.  The following extract from the article will explain the system:

The system was invented by Messers. R.H.F. and N. H. Sewall.  The former gentlemen being interviewed stated that their system of dikes is nothing new to the engineers and citizens at large who are interested in such work.  . . .  The plan is to construct spur dikes of timber at intervals along the caving banks.  These dikes project upstream at an angle of about 25 degrees.  They are constructed of piling driven 80 to 85 feet into the river bottom; the water will fall into the angle formed by the dike and the bank, and be held there, forming a motionless body of water on both sides of the dike, which leaves no pressure against same.  The deposit of the silt laden waters of the Mississippi will b stopped by the dike and will gradually settle, forming an accretion which will eventually create a batture[2].

New Kind of Dikes









The Sewall’s might have taken credit for this design but it is very similar to what a hydraulic engineer professor in the early 1500’s taught to his class.  That engineer was Leonardo daVinci. 


The great flood -- The Skagit on a big tear -- The Skagit Valley From The Baker Valley To The LaConner Flats Washed By The Ruinous Flood—Stock And Improvements Carried Away

On Wednesday of last week, the wind began to blow from southeast and, before evening had developed into a chinook gale. Unfortunately for the river bottom settlers of the Skagit valley, the warm wind continued until about 4 p.m. Sunday.  On Friday the Skagit began to rise quite rapidly and continued rising at an average rate of three inches an hour until Sunday morning when it began to abate. In the afternoon of that day, the river had risen until all previous highwater marks at Sedro was one foot seven inches under water.  The whole valley east of Sedro was a floating wilderness.  Hamilton was totally inundated; one brick building having caved in and several frame ones torn from their foundations.  The county bridges recently constructed wee destroyed and the improved roads that had become the pride of the upper valley became an easy prey to the devastating waters.  Lower Sedro suffered heavily.  A large number of cattle and small stock perished and buildings ruthlessly torn from their foundations were cast hap-hazard amid the heaps of debris.  Mortimer Cook’s store that has weathered the floods and storms of fifteen years, rose with the eddying waters and turned half way round before lodging against some trees and stumps.

. . . South Burlington sustained great damage.  Houses and barns were undermined and toppled to the ground and the winter’s supply which they contained scattered on the tide.  The fencing of years yielded to the flood and the clearings that represented the toil of a decade were covered with the debris of the surrounding forest.  . . .  West Mount Vernon is next in line of progress and received no favor from the impartial flood.  The water, rising from one to two feet above the first floor of the dwellings, swept fences and everything movable before it.  . . .  In the year 1878 Joseph Hart, our well known fellow citizen, came to Puget Sound and two years latter came to the Skagit valley, just prior to the great flood of 1880.  Since the flood of that year there have been three freshets that have equaled it in height, and the one we chronicle this week surpassed it by eighteen inches.  . . .  In speaking of the floods and their causes, Mr. Hart said:  “At the time of my coming to the valley there had been no freshets of note for many years, and the one that came in 1880 was a damper to the enthusiasm of the dwellers on the marsh lands; but, as several years rolled by without a repetition of the catastrophe and a system of dikes was inaugurated, contentment banished fear.  Shortly after the memorable high water of that year, I had a talk with an old Indian and his squaw, who used to live on Skiyou Island but have since died of small-pox.  These worthies took me to a tree near by and directed my attention to a water mark at least six feet higher than the highest point reached by the recent freshet and said that when they were children the great flood swept down the valley carrying death and destruction everywhere.  He said:  ‘The lodges of my people were carried with their canoes and winters food out to the great waters, and they were left to suffer the horrors of starvation and death from exposure to the inclement elements.  The snows of winter fell to an unusual depth and the animals upon which we were wont to subsist, greatly reduced in numbers by drowning and driven into the mountain fastnesses by the raging torrent, were hard to get and very poor.  The fish we had prepared for winter use were destroyed by the angry waters and we were made to suffer the wrath of the Great Spirit.’ ” Continuing Mr. Hart said:  “Judging from the apparent age of the Indians at that time I should place the time of that greatest of the great freshets at about the beginning of the present century, and was caused according to the story of these Indians, by heavy snows coming early in the fall, which were immediately succeeded by a very warm Chinook wind which blew for many days.  As to this being the only and real cause of the unprecedented high water, however, I have my doubts.  Our fellow townsman, Mr. H.L. Devin, was some years ago engaged in surveying in the upper valley in the vicinity of Baker Lake.  Being detained over night in an Indian camp, he was told the history of a great flood.  They said that about 60 years ago a great slide had choked up the narrow outlet of the Baker Valley and that the water accumulated in the basin thus formed until the whole valley was an immense lake, full 80 feet deep.  By this time the imprisoned waters had burst through the dam and in a few hours this great volume of water was precipitated into the Skagit flooding the whole valley.  The water marks still plainly visible high up the sides of the Baker Valley and the great variation in those upon the trees as you come down the Skagit would indicate that this was the real cause of that terrible disaster.





3 inches an hour for approximately 48 hours would be 144 inches or only 12 feet.  This would not be a very large flood by todays standards even if we assume the river was at 20 feet when it started to rise.  This could explain why the COE stated the BNSF RR bridge only reached 24 feet (See TSN entry 11/16/1898).  Burlington at that time was not protected by levees and the water must have flowed down Gages Slough.


Cook’s store was located on the edge of the river.


South Burlington would have been the Gages Slough area.  No references to downtown Burlington.


West Mt. Vernon water one to two feet deep.



Water only a foot and a half more then three previous floods since 1880.  This would have included the 1884 flood that inundated downtown Mt. Vernon.  (See 1895 article above.)







This would have been the 1815 flood Stewart talked about.  Stewart later recanted this by saying The old Indian who told Hart and others at Sedro Woolley in 1879 that the flood was when he was a boy either referred to another flood or they did not understand him.”

(Source:  Transcription of Stewart “flood notes” on 9/16/22 by USGS 6/30/23 re Reflector Bar near Marblemount)







The narrow outlet in the Baker Valley would be where Upper Baker Dam is now.  Baker River before the dam ran on the east side of Baker Valley.


Water marks up the sides of the Baker Valley and on trees down the Skagit.  USGS now says this flood never happened because they can’t find any evidence.


Dikes And Fisheries

Upon the call of Representative J. E. Nelson quite a large number of Skagit county people who are interested in the subjects of dikes and fisheries gathered in the court house in Mount Vernon last Tuesday and a thorough discussion was had of the needs of the county in relation to the above subjects.  In the matter of improving the diking system it was the universal opinion that the first and most important steps to be taken is to secure the removal of the “boom works” from the mouth of the river so that the water will carry its load of debris out to sea instead of depositing it in the river channels where it forms a dam to the free outlet.  Old settlers related that in the early days before the erection of the “boom works” there were three clear channels out to deep water with a depth of from 16 to 18 feet of water, but immediately following the construction of the “boom works” the channels began to fill up with drift until now there is but one navigable channel and that has only a depth of about 6 or 8 feet in a most tortuous channel.  . . .  In regard to the fishing interests it was the general opinion that laws should be passed prohibiting the erection of traps in or near the mouth of any river or in any “fish runway.”  And further that the state would foster the fishing industry by the establishment of an additional number of hatcheries.


River used to have “3 clear channels”.  The one they are talking about in this article is Steamboat Slough.






North and South Forks used to be 16 to 18 feet deep.


Steamboat Slough 6-8 feet deep.


No “fish traps” in or near the mouth of river or in any “fish runways”.  Should build fish hatcheries.


Disastrous Flood -- Mt. Vernon Is A Heavy Sufferer

Levees Overflowed and Sidewalks Washed Out.  A Torrent of Water Pours Through The City.  Several Houses Wrecked and One or Two Narrow Escapes.

On Wednesday morning a very warm Chinook wind commended to blow which increased in force until evening, when it was almost a gale.  This hot wind blowing directly on the snow which had been creeping down the hills for the last few weeks, cut it away with the rapidity of fire, and resulted in a raging torrent rushing down the valley of the Skagit on its way to the sea.   The rise did not commence until Wednesday evening, as it usually takes from twelve to fourteen hours for the effects of a Chinook to make their appearance, and the same time to cease.  By Thursday the river was still raising but still within the banks.  During the night, however the water came with increased force, and early on Friday morning the alarm was whistled from the electric light plant which called for help only to find the water pouring over the levees in all directions.  Some efforts were made to raise the levees and keep ahead of the water, but it came so fast that they were useless.  . . .  In the southern part of the city, the very lowest quarter, a great break occurred in the levee, caused by the water pouring over the top, which swept everything before it with irresistible force.  . . .  After the flood Kincaid Street presented a sight that was dismal in the extreme, being washed out and lined with debris from one end to the other.  All other parts of the city were in nearly as bad condition.  . . .  From Conway to salt water, the flood poured over the top of the levee the entire distance on the east side of the river.

On the west side of the river several small breaks occurred letting through large volumes of water.  But little damage was caused however.  . . .  At one time the bridge across the river at this point was in real danger.  A jam had formed on one of the piers which gradually increased in size until it reached almost across the river.  By good work and the liberal use of giant powder, the jam was finally broken, and the bridge cleared.  It is badly damaged however, and cannot be used by teams until repaired.  The protection pier on the next span east of the draw was knocked completely out, and the full force of the jam came against the main pier, springing it fully 18 inches out of plumb.  . . .  At the mouth of the river, steamboat slough, the only channel that can be used by steamboats, is completely blockaded.  . . .  The Great Northern coast line was overflowed as usual, but not so badly damaged as it was last year.  The first train from the south came in today.  A jam formed against the bridge at the Davis place, and came near taking it out.  As it was the protection piers were knocked out, and the rails on the bridge were sprung fully 18 inches.



USGS (Stewart) says 275,000 cfs at Concrete, 190,000 cfs Sedro-Woolley.




12-14 hours is still what it takes for flood waters to get from Concrete to Mt. Vernon.


Water pouring “over” the levees.  This is the first time we have seen evidence of water over the levees.


Downtown Mt. Vernon flooded.





Kincaid Street washed out.


Conway levees overtopped.  Fir Island levees broke.


Log jam on Riverside bridge.






Steamboat Slough blocked with log jam.  No channel open to the sound.


Great Northern (BNSF) bridge damaged by log jam.





the sterling cut-off

Meeting at Commercial Club Last Tuesday – some opposition met with by property owners in that locality

            The meeting held on Tuesday afternoon at the Commercial Club rooms to consider the matter of securing the right-of-way for the Sterling Bend Cut-off in the Skagit river was largely attended by the owners of property adjacent to the proposed cut-off, and the owners of property which is being damaged by the present erratic course of the river.  The urgent necessity for action in securing an appropriation as soon as possible in order to prevent the  great amount of further damage threatened, seemed to be thoroughly appreciated by all who have seen the effects of the high floods during a long residence along the river, but it developed that parties who have recently settled on the river and have not had any experience of extreme high waters were unable to appreciate the possible consequences to their property should the cut-off fail to be secured.

Sterling Cut-Off


It is believed that they were talking about cutting off the Sterling Bend as at that time the Skagit used to flow around Hart’s Island and during times of flooding the river would flow across Highway 20 (the “Old Dollar Road”) into Gages Slough (Varney Slough).

In 1911 during a very small flood event the local farmers took dynamite and blew up a log jam causing the river to change channel. (Source:  1923 Stewart Report)


The ferry

The above illustration of the ferry across the Skagit river at the foot of Third Street is from a negative made by G. C. White.  It is a spot visited by many during the pleasant weather, the beauties of the Skagit river being presented in a charming manner to those who take a trip across.  At this point the river is nearly a thousand feet across.  The Skagit river bears the distinction of being the largest water course in the state, after the Columbia.  The scenery along the banks is varied, increasing in beauty in its upward course.  Several of these ferry’s are in operation at different points along the river.

Skagit River Ferries

This is a great picture of how local residents would cross the river in “the early days.”


Developing The Country  --  Railway Activity Is Skagit County

The Great Northern is Planning Much Improvement for Next Year

Within the next year Skagit county will be developed more than has been the case since the county has been in existence.  This is made possible from the fact that Mr. James J. Hill, who deserves the title of Father of the Northwest, is planning many valuable improvements on such a nature as will bring into the county hundreds of people who will settle upon the rich lands and improve and develop the many resources.  . . .  For a number of years the mining men of Skagit Pass, of Ruby and State creek have cried out for roads and transportation facilities, but have been unable to get them.  . . .  That Skagit county has paying mineral deposits there is but the slightest question.  She has not only gold and silver but iron and copper and cement rock and other valuable minerals.  . . .  But the mineral is not Mr. Hills only object, there are great forests of timber to be moved and there are fertile acres to be developed in the future.

Railroad Development










There’s gold in them thar hills.


And a few trees and good farmland too.


Our Resources Are Many -- A Splendid Poor Man’s Country

Work is Plentiful at All Times and Wages are Always Good

What Skagit county needs is more people to develop the great rich fields which spread off every hand.  There is not a country on earth where so many rich stores await the hand of toil and there is not a land extant where the poor man can so nicely get along and soon be in easy circumstances.  Skagit county is one vast field of richness, producing the greatest hay, grain, vegetables and fruits to be found anywhere and once this becomes known to the eastern man who is seeking a home, it will be only the matter of a very few years until this whole country will be alive with industrious men, building homes and developing the great resources which surround them.  Our county needs advertising we must place before the people that which we have for sale.  . . .  Let the eastern people know that we have a land of perfect health, that we have no heat or cold to the extreme, just an even, pleasant climate where health is catching and nature has a bountifully blessed the country with scenic mountains, sapphire seas, fantastic forest, green islands, and crystal lakes.  Let this be known and Skagit county will not be long in claiming her own. 

The Selling of Skagit County


“What Skagit County needs is more people . . . . “  Perhaps today this statement would not be so true.


Interesting in this article is that it doesn’t mention floods.


Skagit River Out Of Its Banks

Water In Valley Highest Known for Years—Burlington High and Dry—Very Little Damage

On Thursday evening the Skagit river was the highest known for years.  Some damage was done at various points on the river.  West Mt, Vernon was flooded, but with very light damage.  The west span of the bridge at that place was swept away.  The draw on the railroad bridge was slightly damaged by a heavy drift but will soon be repaired.  No water came within the corporate limits of Burlington except in the slough in the east part of town, and no damage was done.



USGS (Stewart) says 180,000 cfs at Sedro-Woolley.  No figure for Concrete.


“highest known for years”  Should have read highest since 1897 which according to USGS was 275,000 cfs at Concrete and 190,000 cfs at Sedro-Woolley.   Burlington had no water in 1906 according to this article. 


Highest Water In Many Years – Skagit River Goes On Big Rampage

All Bridges are Damaged and Dikes Broken in a Number of Places Along the River

While no great amount of damage resulted, it is never the less a fact that the old timer does not remember when the Skagit river contained as much water as it did Thursday night and Friday, and only prompt action on the part of the city officials and citizens saved the town from being inundated.  The dikes here were very secure and did not break but the torrents of water poured over them and it was only by prompt action on the part of the citizens, who labored like Trojans filling sacks of sand and placing them in the low places, that saved the city from another baptism worse than that of 1897, as the water was at least eight inches higher than it was during that memorable freshet.   . . .  The greatest damage done is to the numerous bridges along the river. The railway bridge between this city and Burlington has been greatly damaged and one span of the Mt. Vernon bridge was swept away which leaves the city practically cut away from all communications.  . . . The bridge at this place will never lament with safety, one span carried away, the others injured. A ferry will be established and sustained here until such time as a new bridge can be constructed.  . . . . These floods are fraught with no great danger and throughout the country where the dikes gave way there has been no loss of life and but little damage to property and the farmers are not at all discouraged or alarmed about the future. The dikes in the main remained secure and when the damaged dikes are repaired they will be made sufficiently strong to withstand all future floods. Any home seeker or investor when contemplating coming to Skagit Valley should not hesitate to do so for in truth these floods are of no great consequence except what damage is done to bridges. They really benefit the land, but there is no doubt but in future years the dikes will be so strengthen as to withstand these floods and the country back of them will always remain dry.

Reported Flood Levels do not Support Stewart


“no great damage”.


Mt. Vernon levees did not break.




This begs the question how did they end up with 8 inches higher water with 5,000 cfs less water.



Bridges damaged.



“No great danger from floods.”  In a few years they will regret making that statement.




Floods “really benefit the land.”


There should not be too much blame laid at the door of the dike commissioners because of the dikes breaking.  Those dikes wee built under many difficulties and considering the newness of the country they have held in pretty good shape.  The majority of dikes withstood the floods and in a majority of cases the commissioners are to be commended upon their excellent work.  Where logs or stumps were left in the dikes it is to be regretted, but remember that at this time floods extended almost from coast to coast.

Dike Commissioners Not The Blame




Freaks Of The Big Freshet -- Many Curious Turns Are Suddenly Taken

Great Excavations are Made Showing the Wonderful Depth of Skagit County Soil

Although no great killing damage was done by the deed of last week, still at certain places the waters cut many curious capers, especially on the ferry road above the city where the greatest amount of damage was done to fences, walks, houses and barns.  In places great excavations 400 feet in length and several feet deep were made.  . . . Great stumps were washed out by the roots leaving the deep excavations all the way from 12 to 20 feet in depth.  Old logs which had been buried no doubt for a century were exhumed by the playful waters leaving great trenches washed deep into the soil.  Below the city in the vicinity of Cedardale, the dykes gave way because of stumps being unintentionally left in them.  These stumps were several feet below the surface and unknown to the dike commissioners.  The waters however entered a rat hole, found their way and the stumps came to the surface by following the crevices made by the stumps at last passing through and soon soaked the dike until it gave way.  The waters then lifted the great roots from hiding places of great years and tumbled them into the great torrents which rushed through the dikes.  . . .  The report published in the P.I. that the dykes at Avon had broken is false, as there is not a break in the dyke within a mile of that town. . . .  The dykes at Mt. Vernon did not break, all stood secure until the city limits were passed.  Just above the city the dyke gave way and the water backed into West Mt. Vernon, making quite a serious time for their inhabitants of that side of the river, but all escaped unharmed, no less save a few chickens.  . . .  The citizens take the freaks of the river in a philosophical manner and are not in the least discouraged.

Dikes Blew Because of “Rat Holes & Stumps”



Great excavations 400 ft in length and several feet deep. 



Old logs buried for 100 years.








Avon levees did not break.  City of Mt. Vernon levees did not break.  Just above city levees broke and backed into West Mt. Vernon.



Floods not a big deal??


True flood report

We have done a little wading and done a little swimming, And we hit for good tall timber when the river got to raging, But we didn’t lose our horses, our cattle, nor our women, Though the water was rather wet and quite above its staging.  . . .

So here’s to good ole Mt. Vernon and the fertile Skagit valley, We don’t care for the river if she does go on a spree, Let her fill her banks and gurgle, and boil, and foam, and sally, It’s the land of milk and honey she is kissing, don’t you see?



Poem downplays the impacts of the flood.


Raging Waters – That Came and have gone and the harm done.

Skagit County Suffers Little in Comparison with other sections of the State—Useless Fears of Future.

So far as can be learned the recent flare-up of the Skagit river and its tributaries concentrated its damaging effects against bridges and railroads.  No loss of Human life, except that of Mr. H. Peterson at Mt. Vernon, was caused by it.  The case of Mr. Peterson was the result of a self inflicted accident caused by coming in contact with the iron crank used in opening and closing the draw on the county bridge at Mt. Vernon.  A blast to loosen a jam of debris in the river was about to be fired, and in running in the darkness to a place of safety the unfortunate man collided with the iron and injured himself internally, from which he died the day after.  . . .  At Mr. Vernon, while the water over-flowed low places on the dike, by vigilance and hard work the citizens prevented the water making dangerous inroads.  West Mt. Vernon was less fortunate and the town was flooded to a considerable extent but without serious loss.  The dikes both above and below Mt. Vernon broke, but the overflow is, in most cases, looked upon as a benefit rather than an injury to the land covered.  . . .  The railroad bridge between Burlington and Mt. Vernon was put out of commission for several days by drift striking and throwing the draw out of line.  . . .  The water in Big Lake, it is said, was backed up into the basements of several houses.  North of the river the water backs in west of the railroad tracks for a considerable distance toward town, while the water in the slough between the town and river made things look serious for a time, and a rise of a few more inches would have put Sedro-Woolley into the flooded district. . . . The rapid succession of rises and overflows is the subject of much conjecture and comparison with old time occurrences of a like nature.  High water marks of former days are contrasted with those being made, and imagination lures the possibilities of the future.  In this relation it should be remembered that, with the obstruction made by the dense forests and under-growths of years ago, the water which has recently ran out of the mountains and hills would have been backed up to the highest marks made by the flood anywhere in the past.  Whatever may happen in the future it has been fairly demonstrated that Skagit County is not in danger of a widely disastrous overflow.  The greatest danger that threatens is to those who might be affected by a change of the river’s course, which even now is demonstrated to be not unlikely.  The removal of timber quite likely has something to do with climatic changes that are said to be notable in this country.  The same thing lessens resistance to any change of base crowding water will cause the river to make.  It is possible that an extreme was reached in the last rise and that the worst that can occur has been demonstrated and has passed.  If that is true the lesson taught should prepare everyone for any future occurrence.


USGS (Stewart) says 180,000 cfs at Sedro-Woolley.  No figure for Concrete.


Death of Mr. Peterson.




Log jams “blasted” off of bridges.



Levees overtopped.


Floods and levee breaks in most cases looked upon as a benefit rather than an injury to the land.

Levees broke above and below Mt. Vernon.


GNRR (BNSF) bridge between Mt. Vernon and Burlington damaged.


Big Lake backs up.



Attributes past high water marks to dense forest.

“Skagit County is not in danger of a widely disastrous overflow.”  Really?




Sounds like they are describing “global warming.”


As will be demonstrated later the extreme was not reached in the 1906 flood event as the 1909, 1917 and 1921 floods were higher.


Refugee Notes from East Burlington

The Skagit river has again risen in her majesty, and outdone its previous efforts for some years back.  Everybody at Sterling south of the railroad track was compelled to move, some not getting their household goods high enough, as the water kept raising were obliged to move again.  . . .  Buzz Jewell suffered the greatest financial loss of anyone, as the river raised so that it covered most of his forty acres, and poured over the county roads in such volumes as to cut a chasm thirty feet wide and fifteen feet deep, the roaring of which could be heard half a mile away.  Jeffery Grimbly and wife moved out in season to escape being rescued by a raft this time, “I think the women all bore in mind the instance of one lady during the last flood, being carried out and deposited upon a raft outside the front gate, and determined to get out while the traveling was good.”  . . .  In the dwellings of Messers. Grimbly, Chappeau, and Raymont the water came up to the door knobs.  . . .  The flood did no damage to Wm. Crotchett except to fill all the holes in and about his barn yard.  It poured a wide stream of water over the county road and ran over the road into the slough.  . . .  The bridge over the slough by Wm. Miller’s place is impassable, having been built on logs, which were jarred loose lifting the bridge about three feet into space at one end.

East and South Burlington Damage

Sterling damaged.







Water at least 3 feet deep in houses.




Floodwaters found their way to Gages Slough.


What we have.

Come this way Mr. Traveler, and never be afraid, The floods have all subsided; we no longer have to wade, Trout are in the river we catch them at our ease, The weather’s moderated, no danger of a freeze, The winds are blowing milder, we feel a sort of charm, And the waters which were raging have ceased from doing harm, . . . Come out here Mr. Eastern man and settle down with us, Land’s so poor back yonder you can scarcely raise a fuss.  But here’s the land of plenty, the land of perfect ease, And the milk and honey’s flowing from the cows and honey bees.


Another poem by Charlie Gant downplaying the impact of floods.


Bond County For Bridges --Taxpayers Should Vote Sufficient Bonds

County Must Progress and Many New Bridges Are an Absolute Necessity

The News-Herald believes only in bonds when bonds are an absolute necessity, and it would seem that at this time such is the case.  There never was a time in the history of this county when bridges were such an absolute necessity.  The county at the present is maintaining eleven ferries at a cost of $3,036, this is for ferry tenders alone, not speaking of the expense of the repairs.  If we had three of four new bridges the county could save $996 per year on hire alone, but this is not the point at issue.  In maintaining these ferries the county will eventually pay out money enough to have built a steel bridge wherever needed and will not have a thing to show for it aside from a few cables and a few worthless old scows.  . . .  Ferries are dangerous, especially the weaklings which are constructed along the Skagit river.  There has been loss of life and property on these ferries.  They are only temporary, while steel bridges properly constructed are good for a lifetime, and once they are constructed the taxpayers feel secure, knowing that the expense is almost at an end.  At the present time the county is paying out annually enough to pay the interest on the amount necessary to construct these bridges, and why not do it?

New Bridges Needed



County needed steel bridges over the Skagit River.  Editor wanted to do away with the 11 ferries being operated at the County taxpayer expense.


Bridge Ready For Service--Repairs Are Now In Good Order

Excellent Work on the Part of Our County Commissioners and the Citizens of Mt. Vernon

The span in the bridge which was washed away during the flood has been replaced by a new one and the farmers can now cross with their teams.  The new span which rests upon large new piling is perfectly secure in every respect and will answer admirably until such time when the county is in shape to put in a new bridge, or at least until the next freshet.

Riverside Bridge Repaired



Span washed away in flood had been replaced.  Article states they did not think it would withstand another freshet.


Ask $100,000 For The Improvement Of The Skagit River

U.S. Engineers Report – Favorably on the Proposition to Improve Navigation on Skagit River. Will Confine Water to Main Channel

some details of Maj. Chittenden’s plan, recommends a modified plan to cost $100,000, through following to a considerable extent the plan outlined by Maj. Chittenden.  The chief obstacles to navigation in the Skagit as seen by Maj. Chittenden in his report are “the shoals at the mouth of the stream, the bad bars or shoals which interfere with low water navigation and the great quantity of driftwood and snags in the river.”  “Beginning with the junction of the north and the south forks in the delta of the river, the energy of the current is greatly dissipated by numerous channels and on the tide flats by a general dispersion of the current in all directions.”  The report favored the partial closing of the north channel to increase the current energy in the main channel by way of the south fork.  For this work Maj. Chittenden estimated a cost of $95,250.  . . .  In a previous report, April 15, 1907, he had pointed out that the total commerce on the river for 1906 reached 188,283½ tons, valued at $1,766,452.  . . .  As a result of a personal examination of the Skagit river from Sedro-Woolley to its mouth, including both north and south forks, the conclusion has been reached that the only means of securing a reliable channel or entrance to this river that will benefit existing commerce is by the construction of a dike at the mouth of the south fork, following generally the line laid down in the report of Maj. Chittenden, and by cutting off or regulating the flow through the other channels.  . . .  “The estimate is as follows:  16,000 feet of retaining dike, at $80,000; regulating dikes and mattress sill at head of north fork, $6,000; cutting off subsidiary channels at the delta, $5,000; superintendence and contingencies, 10 percent, $9,000, total $100,000.

Corps of Engineers Plan

For Improving Navigation



Several times this report recommends cutting off the flow of river water through the subsidiary channels.  The work that was carried out was further described in COE Cavanaugh Report 12/6/12 & COE Woodruff Report 10/10/19 and COE Butler Report 2/8/28.  What this strongly suggests is that it was not the farmers at least on Fir Island that blocked off the estuary flows but the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  Clearly this had a tremendous impact on fish.


High Water On Skagit River Break All Past Records

Fairhaven Avenue Flooded With a Foot and a Half of Water River Raises Twenty-four Feet Above Low Water Mark -- Mark—Above all Past Records

[4]Some among the oldest settlers of Skagit County are found to make the statement that never before have they seen the river rise to the marks reached during the flood, which came during the first part of the present week.  . . . At about 10 o’clock Monday night, W.H. Joyce who lives just east of town, gave the alarm by phone, announcing that the water had broken over the county road east of the Jewell place and was running down the big slough towards the east part of town which is quite timely settled.  . . .  Down at the east end of Fairhaven avenue the current was very swift and the bridge went out . . . leaving some forty people shut out in this lowest land and in a swift current of water.  . . .  Thursday was a great day in Burlington and many talked of camping on the heights Tuesday night, but the change came about noon, the water went down rapidly and Burlington has perhaps received less damage then any other town on the Skagit.  . . .  While the East Mt. Vernon dyke held good, a snapshot from the auction building on the hill at Mt. Vernon shows a sea of water from Mt. Vernon to LaConner.  Much damage was done in West Mt. Vernon and the hundreds shut in.  LaConner was underwater as well as the entire flats from LaConner to Bayview and Mt. Vernon.


USGS (Stewart) says flood 260,000 cfs at Concrete, 220,000 at Sedro-Woolley.

This article is in extremely poor condition and very hard to read.  Portions are completely unreadable.


Important to remember is that during this time period the Burlington levees were 4,000 feet west of their current location.



Water went down rapidly.  Burlington received less damage then any other town in Skagit County.  Downtown Mt. Vernon dry, everything from West Mt. Vernon to and including LaConner to Bayview underwater.


Reveille Exaggerates High Water

            (Dead in flood Skagit waters collect their toll of human life.)  The above headlines, printed in red, were the attractive features of the front page of Wednesday morning Reveille, and is perhaps of the most disgraceful lies that that paper ever published.  Following those headlines the reporter says that no dead have been reported.  He also says that Burlington is buried under from five to ten feet of water.  This is also untrue.  They also say that Burlington is sadly in need of relief and mercy work.  We hope that the Reveille will be generous enough to correct these false statements.  In the first place there is no dead in the flood, so far we have not received the report of one dead from any place along the Skagit.  Burlington had about one foot of water in some of the streets, and there were many buildings over the town that were not even surrounded by water.  Neither the railroad bridge south of town, or the steel bridge at Mt. Vernon is washed away.  The amount published in the Reveille on Wednesday was simply a piece of Yellow Journalism.


1909 Flood


Doesn’t sound like all of Burlington was covered in flood water in 1909 and the parts that were only had 1 foot of water in streets.  Appears 1921 flood was a larger event.


Should Build Span On Bridge

The high grade and close trestle bridge of the Great Northern Railroad South of town is in a great measure accountable for the extreme high water in the town during the recent flood.  A great drift of wood and logs, at the trestle bridge across the big slough, held the water and caused it to back up and overflow a greater part of the town.  For the safety of the town as well as for the railroad company, a long bridge span should be built at this point so as to give the drift wood and logs a chance to pass through.  If the railroad company does not do this of their own accord, the city authorities should force them to do so.  Many citizens had their homes flooded and were compelled to move out, all on account of this back up water from the above mentioned trestle bridge.  This water may seem of little importance to some, but those who have had some experience in this line think it of great importance to them.  Railroads are very necessary to our town and should always be treated courteously, but there is no reason that they should be permitted to jeopardize the lives, and comforts of our citizens.

Bridge Over Gages Slough Caused Flooding in Burlington


This article is extremely significant because it documents the tremendous amount of water and drift that used to travel through Gages Slough during flood events.


The River – Gives People of Valley another scare – Big Chinook Starts Things Doing but quits with but little damage done.

There may have been a time when a Chinook wind was not an unwelcome thing in this country, but that was a long time before November 1909.  Since then when a Chinook blows every gentleman holds his breath.  . . .  Sunday afternoon the water began to rise at the rate of about 5 inches an hour and by midnight had increased to 8 inches or more an hour.  . . .  Sunday night up valley train was stopped at Concrete on account of the bridge over Jackson creek, near Van Horn, being washed out.  . . .  In Sterling Bend where last year the G.N. tracks were moved back from the river bank, and where subsequent rises have washed away the river bonks right up to the tracks, and rock fills were made, the waters of this rise came right up and again dallied with Jim Hill’s iron.


USGS reports 114,000 cfs at Sedro-Woolley.  No figure for Concrete.


This would have been a flood comparable to the 1979 and 1980 flood events.




Article states there were 16 daily trains in Sedro-Woolley.


Dam building does not look too good

Several years ago The Times quit building newspaper railroads.  This was after it had learned good and well that when railroad officials got mixed up in an interview and “divulged” a lot of plans for the future, that the statement was either an explosion of overworked imagination, or was just the reverse of any real intention.  Hence, The Times is skeptical of the big dam story about what Stone & Webster are going to do on Baker river this year and immediately following.  . . .  Under the most favorable conditions the building of the Baker river dam is going to cost lots of money, and just why the Stone & Webster should begin construction work while the price of every factor to construction is abnormally high and still ascending and transportation precarious, is a mystery. 

Rumors of Baker Dam


Newspaper didn’t believe Baker dam would be built.


Heavy Rains Cause A Raging Skagit

The heavy rains of the past two weeks have caused considerable inconvenience to people living along the Skagit river.  It seemed that the high point of the raging Skagit had been reached Sunday morning when the debris dam and the Mount Vernon bridge went out, carrying a portion of the temporary trestles away.  Part of the trestle went out on Saturday, thus putting the bridge out of commission and causing those who wished to get to Mount Vernon to go around by the Avon road and come in from the north.  . . .  The river dropped Sunday and Monday, but the heavy rains of Monday night brought the river up again.  Heavy rains in the hills kept the stream up to a dangerous point and in many places the water covered the low lands.  . . .  The heavy rains of Tuesday brought raging torrents of water down the old Skagit and for the first tie in nine years the danger line was reached on Wednesday morning when a little over twenty-one feet of water was registered.  The dike broke south of town and considerable land was flooded.  However, the standstill came about noon and by Thursday morning the water had fallen to the seventeen foot mark. 




This flood does not show up in USGS or Corps records probably because it was only 1 ft. over flood stage at the current gage.  HOWEVER, it is the first time that we have documented that the infamous December 30, 1917 flood was a “double pump” flood event.  Just like the 1990, 1995 and 2003 flood events.  As we all know, the 2nd flood is always larger, and it was.  Overbank storage would have been minimal at best.


Dike broke “south of town” on this minor event.  Although subsequent articles do not mention this levee break it is highly probable that the levee was not repaired in just 10 days.


Skagit River Throws Mantle Of Flood Waters Over Ranches And Homes

The dear old Skagit Valley, the one green spot in the northwest, has been given a drenching which wrought much damage and caused considerable inconvenience to all persons, ranchers and townspeople alike.  An almost unprecedented rainfall and a Chinook wind starting last Friday in the upper part of the county caused the old timers to open their weather eyes and soon the alarm was given that a “big river” was expected.  The river began raising last Saturday morning and continued to raise all day.  Saturday night the stream was nearing the danger point.  Dikes in all parts of the valley were being taxed to their capacity and in many places efforts were being made to strengthen them.   . . .  LaConner received a full blow of the rushing waters, but aside from the loss of the bridge, some bad washouts, the little town stood up under the blow very strongly.  Mount Vernon’s business section and residence section was spared.  . . .  The Great Northern and the Interurban roads are badly hit.  For miles and miles, both north and south, the Great Northern tracks are hanging here and there like a great trestle.  In some places the road bed is washed out to a depth of six and seven feet.  The interurban tracks are badly damaged and it is not believed that traffic will be resumed between Mount Vernon and Bellingham for a least a month.  . . . 

The first intimation of danger was when advices up river were received to the effect that the water was higher on Saturday morning than it had been during the flood of 1909 and people began to prepare for a wet season.  By midnight it had reached the high point at the hospital and was still rising.  A small dike was thrown across the street with the hope of holding it, but under the strenuous protest of the property owners who would be submerged at the expense of the north end of the town the idea of keeping it back was abandoned and it was allowed to run down the main street to the Great Northern railway tracks where a breach was made and the waters allowed to spill out over the Olympia Marsh.  . . .  The loss in stock also promises to be comparatively light for the reason that the valley is so flat that a sudden rise sufficient to endanger life is almost impossible.  . . .  The Howard Fredman place has suffered the most severely of any in the immediate neighborhood of the big break.  Here the river ran mad, undermining the house and barns and plowing deep channels through the fields.  Deep holes are to be seen everywhere and across the Varney road where once were stumps there are now excavations that look like cellars.  The little station at Varney has been undermined and leans over on its sides in a decidedly disreputable manner.  The damage in the Interurban lines at this point will take weeks in repair. . . .

Sedro-Woolley has not suffered very severely except in the vicinity of the water plant.  At Sterling the damage will be considerable from the cutting up of the farms and the J.H. Hutchins place is said to be pretty badly wrecked.  Dr. Cleveland’s new home on which he has spent so much time and money is also much the worse for its experience as well as those of many others.


USGS (Stewart) reports that flood carried 220,000 cfs at Concrete and 195,000 cfs at Sedro-Woolley.

This is the most comprehensive article describing the impacts of a large flood on Skagit Valley.





LaConner floods, Mt. Vernon stays dry.



Railroads badly damaged.



If the water was higher upriver then in 1909 it means 1917 was larger flood.


Water diverted to Olympia Marsh would explain why flood water did not reach downtown Burlington business district.  See BJ 1/4/18 article describing this flood.


“a sudden rise sufficient to endanger life is almost impossible.”  This statement, given the tremendous development in South Burlington since 1917, would undoubtedly be false today.


Varney is what they used to call Gages Slough.  The train station used to be across the street from the Cascade Mall.


Sedro-Woolley little damage.  Sterling hard hit.


Clear Lake

At 1:30 the water started to come in the west part of town, and the people living in that part received the greater part of the water.  The water entered the mill and also the engine room where the electric dynamo is and rose so high that the mills and town was put out of order and the town was submerged in darkness until Wednesday evening.  The greatest damage done by the water in town was the washing away of sidewalks and fences.  The flood was rather mild here compared to what it would have been had not the Sterling Bend dike broke.  Although the citizens of Clear Lake sympathize with those of Burlington and vicinity they are thankful that it was not worse here.


This article unequivocally shows the impacts the levees have had on the Clear Lake area.  1917 was one of if not the most damaging flood in the 20th century, yet Clear Lake suffered only “mild” damage unlike what they suffered in the 1990 and 1995 flood events.


Boat upsets boy drowns

Little John Gruber of Clear Lake, lost his life in the flood waters of the Skagit Wednesday evening when, in company with his brother, Joe Gruber, they attempted to make their way over the waters to the ranch.  The accident happened about 6 o’clock in the evening.  Little John had come down from Clear Lake and had waited near the Clear Lake yards, close to the broken dike for his brother, who was coming in a boat from the Loveless place, where he lives with his family.

Death in 1917 Flood

Not counting the Mt. Vernon bridge tender who died from internal injuries after hitting a portion of the bridge, this makes 3 people who have been identified that died in Skagit River flood events. 


River Becomes Unmanageable


Dikes Break in a Number of Places and Let Water in Over a Large Area of Low Lands – Some Stock Is Lost;

Damage Much Less Than Anticipated;

Water Reaches High Mark at Mount Vernon Wharf Saturday Night at Twenty-three and One-half Feet – No Rail Communication With Outside World for Several Days – Boat Does Big Business


Four weeks of rains and Chinooks finally resulted in a freshet Saturday night that for a time threatened to inundate the entire valley.  The warm winds from the south melted the snows, it is said, up to the 6000-foot level and brought the combined waters of the Upper Skagit, the Sauk, Baker and numerous tributary streams down to the lower valley in greater and more continuous volume than has ever been recorded in the history of the country.

. . .

Loss Not Great As Expected

The heaviest individual losers are those individuals that were in the path of the dike breaks.  The break at Sterling Bend and that at Stevens slough immediately north of the Great Northern bridge wrought the greatest damage.  At Stevens slough a home belonging to M. Freeman was tilted over into a hole.  Dikes, county roads and railroads probably suffered the most from the recent freshet.

. . .

At Avon there was a sudden dramatic moment Sunday morning when a portion of the dike went out carrying into the swirl six men who were at work with dozens of others reinforcing the dike at this point.  Hadn’t been for an old secondary dike the Skagit would have gone through here and every foot of the flats would have been under water.  . . . A break at Magnus Anderson’s farm let the water in over a section of country about Conway.  . . . Burlington and La Conner and Edison reported water in the streets; Sedro-Woolley reported water in the neighborhood of Jamison avenue, which is some distance from the business section.  The Nookachamps low lands also were visited by the water.  Mount Vernon, on both sides of the river, was dry throughout the freshet.  The water from Sterling bend went over the Olympia marsh and the Samish.  Edison also reported a couple of feet of water.







This article describes the December 28/29, 1917 flood event.




Four weeks of rains.  No wonder flood was flood of “long duration”.  Overbank storage must have been non-existent.

Snow level only went up to 6,000-feet???  Flood definitely would have been caused by rain alone.


Dike Breaks


Sterling, Stevens Slough, Avon, Conway.  Burlington, LaConner, and Edison underwater.  Mt. Vernon stayed dry.








Was water in Edison from Samish or Skagit??


Str. Swinomish Sinks in Riverside Bend


The snag boat Swinomish sank in the Skagit river in the bend below the Interurban bridge Friday after grazing the bridge pier.  Captain Fred Siegel said that in passing through the draw the boat touched the pier slightly.  The men on the main deck reported no damage; but in a few minutes it was noticed that the boat was taking water.  The pumps were immediately put to work but to no avail and the boat hit bottom with the upper works well out of water.



Friday would have been December 28, 1917 the day before the river crest.  “The upper works well out of water.”  How big was this boat?  Could be used to determine how deep river was.  Doesn’t sound like river was any deeper then than now.


mid-winter flood greatest in memory of oldest inhabitant


Valley Dikes Break in Dozen Places – Skagit Inundates lowlands – No Lives Lost – Only Few Head of Stock Drowned – Considerable Property Damaged – River Channel and Dikes Inadequate to Carry Away Surplus Water – Spillways Needed to Relieve River Channel During Flood Periods – Railroad and Interurban Communications Restored from North – Delayed Mails Received Today


One of the worst and doubtless most destructive floods known in the Skagit delta occurred last Saturday night (December 29, 1917), the river dikes giving way in eight or more places, the overflowing water covering the entire delta from Mt. Vernon to LaConner, and south from Mt. Vernon to Conway.  The island delta west of Fir escaping flood waters (Fir Island).  The McLean highway district west of Mt. Vernon was not flooded.


The tragical results were caused by the failure of a crude, imperfect, ununiform diking system that never has nor never will retain the torrents of water when a Chinook zephyr loosens the flood gates of the Cascades.  From five o’clock Saturday night, when the river was bank full, it steadily rose a foot an hour until midnight.  The water then had reached the top practically of all the dikes, and a break was inevitable somewhere or the mighty volume of water was certain to pour over the dikes, causing doubtless even greater damage in loss of property and loss of life than resulted through breaks in the dikes.  At about midnight the expected break in the dike came.  In fact there were at least ten serious washouts.  Four occurred in the Riverside bend, three across the river in the Avon district, at North Riverside, one at Freeman’s old place on the Baker River logging railway right-of-way, southeast of Burlington, one south of Mt. Vernon, and another at the Clear Lake wood yards, north of Mt. Vernon.  These artificial spillways naturally afforded an immediate outlet for the surplus water to pour through, and the river immediately began to fall, and all danger from further flood damages was past.


Building a series of ununiform dikes to protect districts here and there through the lowlands utterly fails as a solution, meaning only future disaster when the river runs riot during flood periods.  During flood periods when the river reaches the point that dikes are not adequate to control it, it overflows its banks unless other artificial means are provided to carry off the surplus water.  Government engineers, who have studied Skagit river flood problems with the view of affording relief to districts subject to overflow, declare that concrete spillways should be built to take care of the surplus water.  Improvements of this character should be maintained by the government, state and county.


Because Mt. Vernon’s big dikes kept it dry, or Burlington is so fortunately situated that it does not require a system of dikes to protect it from floods is mighty poor consolation to the people of the delta districts threatened with overflow and devastation every recurring flood,. . .


December 29, 1917 Flood Event







Fir Island didn’t flood in the 1917 flood?







Diking system not uniform.






Ten dike breaks after midnight. 










Dikes should be uniform and have spillways built into them.  (Overtopping Levees)









Burlington doesn’t need dikes?  Probably because at that time Burlington city limits was at least 1 mile north of Gages Slough.    Did Mt. Vernon raise its dikes after 1909 flood?


Flood Notes


            The Howard Freeman farm at Varney station was quite seriously damaged by the overflow caused by the break in the river dike on the old Freeman farm east of Varney.  Mr. Freeman’s fine new home and barn were damaged in some-extent.  The break in the river at the old Freeman farm, which was probably 800 feet in width, caused serious damage to the farms in the path of the overflow.  The break occurred when the river was at the highest point, the water stretched over a territory of about 2500 feet in width, carrying away the Great Northern and interurban highways, undermining the dwelling and carrying away the barn on the old Freeman farm, and covering the land with piles of drift wood.  The water found an outlet in the bay near Whitney.

            During the height of the flood Sunday morning a foot of water from the overflow of the river from the east covered a small portion of the residence and business districts of Burlington, the water flowing out that night when the river fell.  On account of poor drainage and inadequate sewerage, there is still some water in the low places in some of the districts, which will soon all pass into the drains.

            The loss of property on the Higginbottom farm south of Burlington (the old Freman place) was serious.  When the dike broke the house was undermined, the barn and sheds carried away, and the land covered with large-quantities of logs.  The owner had only one cow which was saved.

            The Mussor, Wakley and Lamphier farms were all in the path of the Higginbottom break and the owners were serious losers.

            The Mt. Vernon Herald says the breaking of the dike at Higginbottom’s saved Burlington.  What an idiotic untruth.  Why not Mt. Vernon?  Burlington is protected by no diking system.  It is so fortunately situated that it does not need dikes to protect it from river overflow.  The truth is, and why not be honest, that the diking system maintained on the Skagit river was inadequate to control the Skagit river, a break somewhere was inevitable, and shortly after midnight it came down at a dozen different places.  Undoubtedly these breaks saved the dikes from giving away at other places.  The water had reached the top of practically every dike in Skagit county when the breaks occurred.  Flood damages were generally distributed throughout the lowlands.  Unfortunately neither the districts directly to Mt. Vernon, Burlington nor any other Skagit County town escaped inconvenience or losses.  Burlington had mail, daily newspapers, telegraph and telephone communications from the north and telephone communications from the south at all times.  The editor of the Mt. Vernon Herald should confine himself to fact and truth.  Why not give his readers the interesting story of the need of a gasoline engine to pump water out of the basement of the county courthouse.  At least this is better than lying about a neighboring town.



Varney Station was located next to Gages Slough on Old 99 (Burlington Blvd.)








Eastern Fairhaven covered with one foot of water.  Water gone that night.





Must locate where Higginbottom farm was.





Burlington has no diking system!  They must mean Burlington proper.  Dike on Fairhaven must have been outside city limits.


Water reached the top of the dikes.




Burlington “is so fortunately situated that it does not need dikes to protect it from river overflow.”  Really?  While this statement is clearly not appropriate today it is strongly suggestive that flood waters from the 1909 and 1917 floods did not reach downtown Burlington west of the BNSF railroad tracks.

Doesn’t look like Burlington Journal editor and Mt. Vernon Herald liked each other.


Flood waters are receding

The flood waters of the Skagit valley are gradually receding and in a short time, the rancher will be able to walk upon that which he calls ground and view the results of a vicious Skagit river.

            Individuals are now counting up their losses.  Estimates of the aggregate loss to farmers, householders, the county and state in roads and bridges, and to the public service corporations are largely guesswork.  The real loss will never be computed.  It is large, probably larger than that caused by the freshet of eight years ago.  . . .  Reports from all points of the valley show that more or less water and damage was the result of the freshet.  Roads everywhere are in bad shape and will require a good deal of money to put them all back in a passable condition.  The county is badly hit and the commissioners in session this week decided to review the county roads and put them in shape at the earliest possible date. 





Flood damages more than 1909 flood.  Again, this strongly suggest that the 1917 flood was the larger then the flood of 1909.


Are the dikes a failure?

Are the dikes a failure?  If so, what is the remedy?  These two questions have agitated the minds of hundreds of ranchers in the Skagit Valley during the past week since the old Skagit river ran amuck again.  In the end, when the enormous flood waters of the river come down upon the community, dikes are found to be weak, and the result is as shown by the flood of last week.  What is the remedy?  Much money has been spent in making dikes and in the end, practically nothing has been gained.  . . .  The remedy is believed to be found in the construction of spillways.  Several plans and suggestions have been made during the week, but this matter, being of such enormous proportions, will require more than talk to get something started.  . . .  It has been nine years since a flood came.  It may be nine years again and it may be next year.  Don’t wait until it comes again.  There is too much valuable land in this valley to wait until a disastrous flood has overtaken it again and again.  Now is the time to plan the remedy. 





Recommended “spillways” or over-topping levees.






“Now is the time to plan the remedy.”


River Floods Roads and Farms; Latest Reports Receding

The warm wind last Sunday filled the river with melted snow from the mountains and caused it to overflow its banks in several places.  The road between Sedro-Woolley and Hamilton was under water in several places, many autos getting stuck when trying to ford.  The river was so high that the Lyman and Skiyou ferries have not been running for several days.  A number of farms near Hamilton were flooded, and the creek along the road is bank-high and washing away its banks.  It is thought that the main channel has been somewhat filled, and that unless something is done the creek will continue to carry more water.  The water was not high enough to damage crops.


First documentation of a summer flood.  Based on the damage reported it appears to be in the neighborhood of the January 12, 1928 flood.


will improve river at once


Commercial Club Hears Officially of Government’s $30,000 Appropriation for Work


. . . $30,000 was available for the improvement of the lower Skagit river.  This appropriation was made by congress last year.  According to a letter received by John Kill, chairman of the club’s river committee from Congressmen Lin H. Hadley, the federal engineers have approved the work.  . . .  The work to be taken up under the appropriation calls for the dredging of the Skagit channel from the mouth up the Skagit channel from the mouth up at least as far as Mount Vernon and the building of retaining walls where needed.






Corps waiting on release from damages from lower valley farmers.


Approved dredging river from mouth to Mt. Vernon.  Cost was $45,000 to $60,000.


I.                    pacific highway is said to be flooded

High water has broken the dike at Milltown and flooded the Pacific highway so that for some days automobiles have been unable to pass at high tide. At other times a Ford helps to pull the cars through.  . . .  The new Nookachamps bridge on the inland highway will be completed in about ten days and the new approach on the south side of the Riverside bridge will be complete in about two weeks, according to County Engineer Frank Gilkey. The traffic, at present is going to Mt. Vernon by way of Clear Lake, while this bridge is closed.


Highwater broke the dike at Milltown and cars unable to use road at high tide.  This is the only article describing this event.  Not listed on USGS or Corps flood list.


Bridge over Nookachamps just about done.


big meeting to be held to plan drainage district – land owners to discuss draining problems – thousands of acres to be drained, if plans are carried out; to meet at commercial club

. . .  The Sedro-Woolley Commercial club extends an invitation to all people interested in this drainage scheme to attend the meeting which will be held at the club rooms on Metcalf street. At this meeting the boundaries if the drainage district will be decided. The district, it is planned, will embrace all of the territory from Minkler creek to Austin, and from the Skagit river to the foot of the hill on the north.  . . .

Drainage District Planned


Minkler Creek to Austin and from Skagit River to foot of Dukes Hill.


Skagit River Causes Flood

Skagit valley has been in the grip of a flood for the past week.  Torrential rains and strong southerly winds, amounting to gales at times, preceded the onrush of waters from the melting snow of the Cascade mountains, that came pouring down the Skagit river in a volume that almost equaled that of the memorable flood of 1909, when the river rose to 26 feet 4 inches, just 1½ inches higher than the present flood measured.  . . .  The first break occurred at McKay’s place, Burlington.  The low lying land was soon covered with water.  On Tuesday morning the scene north of the city was one broad expanse of water, with dwelling houses, barns, hay stacks, fences and trees standing in it.  From 3 to 6 feet of water was recorded in this section of the flood area, the lower floors of the houses being flooded, and the inhabitants taking to the second story.  The flood waters reached as far west as Avon.  At the North Fork near Conway the next break was reported.  This break caused the flooding of Conway, Milltown, Stanwood and the Skagit delta.  The whole region from Mount Vernon to Sylvana is all under flood waters.  The highway both north and south of the city is impassable for anything but boats.  . . .  A number of houses between here and Burlington were reported to have been lifted from their foundations and otherwise damaged by the flood.    The most serious reported damage was to the home of Lee Davis whose home floated off its foundation and broke in two.  . . .  The Great Northern railway has been out of service since Monday evening, but the company expects to have trains running again in a day or so.  . . .  The Interurban weathered the storm and flood pretty well.  While regular service was interrupted, they managed to get one or more cars through every day.  By today (Thursday) they expect to be running all trains on time table schedule, and have stages to Everett running Friday.  Travel was interrupted by the washing out of a bridge just out of the city limits and damage to the bridge over Varney slough.  . . .  The dikes held fine and had not the water risen to such a high point, there would have been little or no damage.  Below town, the dikes were patrolled by hundreds of men and it was only after the water had risen to an overflow, that the men deserted their posts and hastened to notify their neighbors that the water was coming.  Burlington was the first place to get wet, a break in the dike causing the water to invade the “Hub City.”  An heroic effort was made to prevent the break.  . . .  While the losses are many, yet they are mostly small.  The main losses are where lands were cut into, stored products damaged, and some losses of livestock.  It is believed, however, that the total losses will aggregate around $50,000, which with the lumber company losses, will approximate a hundred thousand or maybe more for this section of Skagit county.



USGS (Stewart) 240,000 cfs Concrete, 210,000 cfs Sedro-Woolley.

At Mt. Vernon 1½  inches lower than 1909.  26.4 feet would be 34.4 feet at current gage.  3 feet lower than 1990 and 1995.

1st break in levees at Burlington but floodwaters only reached as far west as Avon.














Bridge over Gages Slough washed out.  Again showing tremendous amounts of water that flow in this area.






Losses expected to only be around $100,000.





Skagit River Floods Valley When Dikes Go--Much Damage To Farms And Some Stock Lost-- Dikes Gave Way Early Tuesday At 24 Ft 10 Inches

            Once more after 4 years of somewhat peaceful action the Skagit River late Monday night and early Tuesday morning, broke its bounds and inundated a large part of its fertile valley, with a heavy loss to the farmers, an estimate of which is impossible at this time. No fatalities have been reported but some very narrow escapes from the flood waters occurred.  . . .         Three days of heavy rains and warm rains beginning their work Friday, melted the snows in the upper Skagit region and as a result, the Skagit River began its rise with startling rapidity, reaching a point Sunday night which caused alarm to be spread over the valley and the residents of the lower lands prepared to move.  . . .           The river continued to rise until it reached a mark of 24 feet 10 inches, or two inches below that set in 1909.  This was late Monday night.  Then came reports of a break in the dike in Burlington and soon after the dike at Conway south of here broke.  Both these town were flooded.  About 4:30 Tuesday morning, the dike near Charles Wiles place, a short distance west from Riverside Bridge and on the south bank of the river went through.  Within a few hours the flats between the bridge and Mt. Vernon were covered with several feet of water.  Other breaks occurred at intervals south of Mt. Vernon at Pritchard’s, two below the Sheriffs place and two on the north fork.  With the breaking of the dikes the river began to drop slightly.  . . .  Pioneers recall that only once have the flood waters of the Skagit reached the downtown streets of Mt. Vernon and this was in 1897.  Other floods have occurred in 1906, 1909, 1911, and January, 1918.[5]

12/12/21 Flood Event






Three days of heavy rains.




24 ft 10 inches would be approx. 32 ft 10 inches at the current gage.  Two inches below 1909 flood.  USGS says 141,000 cfs at Mt. Vernon for 1921.  No figure for 1909.





Only time downtown Mt. Vernon went underwater was 1897.

12/15/21 Argus

Urges Action to Stop Floods


C.F. Williams of Big Seed Company Calls for Positive Prevention


I think, in fact know, and there are few who do not think as I do, that it is a pitiable shame and an unnecessary condition, for the good people of this section of Washington to be called upon to look forward to flood waters about every so often; a sort of periodical threat to wipe out many homes, destroy farms and livestock.

. . .

From what I can learn, folks who buy here after an investigation of climate, resources and local peculiarities, are not surprised when a flood is predicted; they do not get overly excited when a warning is sent forth that the dike here, or the dike there is in a weakened condition and likely to break.  They take it as a matter of course, and even smile while it may mean, and in dozens of cases does mean almost total loss to them of this world’s goods.  I admire their spirit and their nerve, but I do not understand or admire their patience.


This periodic inundation of soil and destruction of property, to say nothing about the uneasiness of mind and loss to merchants and others, is unnecessary, and ought not to be tolerated any longer than it is required to find a solution and put it into execution!


Mr. Meehan has his idea of how the water may be controlled.  On the map he pointed it out to us.  Whether it is feasible, possible or the best thing to do I am not prepared to say – but this I do truly believe: If there is no way to control this condition which prevails when a warm wind and much rain hits soft snow in the foothills and lower mountain regions, it will be one of the very few problems the Yankee mind has failed to solve!




Great letter to the editor.  Should be reprinted and made required reading for all public officials and citizens.


















Meehan was the County Engineer.  Although his plan is not identified here it is believed that “his plan” would have been the Avon Bypass as by this time he would have been talking to Herzog who worked for the GNRR who published his report in 1922.


Auto Traffic Halted


Burlington cannot be reached by machine at this time, reports state, even the Avon detour being impassable.

Burlington was underwater during the 1921 flood due to levee breaks.


big flood inundates skagit valley


The Skagit lowland region is passing through another memorable flood period.  In consequence of which thousands of dollars of property have been destroyed in the path of the flood.  Six weeks of excessive rains, followed last Sunday night till Monday noon by compelling Chinook breezes at the beginning of which the Skagit River was ban full, opened the flood gates in the foothills, and mountains of water poured out to the sea, inundating the greater portion of the valley of the Skagit.  The last crushing flood disaster, which inundated the valley of the Skagit occurred January 1, 1918[6].  The widespread destruction wrought then, if estimated in dollar losses, doubtless greater than that caused by the flood of last Tuesday.


The present diking system, so faultily constructed, useless and inadequate, never has nor could control flood waters when built on the banks of the river.  . . .  Doubtless a diked in basin a mile wide could function, safeguarding the delta region when flood waters pour to the sea.


Monday night, December 12, the dikes east and southeast of Burlington broke.  Tuesday morning at six o’clock the flood water covered Fairhaven Avenue, and in part the residence districts of the city.  At this time the entire lowlands lying east, west, south and in part northwest of Burlington were inundated.  The depth of water is on relative, the lamentable fact being that the area of low lands covered with water was wide-spread.  That certain spots escaped water, neither lessons the flood evil nor removes its threatening menace as the destruction wrought during the last three recurring flood periods of 1909, 1917 and 1921 encompass a wide area of lowlands, some districts suffering greater damages than others, the river in its flood course to the sea, evidently changing or seeking an outlet wherever river dikes could first be swept away.  . . .  While flood damages in Burlington have been large, the flood waters disappeared from the principal business and residence streets within 12 hours following the overflow.


The damage to the Great Northern and interurban right-of-ways was not nearly as great as that caused by the flood of 1918[7], yet the main line of the Great Northern will not be repaired until late next week.  The main line of the interurban and the Sedro-Woolley branch are in operation and the Great Northern Sedro-Woolley Rockport branch of the Great Northern will be in operation by Saturday.

12/12/21 Flood Event



Six weeks of excessive rains.  Skagit Argus reported 1917 flood was caused by 4 weeks of excessive rains. 



Most interesting.  1917 flood caused more damage than 1921 flood.  Stewart said 1921 flood was larger.  No doubt both flood events impacted by major portions of overbank storage being used up before flood started.

Suggested channel be widened to a mile wide.


According to statement at end of article this must have been the most eastern section of Fairhaven as it states “flood waters disappeared from the principal business and residence streets within 12 hours following the overflow.”









Further evidence 1921 flood not as bad as 1917 flood.

12/22/21 Argus

Cold Adds to Flood Damage


County Commissioner J.Z. Nelson Says Loss More Than Half Million


Following close on the heels of the high water which last Tuesday flooded a large area of the fertile Skagit Valley, has come a week of extremely cold weather at least for this country.


J.Z. Nelson, member of the board of county commissioners, said yesterday that at first he had placed the amount of damage done to the ranchers, county property, and railroads at about a half million dollars…


East Burlington perhaps shows the most damage from the high water where the river overflowed Fairhaven avenue.  W.H. Walker’s house on the south side of the avenue was overturned and split into two.  Mr. Walker was in the house at the time.  The force of the concussion turned his bed over, throwing him into about three feet of water.  He was rescued in a boat after several hours waiting and calling for help.  …


Train service over the Great Northern was resumed last night and the mail and freight will be received with somewhat more regularity.  …


No action has been taken yet by the various diking districts toward repairing the dikes, nor have any meetings been called to discuss future work.  Many farmers are talking of calling mass meetings to talk over the question of proper protection from floods and many different theories as to what should be done are being talked about on the street corners.  Many favor the building of a spillway from the Avon bend to salt water in Padilla bay, while others say that to straighten the river at the Avon bend by cutting a channel through from south of Burlington to a point at Mount Vernon.  Others declare that the Skagit river must be dredged from its mouth up to a point above Burlington, and still others say that the Seattle dam at Ruby creek will offer much protection, although when this project will be completed is doubtful.


Many declare that to secure prompt and efficient action regarding flood protection, all drainage and diking districts should be consolidated into one county-wide district with responsible men at the head of it.


1921 Flood



Last Tuesday would have been December 20, 1921.  Flood crested Tuesday, December 13, 1921.  Must have meant last Tuesday a week ago.





At this time the levees were 4,000 feet back from their current location.  He must have been living near the dike break.




This would be the current BNSF tracks.  Means R/R repaired the tracks in just 9 days.



Avon By-Pass, “straighten the river” build dams and dredging.








Consolidate the dike districts.


skagit county flood loss estimated at half million dollars minimum -- more stories of damage up-river; roads wiped out; ferries and bridges destroyed; work of repairing flood damage starts; no report of drowning in entire skagit flood district; flood worst in skagit history

While the loss to property in Skagit county, due to the flood, is estimated by the county commissioners at more than half a million dollars, only a small portion of this amount was incurred by the farmers of the county.  In fact, most of the flooded land where the current was not swift, was benefited by the flooded land where the current was not swift, was benefited by the flooding and deposits of silt.  . . .  Abe Young, who lives near Sauk, was a heavy loser.  His house and a barn filled with hay and about fifteen acres of fine orchard land were washed down the river.  For a mile at the lower end of the Sauk river, is a continuous jam of logs and debris.  Above the White place, the whole mountain slid in, carrying road and all.  Several Indians lost their houses and their little farms.  The water was 52 inches high in the Sauk store and did some damage to the bottom layer of goods piled on benches and showcases.  . . .  Miles of the road up the Sauk river was washed out.  Mr. Thompson is doubtful if the old route will ever be used again.  At present a new trail is being cut.  When a new road is built, it will probably be constructed along the hill, out of danger of the river.  . . .  The damage in the southern part of the county and on the flats cannot be estimated yet as the land is still under water.  It is thought that salt water dikes on the flats have broken recently.  When these are repaired, it is probably that the water will have to be pumped out.  . . .  The farm of Mr. and Mrs. A.H. Hamburg on the river bank south of town, was hard hit by the flood.  Mr. and Mrs. Hamburg lived for two days in fear of their lives.  The flood either washed out or covered with logs practically all of their five acres.  They lost their horse and wagon, about 100 chickens, their ducks and geese, and their big garden patch was totally destroyed.  The house is filled with mud.  Where the chicken yard used to be is a hole 15 feet deep and the entire place is a mass of wreckage.  Most of their fruit trees and berry bushes are ruined.


USGS (Stewart) 240,000 cfs Concrete (47.6), 210,000 cfs Sedro-Woolley, Corps 140,000 cfs Mt. Vernon.


Most of flooded land benefited from the flood!!




Lower end of Sauk River a continuous jam of logs and debris.





Sauk River road washed out.


Salt water dikes broken.



Hamburg farm hard hit.  House filled with mud. 


Biggest flood in skagit history say old-timers

The flood of 1921 is the biggest flood in the history of the Skagit, according to old timers, who recall the floods of 1879, 1888, 1897 and on up to the big flood of 1909 and the 1917 freshet. Mrs. Dreyer, who lives west of town, tells of the big flood of 1888, when in some places the river backed up higher than this year. She says that not so much damage was done then because there were practically no dikes and the water spread over the lowlands more gradually. Measurements at the Dalles, near Concrete, show that the flood water this year reached a point two feet higher than at any previous time in the memory of the oldest settler. Charley Moses says that it was the biggest flood, with the biggest volume of water ever carried in the Skagit. At Van Horn the water was 14½ inches higher than it had ever been. In 1909 the river in the upper valley was only about two-thirds as wide as it is now. Hundreds of acres of land are being washed away every year, by both Skagit and Sauk rivers. W. A. Ellison says he has been on the upper river for 21 years and this is the biggest flood he has seen or heard old timers tell about.





Charley Moses lived in valley through 1906, 1911, 1917 and 1921 events.  He observed the height of the river in The Dalles in 1921.


flood will not hurt grain fields

Very little damage has been done by the flood to the berry and grain fields, says County Horticulturist E. D. Hunter. In fact, Mr. Hunter states, the silt deposits was beneficial. Only where there was a strong current or where there was a strong current or where stands for a week or longer, there will be a possibility of loss.  . . .

Berry Crops Not Hurt In 1921 Flood


Silt deposits beneficial.


Huge Spillway For Skagit River Proposed To Prevent Flooding


Closely following the recent flood, naturally comes the discussion as to whether such destructive inundations cannot be prevented and what means could be used to accomplish their prevention.  Comes now County Commissioner Zig Nelson with a suggestion, which deserves serious consideration, in the opinion of many.  Mr. Nelson points out the fact that Sedro-Woolley is protected on account of the Sterling cut-off, which opens a straight course for flood waters past Sedro-Woolley, thus minimizing the danger to this community.  Below the cut-off, the waters reaching the big bend in the river this side of Burlington, break out of the banks and continue on the straightest course, as the deep channel east of Burlington clearly shows.  Nelson’s plan is to construct an immense spillway starting at the Sterling bend and continuing in as straight a course as possible to deep salt water, which he says is seven miles in a straight line from the bend, while the river meanders some twenty-one miles before emptying in to the Sound.

1st Avon By-Pass Proposal


Commissioner Zig Nelson.  The overflow channel he is describing would have been in the Strawberry Bar area of the Burlington Bend (a/k/a Sterling Bend).  The deep channel he refers to is Gages Slough.


Fire First Gun in Flood Fight


Permanent Organization To Be Formed “To Improve Skagit River.”


The first gun in the flood fight against flood waters in the Skagit valley was fired Tuesday evening at a mass meeting of Skagit county citizens held in the court house at Mount Vernon.  More than 250 gathered within the court room, the doors were locked and as many more were turned away.

. . .

Charles Nelson, pioneer and strong dike worker, was the first to be called on by the chairman for his views on what course should be taken for flood prevention.  He states it would be useless to build more dikes but that to build jetties at the mouth of the river, dredge the outlets and straighten the channel would be his solution of the problem.


Peter Samuelson urged the consolidation of the diking districts, stating that to do so would save enough money to buy a dredge for the county and to keep it in use.


John Kill also urged that the diking districts be put under one head for more efficient work and to save the taxpayers more money.  It was shown that there are now seventeen such districts in the county.  He also said efforts should be made to secure the assistance of the federal government.


That the people of the county should take the burden of providing adequate protection on their own shoulders, was the opinion of H.L. Willis, who cited the accomplishment of the city of Gaveston [Galveston, TX], which built its mammoth sea wall by bonding its own citizens without any outside assistance.  He urged the adoption of organized effort as soon as possible and concluded with, “Let’s do the job ourselves.”


Alfred Polson spoke briefly in favor of dredging the channel of the river.  He was followed by Captain Siegel who said he had no solution but offered the information that in some twenty odd years the river bed has risen eighteen feet.


A tangible plan was shown by W. H. Franklin, who proposed that the channel should be straightened from Sedro-Woolley to its mouth.  He had maps and drawings of this project and figures as to its probable cost.  He declared that the Skagit would dredge itself if straightened.  His estimated cost of the project was more than three and a half million.


O.J. Whitmarsh voiced his approval of going after federal aid as the Skagit was a navigable stream.  Its channel should be straightened, he added.


H.A. McLean was finally prevailed upon to give his opinion and stated at the outset that he was first in favor of securing a practical engineer to handle the proposition.

O. Rudene spoke at some length urging that the county should procure a dredger and clean out the channel.  Brian Dillon also spoke in favor of dredging the river and also suggested that the height of the dikes be lowered.  He said it was better to get a little water more frequently than a whole lot at one time.



Community Meeting


People turned away after 250 flooded courtroom.




No more dikes.  Build jetties at mouth, dredge outlets and straighten channel.





Consolidate dike districts and buy a dredge.



Consolidate dike districts, get help from Feds.




“Do it ourselves.”







Dredge it.  River “raised 18 feet in 20 years”?  If that process continued that would put the level of the river about 92 feet above current location.


Straighten river, and it would dredge itself.






Straighten and get Fed help.



Hire an engineer.



Dredging.  Overtopping levees.


Nelson Names the Committee


Seven Men Will Investigate the Problem of Flood Protection In Skagit County


…H.L. Willis, Mount Vernon, chairman; John Finstad, Conway; Charles A. Nelson, LaConner; Augustus Brawley, Mount Vernon; Hiram Stump, Edison; Charles Callahan, Burlington, and Will Knutzen, North Avon…




Ruby Creek Dam As Skagit Aid


Seattle Engineer Would Show Pictures Here of Project


County Engineer Frank Gilkey is in receipt of a communication from C. F. Uhden, engineer in charge of the Ruby creek dam feature of the Skagit project now under construction by the city of Seattle, expressing appreciation of the interest being taken by Mount Vernon people in the project as it effects the flood situation of the Skagit river.


Mr. Uhden also expresses a willingness to come here in person and demonstrate the Ruby creek project to Skagit county residents through the medium of a lantern slide lecture and explain in what ways this dam may assist in controlling flood waters of the Skagit.


Ross Dam impacts flood control.


City Club Into Flood Problem


Commercial Organization Will Confer With Seattle Engineer on Plans


The president appointed Frank Gilkey, county engineer, and Mayor Moody to confer with C.F. Uhden, who is the engineer in charge of the Ruby creek feature of the Skagit project, relative to the effect this dam will have on Skagit river floods.  This appointment was made at the suggestion of H.L. Willis, chairman of the committee formed by County Commissioner Nelson to investigate the diking situation.


Chamber of Commerce gets active.  Endorsed building of Ross Dam.




Should be 1/19/22 CT

big crowd listens to seattle experts discuss flood plan – dam said to be sure cure for skagit valley floods – engineers uhden and dimock of seattle, explain plans for huge dam:  sedro woolley interested

A large crowd gathered in the Rex theater in Mt. Vernon Tuesday evening to listen to the plans for a possible means of stopping floods by damming the water at its source.  About three hundred were present.  . . .  Mr. Uhden, the engineer in charge of the big Seattle project on the Skagit river, told all about his work, illustrating with lantern slides.  He said that Seattle is planning a dam 480 feet high, on Ruby creek, which will take ten years to build, according to present plans.  If Skagit county men wish to raise money to pay for the work, a flood gate dam will be built instead of a solid crest dam as at present planned.  He showed the possibilities of stopping flood which this dam would have.  He said that the Skagit river had 100,000 cfs through Sedro-Woolley, while the flow through Ruby creek was 30,000 cfs.  The last 20 feet of the dam will take care of one-half of this volume of water for three days, during a flood, and an additional 10 feet would take care of the remainder for six days.  The engineers are agreed that this dam is the only logical solution of the flood problem.  Mr. Gilkey said that his idea was to get federal aid to help build the dam with flood gates.  It was stated that if the people of Skagit county wished to go in on the dam, and have Seattle change its plans, the work could be speeded up to take only five instead of ten years.  Another statement made was that the damage in Skagit county for the last two floods was a million and a half dollars.

Ross Dam





Flood control not in original plans.  Seattle wanted Skagit County to get funding for flood gates.




Estimates of flood flows were obviously too low.



Damage in 1917 and 1921 floods only 1.5 million?  That would convert to 15,463,917 2003 dollars.  Of course with today’s development in the floodplain that figure would be increased several times over.  (Source:  Consumer Price Index)


Work For Large Flood District


Committee and Dike and Drainage Commissioners Plan Permanent Body


That an enlarged improvement district must be organized before any definite steps can be taken for protection against the high water of the Skagit river, was the opinion expressed at a meeting held here Thursday of the diking and drainage commissioners and the committee recently named to investigate means to prevent future floods.  A vote of all present showed that this opinion was nearly unanimous. …


Through discussion it was found that it would be necessary for the community to secure some outside assistance and that before this could be done some sort of permanent organization must be formed.  ….


Such an improvement district as has been suggested can be formed but it would be allowed only a small levy for its work which was shown would not be enough to do any great amount of flood prevention.



Allen R. Moore, Mr. Willis stated, is to appear before the committee tonight with his theory for the prevention of floods in the Skagit valley.





This was the beginning of the River Improvement Fund.  “Nearly unanimous.”






Get help from Feds.




River Improvement Fund not enough to do it alone.





Still don’t know what Moore wanted to do.  


Hadley Working on River Control


Congressman Seeks Federal Aid to Curb Skagit; Asks for Data


I was not quite certain, but thought it might be possible to have the survey provided for in the River and Harbor Bill extended to include an examination and report by the engineers on the question of flood control.  I therefore took that question up with General Taylor of the Board of Engineers of Rivers and Harbors who states it is his view that the examination and report as to flood control could not be made without authorization through the Flood Control Committee of the House, as contemplated in the bill which I have introduced and which is now pending before that committee.



…My own idea is that a showing should be made by persons personally cognizant of the facts covering the periodical floods, their frequency, the nature and extent of the same, the nature and extent of the damage sustained in floods of recent years, the conditions which make their recurrence probable, the extent of the area and some idea of the population affected by the floods, the measures heretofore taken by local citizens or authorities to afford protection against the floods and generally any facts which will support the necessity and reasonableness of the end sought by the bill.


Very truly yours,

Lin. H. Hadley


Congressman Hadley letter to Mt. Vernon Commercial Club.



Congressman’s efforts led to 1925 Corps of Engineers Report.   SKAGIT RIVER, WASH., PE by Col. W.J. Barden, Corps of Engineers  {published as House Document #125, 69th Congress, 1st Session}


Promise $35,000 For The Skagit


Government Would Ask Waivers For Any Possible Damages


“When the farmers residing south of Mount Vernon all sign a waiver of damages, stating that they will not hold the United States government liable nor responsible for damages which might arise from high water or other unexpected causes, the government officials will agree to the expenditure of $35,000 available for river improvement,” was the statement of Colonel Schultz, United States district engineer for the Pacific Coast, who was here on an inspection trip with assistant engineer H.J.E. Baker early this week.


The snagboat, Swinomish, was used for this special inspection tour which included the Great Northern bridge, North Fork dam and Skagit River bar.


The hope was expressed by the party that the matter of river improvement might be settled at once as it has been prolonged over a considerable period of time and is attracting much attention now particularly in view of the river and harbors appropriation bill introduced by Congressman Lin H. Hadley.





No indication what the Corps was going to do.  Later articles suggest that they wanted to dredge North and South Forks.


Will Get Data On Skagit River


U.S. Engineer Asks Senator Poindexter to Secure Information


United States Senator Miles Poindexter has been asked by Col. Edward H. Schulz, United States engineer in charge of river and harbor work in the Northwest, for all available information regarding plans for the improvement of the Skagit river, according to word from Seattle.…


When he returns to western Washington next week, Senator Poindexter will assemble data to show the locations to be improved, depths required and other facts and as soon as possible will confer with Skagit county people.  On a recent visit to Skagit county Senator Poindexter inquired into the possibilities of flood control and protection of the mouth of the river, stating he believed the federal government should as rapidly as possible control the waters of the Skagit and prevent future damage by floods.





This was the beginning of the Preliminary Examination published by the Corps January 31, 1925.  Amazing, back then the Corps could do a prelim study in a little over 2 years.  Today we call it a Recon Study and it took the Corps the same amount of time.


Begin a Survey of Skagit River


Data on Flood Conditions Will Be Gathered – Report To Commissioners


Steps are being taken by the Skagit River Committee toward getting a survey made of flood conditions.  Yesterday the committee met with the Board of County Commissioners offering a report and suggesting ways and means of securing a survey.     . . .



While there they conferred with Mr. Parker, head of the United States Geological Survey for this district.  He emphasized the necessity of securing data as to the volume of water coming down the Skagit especially during the flood period.


He also stated that he had a man in his office who is an expert on this kind of work and he offered this man’s services to the county.  He also could secure the data required, especially the volume of flood water, during last December.  Many flood marks have been obliterated but this material should be gathered as soon as possible


…The data on the Skagit river which in past years has been collected by the Great Northern and Northern Pacific railroads, the War Department and Geological Survey will be assembled as the first step in making a survey of the river.  H.L. Willis is chairman of the committee.





Report must have been verbal as no hard copy was located in the State Archives of the County Commissioners meeting.  The next day the Commissioners passed Resolution #1131 which stated:


WHEREAS, G.L. Parker has been recommended for this survey.  NOW THEREFORE, It is hereby ordered that the County Engineer employ G.L. Parker at a salary not to exceed $250.00 per month to make such survey.  All work to be done under the supervision of the County Engineer and payment for same made by warrants drawn on the River Improvement Fund.

No mention of hiring USGS, just Parker.  Other then this resolution no agreement between USGS and Skagit County was located.  Interesting also is that article was published Thursday, November 9, 1922 and resolution was signed Friday, November 10, 1922.


To Investigate River Control


Large Party Will Go to Tacoma From Here December 1st and 2nd.


A large delegation of Skagit County citizens will go to Tacoma Friday and Saturday, December 1 and 2 to inspect the control work of the Puyallup River there.  …Mr. [W.J.] Roberts is chief engineer of the project.  His letter follows:


“Your question, ‘How much of the work on this small stream would be applicable to our very much larger river?’  My answer would be: All of it.  That is, the three features which we most particularly emphasize, river clearing, channel dredging and bank protection, would apply with the same emphasis to the Skagit river as they apply to the White and Puyallup rivers.”





We actually had a flood control committee that was involved.  See 12/7/22 article on the “large delegation” that went.


engineer is hired for river survey

The county commissioners this week employed Mr. Stewart, a government engineer, to make a survey of the Skagit river.  Mr. Stewart’s salary is $250 a month, which will be paid out of the money to be raised by the 1 mill levy for river improvement.  The new engineer is from the government office in Seattle, and is working under government orders.  His work here will be under the supervision of the county engineer’s office.  He is already at work testing the river and tributary streams for their flow and volume of water carried, and other data needed to determine flood remedies.

James E. Stewart

Skagit County paid Mr. Stewart directly therefore the County technically owns his work product.  See 11/20/22 Argus article.


Are You Going to Make Trip?


H.L. Willis Urges Skagit County to Learn of Flood Control.


We in Skagit county are facing a similar but larger problem.  For the past ten days the county has had an engineer from the U.S. Geological Survey at work on the upper Skagit near Concrete assembling data on the volume of last December’s flood.  The object is to determine how much water came down upon us last December.  For it is evident that we could make no adequate plans for taking care of any flood unless we knew about how much water was to be taken care of.  When this new data of our recent flood is secured, all the other data on the flow and flood of the Skagit River will be assembled from their various sources.  The general plan then seems to be to place all this data in the hands of a competent engineer and ask him to submit a comprehensive plan for the control of our river.  If it seems necessary, this plan could be submitted to consulting engineers for their approval or rejection.  When we get this far it will be up to the people of the county or the flooded area to determine what next shall be done.  Then we shall have an authoritative, comprehensive plan under which not only we local people can work but which we can present with effect to the state or the U.S. government when we go to them for help.  But let us never forget that we will get no help worth while from any source until we show that we are worthy of some help by beginning to help ourselves.


Every man or woman in Skagit county who is interested in the control of our Skagit river floods is not only invited but urged to go with this Skagit county delegation to Tacoma next Friday, December 1.  …  Let everyone remember that the only credentials he or she needs to become a delegate to this convention is an interest in the control of the Skagit river.  Come, and get ready to give the old Skagit a wallop before he wallops us once too many.


H.R. Willis,

Chairman River Committee





Stewart’s field notes did not start until November 24, 1922.  Skagit County paid Stewart directly, not USGS.  According to Commissioners Journal, December 4, 1922 Skagit paid Stewart $91.67 for his salary, and $291.85 for expenses from the River Improvement Fund.


Skagit paid Stewart again on February 5, 1923, $250 for his salary and $60.03 for expenses.  Referred to him as the “River Engineer”.


On March 5, 1923 Skagit paid Stewart $1.46 for expenses.


Since Skagit County paid Stewart directly and had no formal contract with USGS, and all his work to be done under the supervision of the County Engineer, this technically makes him an employee of Skagit County not USGS.  Skagit should own his work product.



Learn More of Flood Control


Skagit County Delegation Visits Puyallup River Project in Tacoma


On Saturday the party viewed the actual work on the Puyallup river under the direction of Mr. Roberts and Mr. Phillips, the engineers.  It was shown that the cost of this project has already reached a million dollars.







23 men went on the trip.  Most from Mt. Vernon, 5 from Burlington, 1 from LaConner and one from Allen.

12/7/22 Argus

Litigation Over Drainage Ends


The litigation over the formation of Drainage district No. 19 which has extended over a period of six years has been ended.  …  District No. 19 takes in more than 6500 acres.



6 years to form a Drainage District.


Hadley Asks For River Data


Committee in Congress Will Hear About Skagit Floods From Statistics


Saturday, W.R. Fowler, president of the commercial club, J.W. Collins, secretary, Freed Ornes and H.L. Willis sent what available data there was ready concerning the amount of damage that that had been done in past years by the high water.  These men are now compiling statistics concerning the commercial use of the river from years ago.  These are being brought up to date and will be forwarded to Mr. Hadley.




Send Flood Data to Cong. Hadley


Figures Show Enormous Loss in Damage and Cost of Protection Against the River


J.W. Collins on Saturday mailed to Congressman Lin H. Hadley available data on flood damage from the Skagit river.  This data although not as complete as was desired, gives some convincing figures of the amount of water that has come down the Skagit in flood periods.  Mr. Collins secured information from J.E. Stewart, an engineer who has been working for the past week or so collecting figures on past floods and their damage.  He is working under the direction of the board of county commissioners.  . . .  Other information was secured from H.A. Herzog, chief engineer of the Great Northern; J.M. Clapp, of general engineering practice; H.L. Willis, chairman of the citizens’ committees; Capt. F.A. Siegel, of the U.S. snagboat, Swinomish; Frank Gilkey, county engineer; Judge Augustus Brawley, Auditor Walter Barrow and Assessor W.H. Whitney.


The report to Mr. Hadley first gives figures of flood periods as shown by the government station near Sedro-Woolley from 1908 and 1918, exclusive of 1909 and 1917.  The station was discontinued in 1918.  This shows four freshets came in November, two in June, one in January, one in April.


Mr. Stewart has obtained proof that this valley was visited by a flood in 1861 and there are figures for the fall freshet of 1894, 1896, 1897, 1906 and on up to 1921.  The flood of 1909 was the largest flood of recent time.



As to the probable recurrence, the report states, “Engineers who are familiar with river control problems state that a history of any stream for a period of eighty to a hundred years will give reasonable data as to the probable events of the succeeding hundred year period.


The report shows that the twenty-one diking districts which take in approximately forty thousand acres of land.  “There has been,” it states, an expenditure up to and including the year 1921, of $1,087,779 by the organized districts for flood control.  There has also been expended by individuals and co-operative individuals not regularly incorporated an additional $900,000 bring the total expenditures for the flood protection by the residents of the Skagit Delta to the staggering total of $1,987,799.


The report tells of filling up of the Skagit at the mouth, which it says will force the abandonment of the diking system for protection.  It states the South fork channel has filled 16 feet in twenty-nine years.






Would be interesting to secure this “report”.  Appears that Stewart gave him some figures.  The fact that “He is working under the direction of the board of county commissioners” further substantiates that Skagit owns his work product.

This confirms that Skagit County had the Herzog report recommending the Avon By-Pass.  Somewhere in the archives there must be a copy of what Willis submitted.  We have to obtain this.  It will show what Stewart submitted.



Stewart wrote the following in his field notes about the 1861 flood:  “all these lead to the assumption that the great flood was that of December 4, 1861.  The old Indian who told Hart and others at Sedro Woolley in 1879 that the flood was when he was a boy either referred to another flood or they did not understand him.” (Source:  Transcription of Stewart “flood notes” on 9/16/22 by USGS 6/30/23 re Reflector Bar near Marblemount)  This was the only time the “1861” flood was ever mentioned.


This means Dike Districts spent 2 million in 26 years.  Local cost of Avon By-Pass in 1936 was only 1 million.




16 feet in 29 years??  South Fork used to be pretty deep.  Wonder where all that sand goes now.


Committee Has Skagit River Flood Data

            Following is a letter received by J. W. Collins, secretary of the Mount Vernon Commercial Club in reply to the Skagit flood data sent to Congressman Lindley H. Hadley recently:            I have received your letter of the 17th instant enclosing separate communication furnishing requested data in the matter of the Skagit River flood control.  . . .  I appeared personally before the Flood Control Committee on December 14th in support of my bill, H. R. 12609.  . . .  When I appeared before the committee, one member of long experience in Congress suggested that I get in touch with General Taylor of the War Department on the question of the probable cost of the survey, as sought by the bill…

Congressman Seeks Study of Skagit River


Flood Control Data Presented


Congressman Hadley Gives Skagit River Figures to Committee


I took the data you enclosed to the office of the Flood Control committee this morning and presented it to the chairman.



Perhaps the Federal Archives will have the Willis report Congressman Hadley received.


River Hearing In Seattle Jan. 22


War Department Asks for Information on Puget Sound Waterways


“Information is especially desired as to the improvements proposed by local interests; the amount of present and prospective commerce; and the draft and tonnage of vessels using these rivers.”


Corps wanted more information from locals.


Steelheads Are Plentiful


Word has been received at the game warden’s office that 20,000,000 sockeye eggs have been placed in the streams of Puget Sound.  This has been done in recent weeks in an attempt to re-stock local waters with this fish.  The regular game fishing season in Skagit waters opens April 15, and closes November 30.



Article didn’t say how many were planted in the Skagit.  Interesting that Skagit fishing season was only April through November.


river problems to be discussed soon at seattle meeting  -- federal engineer to hold hearing jan. 22 -- skagit county river committee meets; will make recommendations to legislators at once

The problem of taming the Skagit river is too big a proposition for Skagit county or for the State of Washington, the county river committee decided last week.  Consequently the committee passed a resolution urging the Skagit members of the state legislature to memorialize congress for help in controlling the Skagit river.  . . .  The Skagit river committee urged the employment of an engineer of national reputation on river data and to suggest a feasible plan to control the river.  The federal field engineer is busily at work collecting data but has not made his official report.

River Problems Too Big For Locals


Engineer the article is talking about is James E. Stewart.


Show Tonnage at River Meet


Skagit Citizens Ready with Figures for U.S. War Department


The problems of the Skagit river were given a hearing Monday afternoon in the Seattle Chamber of Commerce before Col. Edward H. Schultz, representing the War Department of the United States.  …  H.L. Willis presented the report which had been prepared to show the tonnage figures on the Skagit river and also gave other valuable information.  He stated that the farm products originating in this county could be estimated annually at 50,000 tons of oats, 30,000 tons of hay, 12,000 tons of potatoes, 18,000 tons of straw, and 10,000 tons of general farm products.


He declared that if the Skagit river was cleared of all obstructions an increased amount of tonnage could be handled each year.  … 


J.W. Collins, secretary of the Mt. Vernon Commercial Club, pointed out various phases in the written report given Colonel Schultz and spoke on the matter of dredging the lower end of the river.


Capt. H.H. McDonald, pioneer of Skagit river navigation, gave some interesting figures relative to the filling up of the channel from the mouth of the river.  He stated that he had built several boats during the past years and each one had been constructed with a more shallow draft than the one previous in order that it might get up the river from the Sound.  He stated that he had now reached the limit on this form of construction.  …


Those who attended the hearing from this county included H.L. Willis, J.W. Collins, J.O. Rudene, W.E. Moss, B.D. Moody, J.B. Hayton, George B. Reay, W.H. Franklin, Swan Swanson, Charles Nelson, Charles Elde.  C.C. Callahan, of Burlington, also attended the hearing.





Interesting farm history.











Appears that dredging was primary recommendation.


Flood Control Bill is Drawn


Skagit River Included in Congressional Committee’s Report


The bill contains an appropriation of $4,000.  …



Authorizing preliminary examinations and surveys of sundry streams with a view to the control of their floods.

Congressman’s efforts led to 1925 Corps of Engineers Report.   SKAGIT RIVER, WASH., PE by Col. W.J. Barden, Corps of Engineers  {published as House Document #125, 69th Congress, 1st Session}  which resulted in a recommendation of “national benefits are insufficient to justify the U.S. in undertaking such work (flood improvements) either alone or in conjunction with local interests, but are sufficient to justify cooperation by U.S. to the extent of securing the necessary data” (i.e. study it).  First study dealing just with floods.


Survey Work On River To Be Continued

            The Skagit River Improvement committee, H.L. Willis, chairman, called upon the board of county commissioner’s yesterday afternoon and urged a one-mill levy to cover the costs of a survey of the Skagit river.  The purpose of this levy would be to procure data to submit in an effort to secure federal aid.  . . .  James E. Stewart, expert engineer from Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, has just completed a survey of the volume of water which went down the river in the flood of 1921.  The river committee is now planning to have an expert engineer make a survey and present his findings to the government, in the hope of securing federal aid.  This expense will be carried by drawing on the $20,000 fund.  It is likely that it may require all of this amount to meet the expense of the survey.

Flood Committee Wants Study of Skagit River


This is further indication that James E. Stewarts work product was unsatisfactory.  See testimony of public hearing 11/26/24.


See also Argus and Courier Times articles on this subject.


Discuss River Problems Here


Two Committees Meet With The Board Of County Commissioners


The delegations asked that the board again include in the budget a 1-mil levy for river protection purposes, but were told that it was too late to include this in the budget for 1924.



E. Van Buren, chairman of the board, said that the board had discussed the Skagit River question when the budget was being prepared but as there was still about $20,000 in the fund created, the board decided there was no further action to be taken, as they had received no report of the survey work made by an engineer named Stewart.  The commissioners hired Stewart when the fund was created by the 1-mil levy.















county board leaves levy for river work out of new budget  --  river committee and mt. vernon citizens protest omission of mill levy in budget for 1924; budget to be adopted at hearing monday of next week; current expense fund levy is less than last year

The county commissioners in adopting a preliminary budget for county expenses omitted the mill levy raised last year about $22,000 to be used for river survey work and preliminary work toward solving the problem of flood protection on the Skagit river.  The county river committee, of which H.L. Willis acted as spokesman, together with a delegation from the Mt. Vernon Commercial club, waited on the commissioners on Wednesday and made an effort to get a mill levy included in the budget, before it comes up for final hearing and passage on Monday of next week, October 1.  . . .  Mr. Van Buren stated that the commissioners felt that with $20,000 from the amount levied last year, still available, that there was no need for an additional mill levy this year, to add more money to the fund.  He said that about $2,000 was spent last year for the federal government engineer who made a flood survey of the river some time ago, after the big flood.  Mr. Stewart, the engineer has not yet submitted his detailed report to the commissioners.  The reason for this, it was explained, was that he resigned from government service soon after finishing his work on the Skagit river, and had been employed by a private firm in the east.  He has been making out his report as rapidly as he could under the circumstances.  Mr. Willis asked the commissioners to employ a competent engineer to prepare detailed plans for the best way of handling a flood control scheme.  The county, when it has a definite plan to submit, will then be in a position to ask for federal aid, he said.  . . .  The commissioners took no action in the river matter, except to say that they could not include an additional one mill levy at this time. 

Commissioners Leave Flood Control Out of Budget












No report from Stewart was given as justification.


Based on documents obtained from NARA it is believed that Skagit County received Stewarts report in October, 1923.  It is known that the CT had his report in December 1923. See 12/20/23 CT article.




Engineering Department Announces River Hearing In Mount Vernon, Nov. 30

            The War Department of the United States engineering office, through W. J. Barden, colonel of the engineering corps, located at Seattle, has issued a notice of public hearing to be held in Mount Vernon, at the Commercial Club rooms, on Friday, November 30, at seven o’clock in the forenoon, at which time the Skagit river project will come up for discussion in all its phases.  . . .  The information especially desired by the engineering department, as combined in the special notice, calls for the following particular data and facts:


  • Character of improvements desired
  • Names of vessels now using the waterway with draft and tonnage of each
  • Amount and character of present commerce.  . . .

Corps of Engineers Public Hearing


River Hearing Friday, Nov. 30


War Department Seeks Information on Improvement of Skagit


A public hearing will be held in the Mount Vernon Commercial Club rooms at 11 o’clock Friday forenoon, November 30, for the purpose of obtaining the views of interested parties in regard to the preliminary examination of the Skagit river.  This announcement was made through the Argus today by the War Department of the United States.



Corps wanted all comments to be submitted in writing.


Engineering Department Announces River Hearing In Mount Vernon, Nov. 30

            The War Department of the United States engineering office, through W. J. Barden, colonel of the engineering corps, located at Seattle, has issued a notice of public hearing to be held in Mount Vernon, at the Commercial Club rooms, on Friday, November 30, at seven o’clock in the forenoon, at which time the Skagit river project will come up for discussion in all its phases.  . . .  The information especially desired by the engineering department, as combined in the special notice, calls for the following particular data and facts:


  • Character of improvements desired
  • Names of vessels now using the waterway with draft and tonnage of each
  • Amount and character of present commerce.  . . .

Corps of Engineers Public Hearing


Skagit River Hearing Today

            Over one hundred citizens and farmers gathered at the Commercial Club rooms today in attendance at the river hearing under the direction of the United States war department.  . . .  No time was lost in getting the hearing underway.  H. L. Willis represented the local river committees.  He spoke at length regarding the need of immediate and permanent river improvement.  . . .  At the conclusion of the hearing, Col. Barden reviewed the situation, touching upon past floods, going back as far as 1815.  He stated that the government does not consider the matter of river floods, but considers matters of this kind, from a strictly navigation standpoint.

Corps Concerned With River Navigation Only


Proof that the Corps had Stewarts report by November 1923.  See 11/26/24 minutes as to what Colonel Barden thought about Stewart Report a year after this meeting.


Need of River Improvement For Deep River Navigation Becomes Growing Necessity

            As to the character of the improvement desired, we may say in general that we want free and impeded access to the sea, in order that our rapidly increasing commerce may fully enjoy the advantages which our location very near salt water should give us.  . . .  We are a community of farmers and have not the skill or knowledge of hydraulic engineers.  What we suggest therefore, in the absence of expert determination, is a result of our experience with the Skagit River for the past twenty-five years.  The stoppage to navigation is caused by the formation of bars and the lodging of snags either at the mouth of the stream or along its source higher up.  These same causes raise the bed of the stream and dam up the water during flood, increasing the high water menace.  It seems to us therefore, that a free and open channel to the sea as well as the leesening of flood danger would both be accomplished by the prosecution of three general lines of work.  First, beginning at deep salt water, two rock jetties should be built to the mouth of the river.  . . .  The second line of work must consist of removing the accumulations which now obstruct navigation.  . . .  The third line of work should be directed toward lessening the burden of silt and drift carried by the river.  . . .  To date all improvements have been with the idea of flood control alone.  Thus there has been expended up to the year 1922, but not including that year, the sum of $1,987,799.10 for dikes and drainage ditches.  These dikes have not attained the object for which they were built as during each flood of any magnitude they fall to confine the stream and are broken in numerous places.  Since the 1921 flood there has been some attempt made to take up this river problem along comprehensive lines covering both phases.  There is at present a considerable sentiment among the residents and tax-payers of Skagit County in favor of forming an improvement district covering all the territory threatened by the river and adopting some plan for dredging and widening the channel…  . . .  A very conservative estimate of farm production over a period of years indicates that approximately 50,000 tons of oats, 30,000 tons of hay, 12,000 tons of potatoes, 18,000 tons of straw, and 10,000 tons of general farm products originate in this valley annually.  . . .  Timber Shipments  The annual timber shipments approach the imposing figure at 300,000,000 feet.  . . .  Navigation Now Difficult  It is a matter of common knowledge that the Skagit is one of the great commercial waterways of the Northwest.  . . .  But it is also a fact and a matter common knowledge that the entrance to this waterway is rapidly becoming blocked by bars and obstructions so that at the present rate of filling a very few more years will see the South Fork of the river entirely closed to navigation.  Capt.  F. A. Siegel of the U.S. Snagboat “Swinomish” has filed a statement with the Board of Commissioners of Skagit County in which he alleges that twenty-nine years ago when he started to navigate the river it was difficult to find bottom with a pike pole at any point in the South Fork between Mount Vernon and Puget Sound.  The bottom of the river has now filled to such an extent that at low tide only small boats or skiffs can travel the channel.  There has apparently been a filling in for almost the entire length of the South Fork of some 16 to 18 feet.  This condition can only be remedied by dredging.

Testimony At Corps Public Hearing


Navigation hindered by formation of bars and lodging of snags.  Free and open channel to the sea desired.


Recommended two rock jetties be built at mouth of river.








Dike and drainage districts spent $1,987,799.10 up to and including 1921.



Dikes did not obtain purpose for which they were built.






Wanted to dredge and widen channel.





29 years ago (1894) couldn’t find bottom of Skagit with a “pike pole” in the South Fork.  Bottom of river now filled 16 to 18 feet.


Levees did not start being built along the forks of the Skagit River until 1883.  (See J.O. Rundene Testimony, 11/26/24.)  Clearly the argument could be made that the sediment being deposited in the channel was a result of the levees being placed on the edge of the river as the sediment used to flow out onto the floodplain.


Editorial:  Need of River Improvement For Deep River Navigation Becomes Growing Necessity


            At the hearing held by the United States engineering staff at the Commercial Club rooms last Friday, much data was submitted showing why the Skagit river should be improved.  . . .  Past experiences have shown exclusively that it takes a long time to get that little ball of red tape unwound, and then when it is unwound, so much of the financial aid which is supposed to mean so much is generally spent in minor red tape details, that the actual amount is reduced to such an extent that it is of little or no particular use; at any rate it becomes so reduced that the amount left is of little or no consequence.  . . .  The Daily Herald herewith reproduces extracts from the volume of data submitted at the hearing last Friday.  It is important information and shows conclusively that the improvement of the Skagit River is an absolute necessity.

Improvement Of Skagit River Is Absolute Necessity


Get Figures At River Hearing


Skagit County Men Show Need of Improving the Skagit River


Col. W.J. Barden, of the United States Engineer’s office in Seattle, was chairman of the hearing.  A report prepared by the Skagit County River committee, and signed by H.L. Willis, of the committee,…


George B. Reah, county commissioner, emphasized the need for protecting the farmer from high water stating that the last high water had cost the county $100,000.  C.C. Nelson also stated that this high water had cost Diking District No. 3, $24,000.  Other talks on the need of flood protection were made by J.O. Rudene and W.J. Knutzen.  …


Mr. Willis declared there were 120,000 tons or 8,000 car loads of farm products shipped by boat from this valley each year and that the dairy products alone were valued at more than two million dollars while the products of the seed growers would reach $200,000.  J.M. Humphrey stated the dairymen’s plants shipped 8600 tons by boat in the first 11 months this year and that the dairy products shipped during 1923 would easily reach two and a half million dollars.


Captain McDonald said he planned to put on a larger boat and give daily service between Skagit points and Seattle.  James O’Hearne, who said no represented the Tom Moore Booming company, gave 96 million feet of logs as the tonnage of his company last year.  He urged the clearing of the South Fork of the river at the shingle mills to the south needed an outlet badly.  …


In closing Col. Barden stated that the proposed dredging at the mouth of the river would be expensive and that this work would have to be kept up from year to year.  He stated the high water in the past had been caused by the contraction of the river at the bridges and that the present system of dikes had also caused more contraction of the stream.  The colonel also stated that the federal government at present was making no provision for flood control except on the Mississippi and the Sacramento rivers, and that the engineer’s office was confined entirely to navigation problems and that the hearing here would be considered only from that standpoint.  …  The opinion seemed to prevail that if protection against high water in the Skagit river was to be secured it must come from the county and state and not from the federal government.


The committee urged the building of jetties at the mouth of the river and the dredging of the river.





Willis report was located and is published in its entireity.  (See 11/26/24)











Farming history.







Logging history.






Dredging mouth of river.

Bridge corridor needed widening.

Levee needed to be setback.



Navigational problems only concern of Corps.



This is what final study in 1925 stated.  Think their minds were made up before study was done?

Jetties and dredging.


report of engineer gives a history of skagit river flood

James E. Stewart, government hydraulic engineer employed about two years ago by Skagit county to investigate flood conditions along the Skagit valley, has just submitted a report on his findings of the “stage and volume of past floods in Skagit valley and advisable protective measures prior to the construction of permanent flood controlling works.”  The report is as comprehensive as possible going back to the floods told of by the Indians in 1815.  It is too long to publish in detail, but this article will give some of the main ideas embodied in Mr. Stewarts findings.  “Since the arrival of the first white people about 1869,” says Mr. Stewart, “there have been six Skagit river floods whose discharge has exceeded 175,000 second feet at Sedro-Woolley.  All of these floods have occurred since Nov. 15, 1896.  The number of floods that exceeded 175,000 second-feet at Sedro-Woolley prior to 1869 is unknown, but the occurrence of two great floods has been discovered.  The exact dates of these early floods are not known, but their stages and volumes have been accurately determined.  . . .  Then follows data on the floods, taken at various places along the river.  The data shows that the floods of 1921 was the second largest since 1856, in Sedro-Woolley, the 1909 flood reaching 26.5 feet on the gage and 1921 flood, 24.3 feet.  . . .  In the light of knowledge of past floods it seems likely, says Mr. Stewart that floods like those of 1917 and 1921 may occur within the next five or six years.  . . .  The writer will make several suggestions as to inexpensive measures that should be carried out in the near future.  They may be briefly outlined ass follows; install a flood warning system, delay diking off the Nookachamps district; protect certain danger zones removing drift from river channel below Hamilton and possibly near Lyman, and build protective dikes at Burlington and possibly Mt. Vernon; obtain additional hydrographic data; form a conservancy district.”  Mr. Stewart gives data showing that rainfall for the two largest floods since data has been kept is much the same.  At the Skagit power camp in 1909 for Nov. 28 and 29, the rainfall for the two days was 7.85 inches.  At the Davis ranch on Dec. 11 and 12, 1921, the rainfall was 7.62 inches, while the maximum temperature in both cases was about 52 degrees.  . . .  Mr. Stewart recommends a delay in diking the Nookachamps district, as at present it acts as a storage reservoir during floods and has prevented much damage.  . . .  Burlington, he says is in danger from any size flood, and should be encircled by a dike, as a correctly built dike around Burlington would protect it against all floods.  . . .  Mr. Stewarts report contains a mass of data collected at various places along the river, and urges that many more of these stations be established.  He says the matter needs further study before any large flood prevention project is undertaken, but that there is always a danger of a repetition of floods.

James E. Stewart

Mr. Stewart was hired in Nov. 1922.  See 11/23/22 CT article.


“6 floods exceeded 175,000 cfs at Sedro-Woolley since 1896.”

Clearly Mr. Stewart was using a different datum then is being used today.  USGS has subsequently added 21.06 ft to Stewarts computations at S-W and 12.7 ft to Concrete.  The reported magnitude of these floods has not reoccurred for the past 80 years.

During the November 21 through 25, 1990 flood event 6 inches of rain fell at Marblemount, 15.5 inches of rain fell at Reflector Bar, 11 inches of rain fell at Glacier on the Baker River side and 11.3 inches of rain fell at Darrington on the Sauk River.  The regulated peaks of 146,000 cfs and 152,000 cfs at Concrete and Mount Vernon respectively would have been 182,000 cfs and 180,000 cfs if left unregulated.   One has to ask that if Stewart and USGS computations of the 1921 flood are to be believed, how did we end up with only 180,000 cfs unregulated flow with 15.5 inches of rain at Reflector Bar, and Stewart and USGS end up with 240,000 cfs and 225,000 cfs respectfully with only 10.21 inches of rain falling at Reflector Bar (Davis Ranch 7.6)?  (Sources:  Flood Summary Report, Nooksack, Skagit and Snohomish River Basins, November 1990 Events, Corps of Engineers, 7/18/91; (Stewart/Bodhaine Report, Geological Survey Water-Supply Paper 1527, 1961)


high water floods many parts of district; railroad stopped

After several days of rain and Chinooks, the river in all parts of the district, went over their banks in many places on Tuesday.  A stretch of some 150 feet of the Great Northern near Hamilton was washed out, and the town of Hamilton was cut off from everything but telephone communication Tuesday morning.  The bridge over the slough at Hamilton was washed out, and the bridge to the Lyman ferry at Lyman went down stream Tuesday.  At the unprotected places on the river near the town of Hamilton and Lyman, big areas of land and trees were washed bodily into the river.  In the Sterling district, families started moving out of danger Tuesday afternoon.  The old road to Burlington was covered, and lowlands between Sedro-Woolley and the river were under water Tuesday afternoon.  . . .  Big areas of land in the Burlington and Sterling districts were under water Tuesday, and also in the upper valley.  All sloughs along the Skagit river are covering the adjacent land, and the river is filled with drifting trees and debris.  The river rose five feet Monday night.  Tuesday night the river rose several feet more, covering the road between the trestle and the river bridge south of this city, and large areas of land.  By Wednesday morning the flood had reached its crest and had receded from the road this side of the river.  The Clear Lake Road near the Eldred place was under some four feet of water and impassable.


Neither the Corps of Engineers or USGS reported this flood event.


Flood was serious event in Hamilton and Sterling.


Levees broke in Conway and Burlington.  (See 2/14/24 Argus article)


$6,000,000 in Giant Baker River Electrical Development

            Water power development of the Pacific northwest will receive great impetus in the announcement of the Puget Sound Power & Light company that it will immediately begin the construction of a 45,000 horsepower hydro-electric plant on the Baker River in Skagit County, representing an investment of $6,000,000.  Foundations and approximately a depth of 50 feet of the dam are scheduled for completion this year and the entire work will be finished in 1925 – regarded by engineers as remarkable speed for the construction of such an important hydro-electric unit.  . . .  The Baker River is looked upon as one of the most interesting electric generating installations in all the northwest, so rich in water powers.  . . .  As it falls out of Baker Lake it passes through Sulphur canyon where there is a splendid potential development that will come as soon as needful following the completion of the present installation at Eden canyon, twelve miles below Sulphur canyon.  Water from the impounding dam in these canyons will create a lake approximately eight miles long and reaching almost to the upper canyon.  This lake will be 1600 acres in extent, storing 50,000 acre feet of water.  . . .  Next on the program of the Puget Sound Power & Light company after the announced development on Baker river probably will be the installation of a hydro-electric plant at Sulphur canyon almost as large as that near Concrete.  The waters of the Baker river will then be utilized in two steps, the Sulphur canyon site having not quite the same amount of water available due to the fact that two or three tributaries flow into the Baker river between the two.

Lower Baker Dam


Amount would be approximately $64,000,000 in 2003 dollars according to Consumer Price Index adjusting for inflation.


High Water Hits Lyman -- Ten Families Are Marooned

            As an aftermath of the high water of the last few days, the upper Skagit people are experiencing much anxiety from possible danger of landslides.  This is particularly true of a small group of ten families, who are marooned on a small island across the river from Lyman, caused by the washing out of three bridges across the Skagit near Lyman, or their approaches.  . . .  The Lyman bridge extending from that city to Day Creek, was carried away Tuesday night, while the two bridges across Alder creek are rendered useless for the present, owing to their approaches having been swept away.  . . .  Several of the smaller homes within ten to twelve feet of the river have been moved.  Men are hauling spruce trees and laying them along the river to prevent caving in of the land near the school building, and steps to prevent loss are being taken by residents of Lyman.



See 2/14/24 CT and Argus articles.  First documented February flood.


Water Reaches Rim of Skagit River


The stream nearly reached the flood stage of 23 feet in 1921.  A break in the dike on Fisher’s slough south of Conway caused the water to back up toward that town and over the Pacific highway.  Traffic however, was not impeded.  Another break at Dry Slough caused the water to start over Fir Island… but not to any depth.


The outer dike near Burlington broke early yesterday morning and would have gone through the secondary dike but for the quick action of the residents in that neighborhood near Dr. Cleveland’s farm.  Reports from Hamilton state that 400 feet of the Sedro-Woolley–Rockport highway and the Great Northern railway right-of-way had been carried away into the Skagit river by a landslide west of Sauk.  …


This is the first time, according to old residents of Mount Vernon that the flood stage has been reached by the Skagit in the month of February.



Amazing.  This flood is not on anybody’s radar.  Not reported by USGS or Corps yet according to this article almost as serious as 1921 at least in Mt. Vernon.


Dikes break in Conway and Burlington.  Burlington has “secondary dike”?  They must have been talking about the railroad grade.





First February flood.


sportsmen protest closing skagit river for fishing

Effective April 1 and through the period ending May 27, the Skagit river will be closed its entire length from the government marker on saltwater, to the Canadian border to all sport fishing, according to the new game laws as issued by the State Game Commission. This announcement comes as a blow to the fisherman of the entire state. Hardest hit, are the residents of Skagit county who have fished the river the year around since white men first settled in the valley. With gasoline rationing pared down to two gallons per week, residents living in the towns and on the farms along the banks of the Skagit will now have to giver up their “backyard” fishing and burn their precious gasoline on trips to some lake in the adjacent area on and after April 2.  . . .  Oddly enough effective May 1, commercial fishermen will be permitted to pursue their fishing with gill nets in the waters of the Skagit river from the junction of the north and south forks to saltwater.

Skagit Closed To Sports Fishing


Before this time Skagit was open year round.


Gasoline was rationed to citizens at the rate of two gallons per week.


Commercial fisherman were allowed to put nets in river from North & South Fork confluence to Puget Sound.


Writes About Flood Control


John Finstad of Conway Offers Material for Citizens’ Consideration


In recent years there has been some agitation for the purposes of controlling the floodwaters of the Skagit river, but as time passes on after a disastrous flood, the people of the valley easily forget that they ever had a flood, until another comes along.  Then they will have meetings for some time figuring on dredging and straightening the channel, but in the end nothings come out of it.


Not considering the disastrous summer freshet in 1894 we have had six or seven fast winter freshets during the past 30 years.  The highest one of these was the one of November 30, 1909, when about eight inches of rain fell in two days at upriver points.  This flood measured about 220,000 second feet at Sedro-Woolley.  Competent engineers claim that only about 150,000 second feet can pass through at the Riverside Great Northern bridge.  Consequently about 70,000 second feet had to seek an outlet somewhere else.  The February flood of this year was not considered dangerous but still it destroyed half a dozen homesteads at the Sauk delta and broke dikes at the Skagit delta to the value of at least $20,000, besides destroying several bridges at upriver points.


We have back in the mountains numerous large basins and deep gulches and valleys.  Undoubtedly places can be found where a dam can be built equaling for storage purposes at least half a cube mile.  The Ruby dam of the Seattle hydroelectric project is to be 480 feet high creating a lake about 25 miles long and five miles wide in most places  Back of this dam the Skagit has a shed of about 1200 square miles or a little more than one third of the whole basin of the Skagit and its tributaries.  Actual measurements at this dam site by U.S.G.S. shows the minimum flow to be 800 second feet and the maximum 50,000 second feet during 12 years of observation up to 1923.  Supposing the upper 20 feet of this dam was reserved for flood control it would take care of the maximum flow of 50,000 for at least twelve days.


Stone & Webster are going to build a dam across the Baker canyon back of Concrete in the near future.  Here another lake will be created up to six or seven miles long.  If 20 feet was reserved for flood control at this dam, Baker river would be eliminated from any flood danger from that source.




Tremendous letter to newspaper.  Should be required reading for entire valley.



Hits nail right on the head.




These are Stewart’s figures.  Eight inches of rain would not produce 220,000 cfs at Sedro-Woolley.


Flow figures are same as ones used by Corps and FEMA in 1979.


February flood “not serious: but yet destroyed bridges and broke dikes.  No record of this flood in federal files.


Recognized dam storage at Ross.  What USGS measurements at dam site?











Recognized dam storage at Lower Baker.  Needed top 20 feet to be used for flood control.


will get data on skagit river


County To Establish Hydrographic Station at the Dalles Near Concrete


Work was started yesterday on the construction of a hydrographic station at the Dalles of the Skagit River near Concrete.  The plans and specifications for the station were prepared by the county engineer’s office and were approved by the board of county commissioners at the regular meeting on Friday.  . . .


The station will provide means of measuring the water of the Skagit river for its volume and velocity and will be of great value in giving records in the future fight to control the floods of the river.  During past years there has been no accurate record kept of the river and engineers have no data upon which to base control measures.  For this reason the board of County commissioners approved the plans of the county engineer.



The county installed the gage at the Dalles.


Robert E. L. Knapp was the county engineer. He lived at 105 Snoqualmie in Mount Vernon with his wife Irene. Retired by 1948 and died in 1977.  He is buried in Grand View Cemetery in Anacortes. The Kerns Funeral home handled matters.


“has been no accurate record kept of the river and engineers have no data upon which to base control measures.”  They didn’t trust the Stewart Report.



Would Restrain Net Fishermen


State Orders 167 Skagit County People Into Court on October 14


Notice of a restraining order and order to show cause, with summons and complaint are being served this week upon 167 fishermen who have been charged with operating in the protected area at the mouth of the Skagit river.  The restraining order was obtained in the superior court here Friday and states that the fishermen were violating Order No. 8 made in June 1924 by the State Board of Fisheries.  These fishermen are alleged to have used gill or drift nets.





Were not allowed to fish within a distance of 3 miles from the mouth of river. 


senator dill and black for river control

. . .  Both Senator Dill and Mr. Black dwelt upon flood control here and pledged themselves to the task of securing government aid in this huge undertaking. Senator Dill reiterated his stand in regard to river control when interviewed in this city today. He said that the valley needs protection from floods and that he would do all in his power to bring about relief. In this connection, Mr. Black also promised to produce results.

Congressman Commits To Flood Control


fish case awaits high court ruling

Continuance of the LaConner fish case until after the supreme court of the state has given a decision on a similar case, now pending in the higher court, has been announced. . . .  167 FISHERMAN CHARGED Notice of a restraining order and an order to show cause, with summons and complaint were served the first week in October on 167 fishermen, charging them with operating within the closed area at the mouth of the Skagit river. The fishermen were alleged to have used gill nets.

Fish Lawsuit


167 commercial fisherman charged with using gill nets in mouth of Skagit River.


skagit river up 14 feet

Rising rapidly, the Skagit river is fourteen and one-half feet higher today than it was at 9:30 last night. The Skagit began rising last night, due to warm winds of Thursday. Before it started to rise, the river was one-half foot below sea level; the lowest it has been this season. Boats on the river had difficulty in docking. The heavy rains of last night have had no effect thus far. It is not expected that there will be any flood danger.



river flood report to be made

A public hearing will be held in the Commercial Club at Mt. Vernon, Washington at 1 p.m. Wednesday, November 26, in connection with a report on preliminary examination of Skagit River with reference to its floods which was directed by the Act of Congress of May 31, 1924.  . . .  While for accuracy of record all important facts and arguments should be submitted in writing, oral evidence will be heard.

Corps of Engineers Public Hearing

This was one of the most important meetings in Skagit County history.  Copies of the minutes and testimony submitted have been obtained and are published in this index.  


flood menace is told here

Flood control of the Skagit river was urged this afternoon at a meeting which was held in the Commercial club rooms, this city. Col. W. J. Barden, Seattle , government representative, and his aides were in attendance at the meeting and heard the reports of the local committees in which the need for flood control was stressed. . . .  Data gathered by the committee for the last three years was submitted to Col. Barden and his aides, which they took under advisement. A long report, prepared by H. L. Willis, chairman of the river committee, was submitted. The full report will be found on page three of today’s issue of the Daily Herald. In his report, Mr. Willis went as far back as 1894 when the damage caused by a flood here amounted to $1,500,000. A review of the floods since that time was made in the report, details of which are presented on page three, this issue. The report showed that floods here have cost the citizens thousands upon thousands of dollars.

Corps of Engineers Public Meeting

The minutes of this most important meeting were obtained from the NARA in Sandpoint Naval Air Station.  Because of the importance of what was stated at this meeting, the minutes, Mr. Willis’s testimony, as well as the testimony of the County Engineer and farmer J. O. Rundene are included in this index.


Curb of Flood Waters Urged By Local Committee; Damage Estimates Are High

            Data gathered by several Skagit County committees over a period of several years was today presented to Col. W. J. Barden, Seattle, who was there for the river hearing.  All the data asked for is included in a lengthy report submitted by H. L. Willis, chairman of the river improvement committee and which was turned over to Col. Barden.  The complete report follows:

See 11/26/24 H.L. Willis Testimony

The MVDH published the entire Willis presentation.  We obtained the actual copy of Mr. Willis’s presentation in the archives of the NARA in Sandpoint and it is reproduced electronically below.


minutes of corps of engineers public meeting

I would like to emphasize the point that Mr. Knapp brought out in his paper, that before any really scientific plan can be prepared for the protection of this valley from floods, it is necessary to have more authoritative information then we now have as to the amount of water carried by the river in time of floods.  . . .  The information that was collected by Mr. Stewart and given in his report to the committee was excellent so far as the data that he had to work upon permitted, but that data was necessarily more or less inaccurate.

Colonel Barden Statement re Accuracy of Stewart Report


Stewarts “data was necessarily more or less inaccurate”.  USGS and the Corps are still using the Stewart data in computing 100 year flood flows on the Skagit.


Testimony of H.L. Willis

“As to the frequency, duration, and height of floods in the Skagit River, we refer you for greater details to the comprehensive report submitted to the Skagit County Commissioners by Mr. J. E. Stewart in 1922.  A copy of this report was also filed with the U.S. Beological Survey.”

Skagit County Received Copy of Stewart Report

Mr. Willis’s report contained a couple of typo’s.  The county received the Stewart Report in 1923 and was filed with the US Geological Survey department.


testimony of county engineer robert e.l. knapp

“In accordance with the wishes of this Citizens Committee above mentioned, a hydraulic engineer of wide reputation, Mr. James E. Stewart, was employed and in the fall of 1922 and the winter of 1923, he made a thorough preliminary examination of the valley and river system, and his exhaustive report is now on file in my office.  “He has recommended, first that a flood warning system be installed; second, that the diking off of the Nookachamps be delayed; third, that certain danger spots be protected; fourth, obtain additional hydrographic data; and fifth, form a conservancy district.”  “The first recommendation has not as yet been carried out.  Chiefly because of the limited funds at hand.  The second recommendation has been carried out.  The third recommendation has to some extent been carried out.  Drift barriers have been built near Lyman, and a jetty built some little distance below Lyman.  The fourth recommendation we have been very active in fulfilling because it is in direct line with the original wishes of the Citizens Committee on flood control.”  . . .  “I will give you a brief outline of such work as we have done in gathering additional hydrographic data.  Because of the limited funds available in time past, such technical data as has been gathered in this vicinity, has been very meager and calculations of stream flow are at best only an estimate and accurate to within only 10 to 20%The technical data so far gathered, has been done entirely by the USGS Department of Water Resources, and they have had to rely upon intermittent gage readings, observations and recollections of residents, and more or less disconnected precipitation records.”  . . .  “Consequently, in order to secure definite and accurate stream flow records, it is necessary to install good reliable equipment and take measurements in a systematic manner.  For this purpose and acting upon the recommendation of Mr. Stewart, the Board of County Commissioners in the spring of 1924 instructed the county engineer to proceed with the construction of a suitable installation for the purpose of gathering accurate stream flow records.

County Engineer Needs More Accurate Data In Which To Gage Flood Heights


County Engineer had Stewart Report.





County delayed diking off Nookachamps.








Stewart calculations were “only an estimate”.  Relied upon intermittent gage readings, observations and recollections of residents, and more or less disconnected precipitation records.


Needed gage in Dalles in order to secure “accurate stream flow records.”


j.o. rundene testimony

. . .I have lived in Skagit County forty-nine years and am familiar with the flood conditions, experienced in the Skagit Valley and particularly the LaConner flats, so called, during that period of time; that the first freshet and flood from the Skagit River that I recall, occurred the last of May in 1882.  At that time there were no dikes on the Skagit River, but the land bordering on the same extending upward to the foothills and the foothills themselves were all covered with a heavy growth of fir, cedar and spruce.  The water at that time covered the LaConner flats and stood on my farm three feet deep for a period of about two weeks, the depth of the water varying during that period of time.  . . .  In 1883 I commenced to build dikes along the North Fork of the Skagit River.  These dikes were gradually increased and work was done on them continuously until 1895, when I retired as Commissioner, and at that time it appeared to me and I thought the dikes were sufficiently high to protect the land against extreme high water at all seasons and during all flood conditions.  . . .  As this condition has increased the size of the dikes have also been greatly increased, until at the present time the dikes are at least three times as large as they were in 1895, when they were considered sufficient for all possible purposes.  There were other freshet of lesser consequences during the intervening years, but the next time at which the entire country was covered with water, as I recall it, was in 1909.  At that time the dikes broke at various points on the Skagit River and North fork flooding the entire country between Mt. Vernon and LaConner and between Burlington and the mouth of the Samish River at Edison, being territory about ten miles square, to a depth of from two to eight feet of water.  There was water in the vicinity of my place, about six feet deep, for a period of two weeks or longer, the water standing on the land for a period of a month or more.  The next large freshet was in 1917, occurring in December and the entire country above referred to was again covered with water to a depth of from two to six feet, the water remaining on the land until after Christmas time.  The next large freshet was in 1921 on New year’s day.  The entire country was again covered to a depth of from two to six feet and the water remaining on the land over a period of two weeks.  . . .

Local Farmer Tells of Flood History


Lived in Skagit since 1875.  In 1882 there were no levees.




Began building levees in 1883 along the North Fork of Skagit River.



He blamed logging for increasing the amount of run-off in floods.






1909 flood broke North Fork levees and flooded everything from Mt. Vernon to LaConner. 


1909, 1917 and 1921 floods all deposited 2 to 6 feet of water on his farm.


Tell of Skagit Flood Damage


Citizens Appear Before War Department Engineer With Much Data


Citizens of Skagit county appeared before Col. W.J. Bardon, District United States Engineer of the War Department yesterday in the Mount Vernon Commercial club rooms and presented evidence of past damage by Skagit river floods.  The hearing was called by the War Department officer “in connection with a report on preliminary examination of the river as directed by an act of Congress of May 31, 1924.”


The Skagit river improvement committee composed of representative men of this county with H.L. Willis as chairman, prepared data which was presented at the hearing, calling attention to the report filed with the county commissioners by J.E. Stewart in 1922, a copy of which also was filed with the U.S. Biological Survey.


The report states the “cost of dikes already constructed together with repairs and enlargements has, to date, exceeded 1 1-4 million dollars.”  …


“The era of power development for electrical purposes into which we are now entering seems to give hope along a practical line for flood relief.  There is at present one large dam on Baker river in process of construction.  Another is projected in the Skagit at Ruby creek.  Still another on the Sauk river has been discussed.  If arrangements could be made with any or all the builders of these dams to hold always available the upper ten feet of the dam for flood storage the greater part of our flood menace would seem to be gone.  Such storage for 48 hours would hold back the crest of the flood and give time for run-off.  It is the crest of the flood that breaks the dikes and does the damage.”


The reported quoted in detail from the report made two years ago by J.W. Collins, secretary of the Commercial club which stated that the flood of 1894 damaged crops in the valley approximately 1 1-2 million dollars.  The flood of 1897 also did great property damage and in 1906 the loss was estimated at $250,000 while that of 1909 was placed at 1 1-2 millions.  The flood caused estimated damage at $500,000 in 1917, according to Mr. Collin’s report.


After the 1921 flood H.L. Devin of Sedro-Woolley prepared a detailed report with the following figures:


Public road and bridges………………………$ 75,000

Buildings………………………………….........   30,000

Loss of logs and bolts………………………… 105,000

Merchandise and personal property…………  45,000

Dikes, ditches and drain tile…………………. 100,000

Crops, harvested and unharvested …………  30,000

Live stock………………………………………. 55,000

Drainage land and future crops………………100,000

Loss of wages………………………………….  15,000

TOTAL                                                          $505,000


“There are also intangible losses.  Among these are many thousands of dollars of trade and merchants either through the sudden cutting off of the transportation or through the crippling of the customer’s ability to buy.


“The total losses from all floods in the past fifty years have been enormous; yet as the valley becomes more highly developed each succeeding flood is likely to be more disastrous than the last.  The damage to the present valley of such a flood as that of 1820 which was 40 per cent, greater than that of 1909, can hardly be conceived.  While we yet have some property to protect it behooves us to seek out some practical method to curb this flood menace which is already lurking in the mountain ready to burst upon us.”


Several citizens gave oral testimony as to the damage caused in past years by the overflowing the Skagit river and Robert E.L. Knapp county engineer appeared before the engineer and gave further technical testimony concerning the floods of the river.  He also told of the county’s work in establishing a hydrographic station on the upper river by means of which accurate data of the flow of the river and its rise and fall may be kept.








This means that they published Preliminary Report (Recon Report) in just  7 months from the time they got authorization.


Note date of report.  1922.  This is a typo.  Report was actually given to County sometime after September 1923.  In any event destroys USGS argument that early reports were just drafts.



Lower Baker not completed yet.  Recognized impact of dam storage on flood control.  Upper ten feet should be used for storage.





Also need to find Collins report.







Flood damages.























Statement had to come from Stewart. 


High Winds and Heavy Rain Cause Skagit River to Rise

            Continued heavy rains and Chinook winds during the last twenty-four hours have caused the Skagit river to rise rapidly and today the high water conditions have assumed a serious aspect.  Since yesterday noon the river here has risen about six feet and observers today claim that the water is rising about three inches an hour.  At one o’clock the river was nearing the eighteen-foot mark.  . . .  Several of the old timers say the conditions are just about right for flood.  Crest of the high waters has not been reached, they declare.  . . .  Telephone reports received by the Daily Herald this afternoon from Lyman were that the road between that place and Hamilton was under water.  . . .  Late reports received by the Daily Herald were that part of Hamilton is under water.  School was dismissed and the desks and other equipment are being moved from the building, it was reported.



Flood would have been on December 12th and 13th, 1924.  USGS and Corps reported flood carried 92,500 cfs and reached 32.44 feet at Concrete.  No figures for Mt. Vernon.


Part of Hamilton underwater.  Dikes broke at Dry Slough on Fir Island. (See 12/18/24 Argus article.)



Weakened Dike Is Washed Out

            Seventy-five feet of diking were washed out near Skagit City this morning and as a result several hundred acres of lowlands are flooded.  The break was in the same place as that of the last big flood.  Late reports received here were that the water had not yet reached the road, but that unless the river goes down, the highway will be covered.  Weak construction of the dike is believed to have caused the washout  since the river was four feet from the top.  . . .  Hamilton reports the river dropping and it is said the water is now off the road between Hamilton and Concrete.

Skagit City Dike Washed Out


High Water In Skagit County


Heavy Rains and Warm Winds Again Send Stream to the Flood Stage


Heavy rains and warm winds caused the Skagit to rise rapidly Friday and Saturday, the stream reaching the 20-foot mark at the old gauge across the river from the Mission theatre.  With the sudden drop in temperature however, the stream began to go down.  Dry Slough southwest of Mount Vernon was unable to hold the flood and the water soon covered the farming district of Fir Island with from one to two feet of water.  Water also backed across the pavement between Mount Vernon and Conway and south of Milltown.  Traffic, however, was not interrupted.



Flood would have been on December 12th and 13th, 1924.  USGS and Corps reported flood carried 92,500 cfs and reached 32.44 feet at Concrete.


Dikes broke at Dry Slough on Fir Island.


farmers consider plans for new drainage district here

A meeting of farmers of this district to consider a new drainage project will be held in the Sedro-Woolley Commercial club rooms on Saturday afternoon of this week at 2 o’clock. County Agent Bergstrom is in charge of the meeting and is developing plans for the proposed district. This matter was brought up in 1922 and is being considered again because certain farmers have asked for relief from the excess water in this district.  . . .  The proposed drainage district extends about to Cokedale on the east, including the Northern State hospital lands; goes up to Duke’s hill on the north, to the edge of town on the west and as far south toward the river as drainage is needed.  . . .  Those who oppose the drainage district because they say their land does not need drainage, will not be included in the proposed district, if drainage will not benefit them, Mr. Bergstrom said today. He estimates that the district will include between 4500 and 5000 acres in this district, and believes that enough of the farm owners in the district feel the need of drainage, to make the organization possible.

New Drainage Project

5,000 acre drainage district boundaries were Cokedale on the East including Northern State, Dukes Hill on the North, Sedro-Woolley to the west and south to the Skagit River.


river is washing land away rapidly; threatens highway

During the past month or two, more than an acre of land has been washed into the river, from the farm just west of the Northern Pacific railroad bridge south of town.  . . .  Besides the washing away of this good farm land, the most serious menace is the dry bed of an old slough, which has been partially filled in, and is now exposed, or soon will be, to the full current of the river at high water. If the river is permitted to wash much more land away, the backwater will go up this slough at high water, and flood the pavement even worse than it is now at high water.  . . .

Erosion Near Sedro-Woolley


Acre of ground washed into the Skagit just west of NPRR bridge south of Sedro-Woolley (adjacent to Highway 9 bridge).


county’s “big snake” officially measured


The mighty Skagit had itself officially measured, Monday, by the county engineer’s office, at the county gauging and measuring station, at Concrete.  The county, the City of Seattle and Stone & Webster all keep a wary eye on the writhing monster, and its changes in mood are reported to Colonel Barden, district engineer of the U.S. War Department and G. H. Parker, district engineer of the U.S.G.S., in the form of cryptic, tabulated statistics.  . . .


The most menacing period on record was in 1921, when the snake lashed its tail and ran amuck, and a wide area was flooded.  That time 240,000 second feet of water raced by the observation station.



This article strongly suggests that although gage was installed on 7/31/24 it was not operative until sometime in 1925.





This was directly from Stewart.  Gage didn’t go in until 1924.


skagit county leads nation in soil test


Seven Year Government Probe Brings District Handsome Tribute

From Gunderson Farm

First Seven and Last Two Out of Twelve Won Locally; Gunderson Farm 100 Per Cent


The United States government has just admitted that Skagit county is the finest farming community in the nation, bar none.  In a series of soil tests extending over the past seven years, . . . Skagit county soil won nine out of 12 points.  An assay of soil taken from the Gunderson estate, south of Clear Lake, was found to be 100 per cent perfect for general agricultural purposes.  It was the only soil given a perfect rating.








This would be Nookachamps soil.


hearing on Padilla bay dike districts

A hearing was held before a jury in superior court Wednesday, on the proposed Padilla Bay diking district. The jury returned a directed verdict assessing damages and benefits of the proposed project. The estimated benefit to owners of lands in the territory which it is proposed to drain was $1,900,000. There were 126 property owners involved. The estimated benefits were about $200 an acre, and the nominal estimate damage, $1 an acre. It is said that there are over 10,000 acres now under water, that will be drained for cultivation. It is proposed to drain Padilla Bay, which means that the water between the Samish Camp Fire grounds and Hat island will be drained, laving the camp’s point of land, with water only on one side. Bay View will be left miles from any water, if the plans are carried out.  . . .

Padilla Bay Dike District


Proposal included draining Padilla Bay.


great baker river power plant nearing completion – lake shannon newly created 7-mile lake

Washington’s newest hydro-electric project, the great Baker River plant, is rapidly nearing completion.  . . .  In honor to William D. Shannon, the man who has had entire charge of construction, the lake formed by the dam thrown across the Baker river will be known as “Shannon Lake.”  The lake will be more than seven miles long and will contain sufficient water to cover 70,000 acres one foot deep … The surface area of the lake will be 1,780 acres and it will be 405 feet above sea level.  Baker River rises among the glaciers on the south slopes of Mount Baker and Mount Shuksan, in Whatcom county.  Near the foot of these peaks a glacial moraine backs up the river to form beautiful Baker Lake, the elevation of which is 664 feet above sea level.  . . .  It (the dam) contains more than 220,000 cubic yards of concrete masonry.  Back of this gigantic dam will be Shannon Lake, the reservoir that will store the flood waters of the river which will develop eventually 80,000 horsepower for use throughout western and central Washington.  . . . Construction was started April 1, 1924.

Baker Dam Just About Completed

Shannon Lake named for William D. Shannon, dam engineer and project manager.




Glacial moraine formed Baker Lake.  Need to determine how much water was in Baker Lake before Upper Baker dam was built.


Lake Shannon reservoir “will store the flood waters of the river”. 

They built a dam in 18 months. 


drainage expert to visit skagit

A.B. Crane, drainage specialist, will pay Skagit county a five day visit from October 23 to 28 inclusive, and all farmers in the district desiring advice on their farm drainage problems should apply at once, . . .  he has spent 36 days assisting individual farmers in working out their farm drainage problems.  57 of the farmers applying for this work have been given personal assistance in planning their drainage systems, these 57 farmers represent a total acreage of 2,729 acres.



57 farmers represented 2,729 acres.  That would be an average of 48 acres per farm.  Farms were a lot smaller back then.


Huge Artificial Lake Is Formed

            Forming of the huge artificial lake to be known as Shannon lake at the Baker River project was started this week when the Baker river was turned against the power dam at Concrete.  During the first day that the course of the river was turned to the lake, the lake rose eleven feet.  The huge artificially constructed lake is eight miles in length with a maximum width of about a mile.  Its depth approximates 200 feet.  The dam is 245 feet high from bedrock to the top of the flood gates, and is 450 feet ling.  . . .  Construction of the dam started about eighteen months ago, on April 1, 1924.

Lake Shannon Begins To Fill


First day lake rose 11 feet.


Skagit Lowest In 30 Years, U.S. Men Busy

            The Skagit River is now at the lowest stage of flow that it has been for almost thirty years.  This startling fact was revealed today by a group of eight field engineers of the United States geological survey who have been obtaining measure on the river discharge measurements.  . . .  Reports from the Upper Skagit district state that the river in that district shows less channel depth this month than at any time during the past twenty-seven years.  In places the waters are so low that it is possible to cross the river, hopping from boulder to boulder without getting one’s feet wet, according to C.H. Park, supervisor of the Mount Baker National forest, whose office is in Bellingham.  The situation in the Skagit river has reached a most serious condition.  It was brought out in the investigation which is being conducted by geological surveyors that the river bed in many places has raised twenty feet between here and the mouth of the river.  This condition alone is cause for alarm.

Skagit River Very Low


One has to wonder how much the filling of Lake Shannon had to do with the low levels in the Skagit.  Previous 10/24/25 article states Baker River rose 11 feet in one day.


huge lake is now forming behind dam


Reservoir of Water 250 Feet Deep and Eight Miles Long Is Filling

Power Plant is Ready

Massive Concrete Wall Is Anchored Into Solid Rock of Canyon Above Concrete


Mt. Vernon will have light and power from the new Baker River power plant of the Puget Sound Power & Light Co., for a Christmas present.  . . .  lake eight miles long and 250 feet deep.


Lower Baker Dam Completed.





Expected to take 6 weeks to fill up.


power from baker river plant ready for use here this week

Marking a new era for electric light and power in this part of the state, the current generated at the new Baker river power project, recently completed by Stone & Webster, will be turned into the Sedro-Woolley sub-station this week.  The water of the river, back of the recently finished dam has risen 160 ft. on the dam to the intake, and the power turbines in the power house have been turned over and tested, so everything is in readiness to start operations.

Baker River Dam Goes On-Line


Water rose 160 feet behind dam.


more “puget power”

Baker River is harnessed to add its age-old strength to the upbuilding of the Pacific Northwest.  The surge of 40,000 horsepower today augments the surging might vibrating in our transmission lines and serving 350 cities, towns and communities in Washington.  The investment of over eight thousand citizens of Western Washington in our securities has aided in making this plant possible.  . . .  Concrete dam 245 feet high.  Impounding 70,000 acre-feet of water.  Creating “Lake Shannon”, 8 miles long.

Advertisement By Puget Power

245 feet high??  See 5/5/27 CT article.  It says dam was 260 ft high.


$200,000 Being Spent To Raise Baker River Dam

            This enlargement of capacity is being accomplished by increasing the height of the Baker River dam by 33 feet from its present 260 feet to a total of 293 feet, and making it one of the highest concrete structures of the kind in the world.

Dam Gets Height Extension


skagit valley warned to prepare for flood!

flood danger here seen in big snowfall


Warm Rain Or Chinook Is Feared – Late Spring Swells Danger

Bridge Weakens Dike

Great Northern Structure Acts as Partial Dam, Mt. Vernon Engineer Points Out


Judge Crookston urged that the Puget Sound Power & Light Co. be requested to lower the level of the water in Lake Shannon, behind the Baker River dam, so the lake could absorb the surplus which will come down when the warm weather sets in.  He said that conditions now are similar to those in the spring of 1894, when the Skagit Valley was flooded.  The difference now, he added is that the forests on the hills which formerly retarded the rush of melted snow have been removed; therefore the danger is more acute.    . . .  


I do not wish to assume the role of a harbinger of disaster,” said Mr. Moore today, “but those citizens of the Skagit Valley whose homes and live stock are protected from floods by dikes, should understand that the stage is partly set for a more than ordinary flood.  The mountainous district to our east has as heavy a snowfall as I have seen in 15 years, with much of it recent or new snow, which is rapidly melted by a warm rain or Chinook wind, and as the spring is far advanced we can expect a sudden change.

“Lake Shannon, the result of the dam at Concrete, will be of benefit during a flood, although the Baker river only represents one fifth of the total water in the Skagit river.  Such a lake retards the water to some extent, lengthens the time of passing and thereby lowers the peak of the flood.


“One of the unfortunate conditions permitted by the government engineers is the diagonal position and oversize substructure with riprap, which carries the Great Northern railroad bridge, north of this city.  This substructure obstructs one-sixth of the waterway at or near a sharp bend in the river, which causes repeated failure of the dikes above the aforesaid bridge.”


This is only the second mention of the Spring flood of 1894 I have seen.  The other was as follows: “The Winter floods previous to the Spring flood of 1894 was about 2 feet higher, but they were never as high or no indications of them being so, excepting the one big flood the Indians tell about.  The Winter Floods since that time (1894) were always higher.  The more they diked the river close to it, the higher the floods have been.”  (Source:  Letter to Stewart from Joe Hart, 6/21/23)


Storage in Lake Shannon.


 Logging contributes to flooding.


Most snow since 1912?  If correct would tend to support theory 1917 and 1921 floods were caused more by rain then snow.


Value of storage.





Interesting.  Very interesting.  Not the log jams impeding the flow but the rip rap around the piers.  Impedes one sixth of the flow.  Now here’s an argument that we haven’t heard before.


height of big baker river dam to be increased 33 ft.

The Puget Sound Power & Light Company is expending $200,000 according to announcement just made by President A. W. Leonard, to practically double the water storage capacity behind the great Baker River concrete dam at Concrete in Skagit County.  . . .  This enlargement of capacity is being accomplished by increasing the height of the Baker River dam by 33 feet from its present 260 ft. to a total of 293 feet, making it one of he highest concrete structures of the kind in the world.  Water storage in Shannon Lake created by the building of the Baker River Dam two years ago, is now 10,000 acre-feet but will be increased to 130,000 acre-feet by the heightening of the dam.  . . .  The Baker River sockeye salmon have a reputation far and wide as among the most toothsome of the salmon tribe.  But for the construction of this salmon ladder and railway for the salmon they could not have survived the installation of this mighty dam.  A force of some 200 men is at work on these improvements at Baker river.

Lower Baker Dam Raised


Dam completed in 1925 at a height of 260 feet.  Added another 33 feet.


10,000 acre-feet is a typo.  Should be 70,000 acre-feet.  (See 11/26/25 CT article.)


Baker River Sockeye was a much sought after fish.


Wants Upper Skagit River Bed Cleaned -- River Not Navigable Except During High Water Season

            A committee will also be selected to confer with officials of the power company with reference to the use of the Baker river dam for flood control of the Skagit river.  President John Brisky of the Mount Vernon Chamber of Commerce read a letter which he received from Hugo Bauman of Rockport with reference to the condition of the Skagit river during low water.  Bauman said it was impossible to navigate the river between Sedro-Woolley and Rockport during low water because of snags in the bed of the river.  He urged that the matter be taken up with the government and that a snag boat be put to work, claiming that if the river is navigable the year round, the Rockport community would benefit as well as the county as large.

Lower Baker Flood Control Sought


River impossible to navigate during low water between Sedro-Woolley and Rockport.  Wanted snag-boat to work upriver.


danger of skagit flood believed to be averted


Judge J. M. Shields recalled that Indians used to point to a bald spot on the hills back of Big Lake as a flood barometer, declaring that when it was covered with snow at this time of year, it was time for dwellers of the flats to caulk the seams in their row boats, but that when the snow disappeared, the flood danger would be past.  Judge Shields said this morning the snow was almost gone.


It was announced that the Puget Sound Power and Light Co. expects to lower the level of Lake Shannon, behind the Baker River dam, within a few days.  With the lake down it will act as a safety valve should sudden hot weather bring down the snow water.  However, it is believed that the gradual rise in temperature the pas week has had the effect of melting a considerable amount of loose snow and thus removing some of the danger.



Need to see if this landmark is still there.






Lake Shannon to be lowered in May.  Too late but lowered anyway.


stone-webster will spend over $2,000,000 near here – over a million and a quarter will be spent at concrete and almost another million dollars on transmission lines; new projects announced officially; big crew working out of sedro woolley

Insuring a large additional payroll for Sedro-Woolley, during the next few months, the Stone-Webster ‘Co. announced today its plans for improvements in the Baker River power plant at Concrete, and the transmission lines through Sedro-Woolley, amounting to an expenditure of more than $2,000,000.  . . .  During the year 1927 the height of the Baker River dam was increased about 33 feet enlarging the storage capacity at that point from 70,000 acre feet to 130,000 acre feet, while the generating capacity was increased at the same time from 40,215 horsepower to 53,620 horsepower.

More Improvements to Lower Baker



New transmission lines and improvements to power plant.


high water in skagit streams causes damage

Warm winds and rain Wednesday following several days of warmer weather caused the Skagit river and its tributary streams to overflow in several places east of this city, blocking the road west of Hamilton and undermining the Great Northern track between Lyman and Sedro-Woolley.  Other damage all along the river between here and Marblemount was reported, but so far the main river had not flooded any territory.  Backwater and high water in the creeks was responsible for most of the damage, together with slides along the road.  . . .  Grandy creek is a foot higher than it has been in years, and washed out the dam at the fish hatchery at Birdsview.


USGS 95,500 cfs at Concrete (32.9), no figure given for Mt. Vernon or Sedro-Woolley. 


Very small flood event.


seattle chamber to help get Skagit river relief

The Seattle Chamber of Commerce, answering appeals from C. E. Bingham of this city, and Sibert Eaton, local farmer, is making an effort to get federal aid in the fight against the Skagit river. C. C. Finn, prominent Seattle businessman, was in the city this week, investigating conditions of the Skagit river near here, on behalf of the Seattle Chamber of Commerce river and harbor committee, and will make an effort to obtain a federal survey of the river.  . . .  He was much impressed with the fact that hundreds of acres of fine farmland are being washed down the river, and that the banks need protecting and the channel needs straightening. The recent high water did much damage. The big barn built by Henry Cooper at Lyman many years ago, was washed into the river yesterday. The barn stood originally on a farm of forty-five acres and only three acres are left now. County roads are being undermined my the river, and the channel near Burns’ bar, east of this city, is threatening hundreds of acres, and if permitted to continue, may finally threaten the city of Sedro-Woolley.

Seattle To Help Study Skagit


Seattle Chamber of Commerce to help get federal aid to “study” Skagit River.



Barn at Lyman fell into the river.  Used to sit on 45 acre farm.  Only three acres left.


h.m. eakin consulted by congress on flood help

H.M. Eakin of this city, who is recognized as a national authority on river flood relief methods, has during the past few weeks been consulted frequently by Congressmen, on his plan for stopping floods in the Mississippi river basin.  . . .  Eakin, who as a United States geologist, had many years of practical experience in river affairs and is the author of textbooks and encyclopedia articles on the subject, had had a recent article of his in the Thrift magazine, quoted in over 150 daily papers of the United States.  . . .  “Nearly everyone knows something of the levee method of controlling flooded streams, but not so many know of the science of river morphology, which aims at so regulating the force of waters that the river could not overflow its banks.”   . . .  He views the construction of higher and higher levees as useless, because in time the river will deposit between them sufficient silt to raise the level of the water as high as they can be built.  . . .  “The dynamic method of control involves the management of stream energies to regulate erosion.  We have in the river itself a powerful engine of construction and destruction, the natural activities of which are largely adverse.”

A Real Local Expert


One has to wonder why local forces didn’t spend more time with Mr. Eakin.  We had a real expert in river morphology living in Sedro-Woolley and his name doesn’t ever appear on any flood related document yet reviewed.  Skagit County missed a golden opportunity.


Flood Control Action Taken by Skagit C.C. -- Resolution Asking Federal Aid is Passed Unanimously

            Renewed activity in an effort to obtain federal aid for flood control of the Skagit river took the form of a resolution, which was unanimously adopted at the monthly meeting of the Skagit County Chamber of Commerce held at the Rexville grange hall last night.  The resolution was present by H. M. Eakin, Sedro-Woolley, who is recognized as a national authority on flood control.  . . .  A portion of the resolution follows:  . . .  “Whereas, particularly in the case of the Skagit river, business and property of extraordinary value per square mile over an area of large extent have repeatedly been subjected to disastrous overflow.  Whereas the major floods of the Skagit, although the river is only a hundred miles long, may equal in volume an eighth or more of the total volume of a major flood on the Mississippi.  . . .  Whereas the drainage capacity and regiment of the Skagit is deteriorating seriously from causes entirely unrelated to the activities and responsibilities of the people occupying and using the lands so menaced.  Whereas, taxation to support protection work has fallen heavily and is a serious burden upon such individuals and communities.  . . . Therefore, be it resolved that a memorial of these facts be presented to our congressmen and senator in Washington, D.C. to assist them in enlisting federal support of flood control works on the Skagit river.”

Skagit County Chamber Of Commerce


Chamber was trying to help County obtain federal aid for flood control.


Chamber felt drainage capacity of river had decreased.


Fraud Charged In Election of Dike District -- McBee Contests Election of F.N. Haley in Padilla District

            The action which was filed by Attorney Henderhon, alleges that Haley was elected through unlawful and fraudulent means.  At the election in question, Haley received 33 votes for commissioner, while Mr. McBee, who is still serving as a commissioner, was given five votes.  McBee complains that Haley deeded a small portion of land to each of 31 persons, in exchange for their votes.  . . .  All 31 people voted for Haley, but they were not qualified to do so, according to McBee, for the reason that they were not property owners.  He claims that Haley actually owned the property and that since, the 31 people held their small portions in trust for Haley’s use.  According to McBee’s complaint, there were only five qualified to vote.  Two of these were Mr. and Mrs. Haley and McBee was a third.  Had the election been legal, according to McBee, he would have received three votes to Haley’s two.  . . .  The Padilla project was formed for the purpose of reclaiming 10,000 acres of tide lands.  A million-dollar program was in prospect, according to McBeen.

Dike District Fraud


Only 5 people lived in District.  38 people voted.


crew at work on river protection; plan new bridges

Under the direction of Skagit county engineer’s office, a crew of men have been doing river bank protection work east of Utopia. Piles are being driven in the slough at the bend in the river and rip-rap work is being done as an added protection.  . . .  Possible methods of straightening the Nookachamps bridge on the Clear Lake road are being considered in the county engineer’s office. Several plans have been presented, but no decision as to which one will be adopted has been made.

County Crews Working In Utopia

Skagit County crew working in Utopia to prevent further bank erosion.


raging skagit rips out boom


Machinery Arrives At Newhalem For Third Unit Of Gorge Power Plant

The Skagit river which has been raising steadily the past week, reached almost flood stage Monday night.  During the night the water rose eighteen inches which is almost unprecedented for early fall.  The great wall of water at the Diablo dam site washed away three lengths of boom and did damage estimated at several thousand dollars to equipment.



Flood reached 74,300 cfs at Concrete at level 29.94.


Plan new jetty for ross slough to stop flooding

One of the greatest menaces to farm land in the upper river valley, the washing away of land by Ross slough, in the Utopia district, may be eliminated if the present plans of the county commissioners are carried out. After a survey by County Engineer Knapp, the county board this week, voted an emergency appropriation of at least $5,000 to be expended at once in the construction of a jetty across the head of Ross slough.  . . .  The board voted to take the money for this work, from the river improvement fund of some $9,000 which has been idle in the bank for several years since its appropriation.

Ross Slough Jetty


County Engineer Knapp recommends jetty across Ross Slough.  Commissioners vote emergency appropriation of $5,000.


Skagit is mecca of many anglers


7/30/31 Argus

water arrives none too soon


Anacortes Gets First Drink From Skagit When Supply Is Almost Depleted


The 250 horsepower inductive motor in the pump house at Avon began forcing water through the huge main to Anacortes late Friday afternoon at the rate of 2,400 gallons per minute.  . . .  The city has accepted the water from the river, but has not accepted the new pipe line as yet or made final settlement with the contractors.  The water is being treated with chlorine gas as it comes through the intake pipe into the pump, after going through the sand filter.  In Anacortes it is variously treated to insure as nearly 100 per cent water as is possible to obtain.  . . .  New water system cost the City of Anacortes around $700,000



Anacortes Water Treatment Plant goes on line.


flood control will not be assured until ruby creek dam is finally completed says engineer


Present dams on the upper Skagit River would not provide flood control for the Skagit Valley in the event of a flood like that of 1917 or 1921. . . A big flow of water would fill the Diablo basin in one day, and would continue over the dam with the same disastrous effects as in previous years, said Smith.  Existing dams serve a good purpose in holding back sudden small freshets and also tend to maintain a higher water level in the valley during extremely dry years, but no safety from heavy floods can be felt until the completion of the Ruby Creek dam, the final unit of the Seattle project. 



The completion of this dam will render impossible even such floods as the one in 1815, which Indian tradition has it, submerged much of the Skagit Valley to a depth of fifteen feet, the engineer believes.  It is hoped by the city of Seattle that money can be obtained from the national government to assist with the construction of Ruby Creek dam, which is now being delayed on account of financial crisis.  At the present outlook, the dam may not be built for five or even ten years . . . People of Skagit Valley will be appealed to for aid in an effort to get such an appropriation on the grounds of flood control.




Statement attributed to Glen Smith, assistant to J.D. Ross.









Talk about a sense of false security.  Seattle City Light must have also had a copy of Stewart’s work.  Ross dam was completed in 1949.


Skagit County was promised more flood control then they received.


Flood Danger Is Not Feared In This City

            That Mount Vernon and its surrounding community is in no immediate danger of floods from the Skagit river was the information learned today in the county engineer’s office, which keeps an accurate check of the height of the river.  . . .  However, this condition will be changed within the next twenty-four hours when a rise of about six feet is predicted as a result of the heavy winds of the last day.  . . .  A flood condition is not prevalent, it was learned, until the river rises to a point of 20 feet or more.  The Skagit has not been near that point since June 1931, when it rose to 18.7 feet.  In May the river height was around fifteen feet and sixteen feet on several occasions, and in January, a year ago, the river rose to 20 feet in one day.

Flood Danger Point Was 20 ft On Gage


Last threat was June 1931 when river got to 18.7 feet which would be a 26.7 foot river on todays gage.


raging skagit breaks through dikes


Delta Farmers Greatest Sufferers from Freshet

Although Several Breaks Occur, Only Comparatively Small Area Is Inundated – Losses of Cattle and Poultry Small – Roads Suffer Some


Unable to withstand the pressure of the mighty Skagit, swelled by rains and melting snow, dikes broke at three widely different places during the week-end, allowing flood waters to inundate more than 12,000 acres of farm land in the lower valley, resulting in considerable damage to property.  . . .sections where the water had previously been held at the very top of the dike, were perilously near a break this time on account of a weakened condition of the dikes, which have been neglected somewhat because of confidence in present dams to hold back floods, it is said.


The first break occurred about eleven o’clock Saturday evening in front of Phil Iverson’s farm, which is located on Skagit Island, between Fir and Skagit City.  . . .  This break, together with three others along Dry Slough, which runs across the island completely inundated the large Skagit delta, about 5,000 acres of farm country bordered by the two forks of the river and the bay.  Two of the breaks occurred early Sunday morning at the Ed Good and I.R. Hallen farms; the other the same afternoon, at Mrs. Sadie Polstra’s place.  Water has been running out into the bay through the salt water dikes which broke several places near John Wylie’s farm and were cut elsewhere.



February 27, 1932 Flood Event





USGS and Corps records state this flood crested 2/27/32 at Concrete at 39.99 on the gage with 147,000 cfs.  Greater then the 1951 and 1975 floods but less then the 1980 flood at least at Concrete.  Both the 51 and 75 floods produced more water at Mt. Vernon then Concrete.  1980 was less water at Mt. Vernon.


Feb 27, 1932.  Fir Island was still called Skagit Island.


NOTE:  Article was continued on page 4.  Need to obtain copy.





flood damage estimated to exceed $100,000 in county

rush repairs to highways as flood waters recede; normal traffic announced in most sections; detour arranged while fill is repaired here; thousands watch flood waters on rampage

Bridges at several points were damaged or removed by the raging waters of the Skagit Saturday and Sunday when the breaking dikes and back water sent a yellow flood over nearly 20,000 acres of land and forced many residents to abandon their homes in search of safety on nearby high points of land.  . . .  In the valley proper no loss of life has been reported, and the accident claiming four lives at Diablo, just as the waters threatened, remains the major incident of the highest flood waters since 1921. . . .  Bridge Out  Knapp reported the Diobase creek bridge washed out, sixty feet of span and an equal amount of trestle, the forty foot truss over Hanson creek on the river road tipped over, slides on the Van Horn and Faber hills, damage of fifty feet of the west approach of the Jackman creek bridge, and a wash-out on the German Prairie road west of the Samish school, where the bridge over the Samish remained intact.  . . .  Following the slide above Newhalem the Skagit began rising slowly, but the condition was not believed serious until late Friday night, when flood conditions were approached.  Friday night and Saturday morning the water rose at an amazing rate, with lowlands along the river being flooded.  Fill Damaged -- . . .  Constant rumors of danger to two dams in the Skagit and Baker river power projects resulted in an alarm that one of the dams had broken, and many residents of Hamilton, Lyman, Sedro-Woolley and Mt. Vernon removed to higher ground with emergency rations.  It was reported a man coming down the river had given the false alarm, and Lyman was almost deserted by the exodus that followed.  Responsible agencies spiked the rumor within an hour, and the bolting residents for the most part returned to their homes.  Dams Are Safe  --  Consequent investigation disclosed that flood gates on the dams were not opened and that flood waters poured over the tops of the dams.  At Baker River before the flood, water was 36 feet below the top, and at the peak of high water flowed nine feet deep over the top of the dam.  At Diablo gates were left open until engineers were certain that a flood was imminent, and then closed the gates Friday afternoon.  Early Saturday morning the water flowed over the Diablo spillways, when no more water could be retained.  . . .  The same authorities also explained the fact that while flood waters at Mt. Vernon reached within inches of an all-time record, the peak at Sedro-Woolley was from four to five feet under the record.  This was due to the fact that previous floods had removed two curves below Sedro-Woolley and shortened the river’s course nearly one half mile.  This makes the river almost straight from Burn’s bar three miles west and the effect had been to lower the river bed here nearly four feet.  Dikes Broken -- Shortly after noon Sunday the dike south of Burlington gave way and the Great Northern fill broke at 12:45 to release a yellow flood through Varney’s slough and Gage’s Lake to inundate the section between Burlington, Avon and the Bay View ridge.  . . .  Breaking of the dike at Conway relieved the pressure in this district late Sunday afternoon, and a large section in the lower end of the county was covered with water.  Alarm Is Given -- . . .  Residents of the Nookachamps district were taken from their homes when back waters filled this section, and the two branches of the creek flowed back on their courses.


USGS 147,000 cfs Concrete (39.99), 157,000 cfs Sedro-Woolley, no figure for Mt. Vernon.

Flood was larger then 1951 flood.



Bridges over creeks washed out.






Slide at Newhalem.




Rumor that dam had broken.  Lyman almost completely evacuated.







Flood gates on dams not opened.


Water rose 36 feet in Lower Baker then 9 feet flowed over top of dam.

Diablo gates closed then water flowed over spillways.



It is believed they are talking about Debay Island cut-off as Sterling cut-off happened in 1911.


Dikes broke in Burlington.  Water flowed down Gages (Varney) Slough.


Conway dikes broke.





Burlington Escapes Flood Which Takes Big Toll In Skagit County And State


Break in Railroad Fill Saves Flood In Streets; Efforts of Volunteers Keep Dikes In Town Solid


While many parts of Skagit County and Western Washington suffered heavy damages from flood waters last Saturday, Sunday and Monday[8], Burlington, on three sides, emerged practically untouched and losses in the immediate adjacent country were comparatively light.  West Conway, Skagit City and up-river communities suffered most from rising waters of the Skagit River, which flooded an extensive countryside for the first time in ten years. The great power dams in Baker river and the Upper Skagit and rather elaborate diking systems in the lower valley, proved only partial protection from a mighty river filled to overflowing, after two days of warm Chinook winds had melted snow in the mountains. . . . Anxiety was felt for a few hours following the break in the dike south of town Sunday noon, but was dispelled when the Great Northern railway fill gave way, allowing the water to sweep over the fields to the West and Southwest.  Strong Chinook winds of Thursday and Friday filled the Skagit to the top of its banks, and Saturday water began overflowing and covering the land up to the dikes. Shortly after midnight Saturday water had risen to a height of less than two feet from the top of the dike east of Burlington.

Sunday morning, with water backed up from the Burlington dikes to Clear Lake, a distance of between six and seven miles, the situation became dangerous. The dike was becoming soft in many places and the water continued to rise gradually. Old-timers expressed the belief that there was more water back of the dikes than in any previous flood.

            A screaming fire siren at 12:10 Sunday noon announced to Burlington that a dike had been broken. Water came crashing through in torrents at the LeMar place, nearly a mile south of Burlington.  . . .  The flood, temporarily checked by the railroad fill and quickly filling to a depth of three and four feet the fields near the break in the dike, rushed north, emptied into the sloughs, and backed up into Burlington.  . . . A few minutes after the river broke through the dike, water began to seep through the base of the G. N. fill a mile south of the depot and by three o’clock broke through, lessening the flow into the Burlington sloughs, but sweeping the fields westward.  . . .     The water level at the dike east of Burlington was down 54 inches Monday morning, and by ten o’clock cars were getting through water on the blacktop road to Bay View. Traffic began making use of the highway between Burlington and Mount Vernon by three o’clock.

February 27-29, 1932 Flood





First major flood in 10 years.




Dams and dikes proved only “partial protection.”  Two days of warm Chinook winds.


Dike broke “south of town”.  GNRR fill broke allowing water to move south and west.



Water two feet from top of dikes east of Burlington.


Water “backed up” from Burlington dikes to Clear Lake.  “More water back of the dikes than in any previous flood.”



First flood early warning system?  Dike broke one mile south of Burlington and waters “rushed north”.






So in 24 hours the floodwater was gone?


II.                  let’s keep the dike


            We can be glad now that somebody knew enough to say no to the idea advanced a year or so ago, of grading down the dike at the Fairhaven avenue crossing. Burlington would still be drying out, instead of being practically the only town in the valley that did not get its feet wet. Dikes may be eyesores and nuisances to drive over, but they are mighty handy when the water comes a-rolling. 





This sounds like Fairhaven used to go over the dike.  Today it has been graded down and goes through the old dike.


men, not steam shovels, ought rebuild levees


Farmers Ask Contractor To Put Aside Machinery As Soon As Possible

Willing To Pay More

Needed Work at Water Plant Up To City of Anacortes – Want Additional Dolphins


Local men and teams must be given as much of the dike reconstruction work at the Varney break as is possible, it was the opinion of almost a hundred farmers in diking district No. 12, assembled in a special mass meeting at the Avon school gym Monday evening.  . . .  Championing the demand that residents of the district, badly in need of employment, be given work on the dikes, Joe Hall urged that every dollar possible be given for the work of men and teams.


The Commissioners were requested to consult the City of Anacortes about urgent repairs to the fill which replaces the dike around the pump house at Avon.  Considerable dirt was washed away from the small trees used in constructing the fill.


Claud Davis Construction Company has also been awarded the contract for rebuilding the dike in front of the Iverson place, where there is a break more than 500 feet long and 25 feet deep in places.  The cost of this will be approximately $9,600 at 40 cents per cubic yard there being about 24,000 cubic yards of dirt to replace.








Local farmers needed work.







Avon Bend damaged.




Iverson place was located on Skagit Island between Fir and Skagit City.


Jupiter Pluvis Shatters Record With March Floods

Flooded fields and basements filled with surface water attested a record breaking rainfall of 11.15 inches for the month of March in this vicinity.  Harry L. Devin, official weather observer here, can find no counterpart of this in the more than 40 years since he first began observing weather conditions in this district.  The average for March over a 33-year period is a precipitation of 4.30 inches.  The first week of March this year was far under this average, with .33 of an inch.  As the month progressed the rainfall became greater, to end with a 42-hour deluge Tuesday and Wednesday, to set a new record.

Lots of Rain in March 1932

Jupiter Pluvis was the Supreme God in ancient Roman days comparable to Zeus in Greek mythology.  The name translated into “Rain Giver”.

Most rain in 40 years according to H. L. Devin.  11 inches in Sedro-Woolley.


Dike Repairs Being Rushed To Completion -- Night and Day Shifts Kept On Job To Make Dikes Safe If County Experiences Chinook

            With large crews of laborers working night and day, the danger of additional flood damage, should the Skagit river rise suddenly again is fast being minimized, Clause O. Davis, contractor in charge of repairing two dikes, told the Daily Herald today.  Mr. Davis holds the contracts for the replacement of the dike west of Conway, and the dike south of Burlington, which collapsed during the recent freshet flooding thousands of acres of farmland.  Twenty men, working on ten hour shifts, have placed the Burlington dike beyond the danger mark.  It would require a 12-foot freshet to wash out the new dike, Mr. Davis declared today.  The hole in the dike west of Conway will be closed tomorrow, halting the flow of water for the first time since the freshet.  More than 50 men have been working 10-hour shifts on this job.  This dike will be safe from high waters within forty-eight hours, Mr. Davis declared.


USGS 147,000 cfs Concrete (39.9), 157,000 cfs Sedro-Woolley. (See 3/3/32 CT and Argus articles)


Burlington dike raised to 12 feet.

3/17/32 Argus

skagit might obtain government river dredge


Suction Dredger at Grays Harbor Been Idle for 2 Years, Says Gaches

Would Cost Nothing

Dirt Could Be Used To Widen Dikes, Restore Banks That Have Been Washed Away


It is quite possible that Skagit County can obtain without cost, a government suction dredge for use in the Skagit River channel if the county will make concerted appeal to the proper authorities in Washington; it is the opinion of Charles Gaches, local farmer.  . . .  The rapid depositing of sediment in recent years has resulted in bringing the river bottom up to a level almost as high as the farming land, especially along the South Fork, and increased the necessity of building higher and higher dikes all along the lower end of the valley.  At the same time the river has been cutting away the banks, making it more easy for high water to undermine and come through on the inside of the dike as happened during the recent freshet, it is explained by the local man.









Where in the South Fork is the river as high as the adjacent land?


Cost of dredge was $150 per day but hadn’t been used in 2 years.


Diablo Project Is Blamed For Flood Damage -- Flood Gates of Dam Were Opened At Wrong Time, Dike Districts and Farmers Charge In Claim

            Alleging the flood gates on Diablo dam were opened at the crest of the recent high water, thus releasing an additional torrent of water in the already bankful Skagit river, causing dikes to break in many places, four Skagit dike districts, and three individual farmers today filed claims aggregating $53,315 against the City of Seattle.  The claims were rushed to Seattle today so they could be filed before the thirty-day limit expires.  List of Claims  Following is the list of claims filed against the City of Seattle, owner of Diablo Dam, which is a part of the city’s power development on the upper Skagit.  Dike district No. 2, located on the west side of the Skagit river and north of Fir – Claims damages in the amount of $17,500.  Dike district No. 13, located between Dry and Brown sloughs on Skagit delta, west of Fir – Demands $4,000 damages.  Dike district No. 186, located between Fresh Water and Dry sloughs on south side of pavement, west of fire – Demands $6,500.  Dike district No. 12, located south of Burlington – Demands $10,000.  Phillip Iverson, farmer living northwest of Fire, demands $2,925.  Iver Iverson, same locality, demands $7,650.  John Leander, same locality, demands $4,000.  Water Held Back On February 23rd, according to the complaint filed with the City of Seattle, the reservoir behind Diablo dam was approximately half full of water, the amount being between 35,000 and 40,000 acre feet of water.  At that time, the flood gates of the dam were not opened, although the water was continuing to rise, the complaint states.

Diablo Dam Alleged To Have Contributed to Flood Damages

Dike districts and 3 farmers file claims with City Light.






Crest of the flood happened on February 27th.  This means that Diablo filled from being half full in 4 days.


ross ridicules skagit claims for damages

J.D. Ross, city light superintendent, today declared “ridiculous” claims for $53,315 damages against the City of Seattle, filed with the city comptroller today by four Skagit county diking districts and three Skagit county farmers as a result of floods in the county late last month.  . . .  “The dam held back the first on-rush of water down the river,” Ross said.  “As soon as the lake back of the dam rose to the height of the flood gates, we began releasing the water gradually.  Only a part of the gates were opened, just enough to prevent the water from overflowing the top of the dam.  This controlled the flood, releasing it only as fast as the river could carry it away.  The damage to the dikes down in the valley occurred after the crest of the flood had passed at Diablo.  It was simply a case of where the river could not hold the water which poured into it from numerous streams below the dam, in addition to carrying the controlled flow through the flood gates.

City Light Denies Liability




Water was not released until water got to the flood gates.  Blamed “other streams” (Sauk, Baker, etc.)


Damage claims total $98,825


Farmers and Dike Districts File Claims vs. Seattle For Flood Damage


Claims of Skagit farmers and diking districts against the city of Seattle for flood damages alleged to have been caused by letting water from flood gates in Diablo dam at a crucial time during the recent high water, thereby causing the dikes to break, have mounted to $78,825 during the week.  The filing of these claims is merely a preliminary action.  It does not constitute a suit, but protects the rights of those claiming damages to sue at a future date.  According to law, it is necessary to file claims of damages within thirty days of the time when the damage is done in order to bring suit against a municipality.





Dike districts 2, 18, 12, and 13 filed claims along with several individuals.  Need to find out what happened to these claims.


more dredges needed  editorial

Once more the feasibility of a government dredge, available for extensive channel work in Washington’s troublesome rivers, has been demonstrated by a freshet, which stopped just short of inflicting real damage in the Skagit Valley.  Dikes have risen even higher, yet each freshet has found them practically at the same relative height.  The explanation offered by men long experienced and by engineers has been that the bottom has constantly kept pace with the elevation of the dikes.


If this is true (and we have no reason to doubt our authority) a partial remedy, at least, is likely to be had by the deepening of the channel.  To bring this about it would seem wise to ask congress to reinforce the government’s present Sound equipment with one of more dredges so that rivers, such as the Skagit, may have a larger measure of flood relief.  Another thing we have learned is that the power dams are not the protection engineers promised.


Dredging editorial.


Bottom of river rising as fast as dikes.





Recognizes dams did not stop floods.


See 1/7/32 article.


june snow scene near sedro-woolley -- local man photographs snow field near here

These two views show from ten to fifteen feet of snow not then miles from Sedro-Woolley in Montborne prairie.  They were brought here by Norman Fladebo and show him and John Fladebo.  The upper view shows snow almost fifteen feet deep, covering thousands of acres, and the other shows Fladebo, at the edge of the prairie snow field, with rifle stretched, to show the depth of the snow.  The pictures were taken a few days ago.  Fladebo reports the snow deeper than in the big snow year of 1916, as he walked completely over the top of a tree which he had notched then.  Thar’s snow in them thar hills.

10-15 ft of Snow Near Sedro-Woolley


Amazing there wasn’t a huge summer flood this year.




Want Skagit Power At Same Rates As Seattle Will Get

Skagit and Whatcom counties, in which Seattle will get electric power, when the big water power project on the Skagit river is developed, should get power for the same rates as Seattle manufacturers, according to local men.  The Commercial club will take the matter up with the local Congressman, and with Secretary Lane.  As the source of this power is in the two counties, it is felt that they should not be deprived of the right to use some of it, at the same rate which Seattle will charge to users in that city and district.

Skagit Wanted Same Electric Rates As Seattle


Several Farms, Highways Are Under Water -- Skagit Recedes After Rising With Unprecedented Rapidity; Highways Reopened; Dikes Guarded During Night

            After threatening another serious flood in Skagit county, swirling waters of the Skagit river began to recede this morning, and the dread menace of the last twenty-four hours began to disappear as rapidly as it had overtaken this community.  Rising with unprecedented rapidity, the Skagit river had reached a height of 23 feet on the county’s gauge last night, where it remained until this morning, when the drop started.  . . .  The Nookachamps community, which bore the brunt of the flood early this year, was partially under water again today, following the breaking of the newly built dike, the Herald was informed.  The water was not high enough to enter any of the farm homes and little or no damage was done, it was declared.  The new dikes south of Burlington and west of Fir were said to be holding up well under the new pressure, but seepage from the new dike in Dodge Valley had flooded the Art Anderson and F.X. Thein farms, it was declared.  . . .  County roads were flooded in the vicinity of Hamilton yesterday, but autoists were able to get through with difficulty.


USGS 116,000 cfs Concrete (approx 36 ft on gage), 125,000 cfs Sedro-Woolley.


23 feet in Mt. Vernon would be 31 feet at today’s gage or a little less then 1975 flood event.


See 11/18/32 BJ article.  They blamed Baker dam for flood waters.


Dodge Valley flooded.


flood waters visit skagit


Second Inundation in Nine Months Covers 2,000 Acres In County


Scarcely nine months after one of the most disastrous floods the Skagit Valley has experienced in recent years, rivers and streams of the County, swollen by continual heavy rains, were again on the rampage, breaking dykes and flooding farm lands in several sections.


November 13, 1932 Flood



Mostly flooding was limited to Nookachamps and Dodge Valley.  River reached 116,000 cfs at Concrete which was approx. 36 ft on gage.


skagit river floods – editorial

With high water threatening the Skagit valley, the people again turn their attention to the river and flood damages.  If a bad flood occurs during the next few days, there will be meetings and resolutions concerning getting flood relief and loss of many thousands of dollars to property and business; the water will go down and interest in flood relief will subside until the next flood comes along.  . . .  We will think of flood control now, but when the danger is gone, we forget floods and turn to thoughts of more pleasant things, consoling ourselves with the idea that there probably will not be another one for many years.  It may take a real catastrophe to get real flood relief for the Skagit.

Flood Editorial


For the past 72 years no truer words have been written about the Skagit River flood issue.  Hopefully, in 2005 that is about to change.


heavy rains close roads

The heaviest rainfall in the history of Sedro-Woolley, fell here Wednesday night, according to H. L. Devin, official government weather man here for 36 years.  Between 6 p.m. Wednesday night and 9 a.m. Thursday morning, there was a total of 2.25 inches of rainfall, which followed 1.83 inches Wednesday up to 6 p.m.  . . .  Heavy rainfall during the past few days brought the river almost to flood levels, closed the road between here and Concrete, and caused sloughs to overflow in many places.  Many roads were closed Sunday, including the Pacific highway at Silvana, but cooler weather brought the water down.  The river rose eleven feet Sunday, but at last reports, had gone down five or six feet, in spite of continued rain.  According to statistics of H.L. Devin, local government weatherman, November is twice as wet as usual.  October rainfall was 6.31 inches here as compared to the normal 4.8 inches and the November rainfall up to November 15, was 6.4 inches as compared to the normal of 6.74 inches for the entire month.


USGS 116,000 cfs Concrete, 125,000 cfs Sedro-Woolley.  Close to a 1975 event.


Heaviest rainfall in history of Sedro-Woolley?  4 inches in 24 hours.


Major Flood Fear Passes, River Drops

            Continued rise of the Skagit river during more than forty-eight hours came to a halt in Mount Vernon today, giving hope that the flood danger that has hovered over this community would soon pass.  . . .  The river had reached a height of nearly 23 feet on the gauge here this morning, two or three feet from the danger mark.  . . .  A log jam east of the Great Northern bridge at Riverside was causing some worry and a crew of men remained on guard throughout this morning.  It was said blasting might be restored in an effort to break the jam.  . . .  The rise of the Skagit river was the most abrupt in the memory of old timers.  Between Saturday afternoon at 2 o’clock, until this morning, the river had risen a total of fifteen feet, according to records kept by the county engineer’s office.  The rise was caused by a deluge of rain and melting snows in the Cascades.  An inch and a fourth of rain fell between Saturday morning and this morning, the county records showed.

Log Jam On Great Northern Bridge


River came up very fast.


High Waters Appear Again


            The big rise in the Skagit took place Saturday night and Sunday morning, when in the space of 15 hours, the water rose 14 feet, some hours gaining more than a foot.  Besides rains and a Chinook wind which melted snows, opening of the Baker river dam caused much of the rise, it was understood.

November 12 & 13th  1932 Flood


Blame placed on Baker dam.


Flood Control Needed


            High waters from the Skagit, Samish and other rivers caused considerable damage this week in Skagit county farms.  It would seem that with low prices, a scarcity of markets and money, and poor weather, farmers could well be spared the loss of property and livestock from floods.

            Perhaps the cheapest way out of flood dangers is a spillway system of controlling high water, as suggested recently by Jim Squires of Samish.  Two floods in a single year should make us think over things like that.







Overtopping levees.


Record Rain In 12 Hours At Sedro-Woolley

            The most rain to fall in twelve hours in the history of Sedro-Woolley fell here Wednesday night and Thursday morning totaling 2.25 inches, according to H.L. Devin, official government weatherman for the past 36 years.  The entire precipitation for the 24 hours was not extraordinary, however.  . . .  Hansen Creek, which runs through the Northern State hospital grounds, backed up due to a log jam at the Great Northern railroad trestle, flooding much property, including the large berry ranch of George Andrick.

Most Rain In History Of Sedro-Woolley


2.25 inches in 12 hours???


Hansen Creek log jam causes back-up.


Local Farms Sustain Big Flood Losses

Congressman Wallgren Asks $1,500,000 For Skagit

Heavy losses from the recent flood waters along the Skagit river makes the cause for government control more urgent than ever before.  In one bend of the river in the Utopia district, fifteen acres of land have been washed away from the farms of Carl Johnson, James Atwood and Oliver Buchanan since the first of November.  This is merely one case in which improved farm land has been washed away.  William Wulff of the same district was forced to move his residence after the last freshet.  Several other homes in the immediate vicinity are in grave danger from each succeeding flood.

Erosion Problems



Utopia area looses another 15 acres of land.


New Dredge For Skagit

An appropriation of some $100,000 was made this week from the state’s recent relief bond issue, to purchase a dredger for the Skagit river.  W.R. Morgan, county welfare commissioner, headed a delegation to Olympia the first of the week, and obtained this appropriation as the first step in a program of flood control on the Skagit.  The new dredge will be equipped to build dikes and to work both along the bayfront and the river.  It is estimated it will take ten men to run it, and it is believed that CWA labor can be used.  A plan of reorganizing dike and drainage districts to facilitate the work of rebuilding dikes, will be discussed soon.

“New Dredger”


No record located that “dredge” was ever purchased.



flood control fate rests on dike election


Consolidation of Districts in Skagit County Is Started

Avon takes the Lead

All Dike Districts Must Unite If Aid From Federal Government Is Sought


May 6 may determine the fate of flood control in the Skagit Valley.  On that day the diking districts will hold their annual election; and, if present plans are carried out, consolidation will also be submitted to the voters.  Petitions asking for consolidation election are already being circulated.  Avon has taken the lead and will hold a mass meeting tomorrow night to consider the proposal.  . . . “Under the law, the county can get state, federal and county aid for flood control, but consolidation of diking districts will be necessary,” Mr. Welts asserted.  . . .  The program involves building up the bayfront dikes, the Skagit River dikes and the straightening of the Skagit River.  Fifty thousand acres of land and 10,000 people are involved.  . . .  “If you don’t unite now, just forget eve5r trying to get help in the future, because you can’t get it as individuals,” Will Hayton warned.









R. V. Welts was local attorney.


Strengthen sea dikes, strengthen river dikes and straightening of the river.  “Huge tides” motivated this effort.


Article was continued on page 4 which was not copied.


Farmers to Vote on Merging All 16 Dike Districts for Dredging


            A mass meeting of property owners in Diking District No. 12 will be held this Friday evening in the Avon gymnasium, M.F. Snelson, chairman of the board of diking commissioners announced this week.  Action will be taken on the proposal to merge all 16 diking in the county to obtain federal aid in one big flood control project.

            Meetings will be called in all diking districts to obtain the sentiment of the people in each toward the general project.  If the consensus of opinion is favorable, an election will be held to vote the project through.




Merge the dike districts.


Dike District Votes Against Merger Plan--District No. 3 Unwilling To Join Consolidation Plan Without More And Definite Information

            First concerted opposition to merge all the dike districts of the county in an effort to draft a flood protection program that might result in federal, state and county appropriations was heard at a meeting of farmers of dike district No. 3. at the Finn hall at Lower Cedardale yesterday afternoon.  A motion was adopted to delay signing a petition, which provided that a special election be called.  Considerable sentiment was expressed against the consolidation plan, several speakers saying they could not see that the district would derive any benefits.  It was then decided to “table” the proposal for consolidation, at least until definite information is forthcoming.


Dike District 3 Kills Consolidation Plan


Merger would have allowed flood protection plan resulting in Federal, State and County funding.


Several other districts had approved the plan.


sixty miles of dike built by 1,015 men; cost, $160,000

According to a report issued from the office of the superintending engineer, C.A. Strong, work on the Skagit County dikes, if no unforeseen interruption occurs, will be completed by May 1st.  . . .  The allowance made by the CWA authorities for the entire repair and reconstruction project are $59,424.00 for equipment rental, and $14,000.00 for materials and supplies.  The number of men approved for the work is 1,206; the total number of work hours, 332,018.  At the present time there are approximately 1,015 men on the job.  The field forces are divided into three divisions geographically, each under a division superintendent.  The CWA approved a total length of dike work in Skagit County of 328,000 feet or approximately 62 miles, of which 253,434 feet had been completed up to April 19.  Work is progressing at the rate of about 8,000 feet per day.

Skagit County Dike Work


According to this article the average wage paid to the dike workers was approximately $3.83 per hour.


62 miles of levees worked on.


Flood Control Action Urged At Conference -- United Plea May Go To Federal Official Asking Survey of All Rivers In Washington

            OLYMPIA, May 11 – (AP) – Washington flood control groups were urged here today to unite behind a program calling for a survey of all rivers in the state, whether navigable or non-navigable, as the first major step necessary in bringing permanent flood control to the state.  A statewide river survey, with the federal and state governments cooperating, was advocated before a flood control conference here by Howard A. Hanson, Seattle, president of the Puget Sound flood control association.  . . .  Hanson pointed out that without a river survey a permanent flood control program could not be developed.  Under existing legislation no federal funds can be spent on river surveys except on navigable streams.

All Rivers In State Proposed To Be Surveyed


All navigable rivers.


dredge necessary for flood control, says james squires


. . . But let us not forget that no matter how high our dikes are built, if these two rivers get “out of control” (Skagit and Samish) like all of us have seen them do in the past, we will have the same old trouble, only worse.  In my opinion there are two things to be done, the necessity of which is so self-evident that no proof is required.


Those two things are: dredge and straighten these two rivers properly, and construct adequate spillways.


Letter to the Editor printed on the front page.

Squires was from Bow.



“no proof required”


Dredge, straighten and overtopping levees.


flood expert gives county chamber, talk

col. hanson, speaker at big meeting here; local boy talks

Col. Howard A. Hanson of Seattle, head of the state flood control council, gave an interesting talk to the Skagit County Chamber of Commerce at their monthly hour here Tuesday evening, in the crypt of the Episcopal church.  Some fifty business men from all parts of the county attended the meeting.  Col. Hanson for years has been attorney for King county and Pierce county in their flood control work on the White, Green, Puyallup and other rivers, and is a recognized authority on both the engineering and legal ends of flood and erosion control work.  He was introduced to the audience by A. G. Mosier of this city, Skagit county member of the state flood control council.  The speaker told of the need for a state and national program of flood control, and explained the policy of the federal government which refuses to spend any money on rivers beyond their limits of navigation, regardless of damage done by the river.

State Flood Control Council


Speaker stated that Federal government refused to spend money on flood control, only river navigation.


hansen creek work to start; more projects  -- local plan board has promise; to grade streets here

Work will be started at once on unfinished CWA relief projects in this county, according to information received by the county project manages.  The dredging of Hansen creek will be the first to be resumed here, and will probably start next week.  . . .  The WERA will appropriate $1,000 for rental of a gas shovel to use on Hansen creek, and $864 for employment of non-relief shovel operators.  There are no shovel men available from the relief rolls.  Twenty men from this list will be put to work on the grading work in addition to the shovel men.  The total cost to complete the work is estimated at $6,200.

Hanson Creek


Hanson Creek dredged.


Grocery Store Ads

Can’t buy dog food for a nickel any longer.


filling in creeks (editorial)

Quick action by citizens in the middle of the night in cutting a channel thru the county road north of town, saved hundreds of families here from being flooded out of their homes.  The channel was cut at the place where the county engineers replaced a creek and bridge with a dirt fill and small culvert.  This disastrous policy was followed in many places in the county in past years, and has cost thousands of dollars and much trouble.

Culverts and Fill


It would appear that culverts and fill across streams and creeks are an invitation to drainage problems.


Skagit River Still Rising At Concrete

Water Coming Up At Rate of Three Inches An Hour At Concrete; Danger Mark Draws Near

            . . .  This afternoon the river was within three feet of the point reached at the last flood here two years ago.  . . .  Readings at the county gauge south of the city docks at intervals today were:

8 a.m. – 23 feet, 2 inches.

10:45 a.m. – 23 feet, 8 inches.

12:30 p.m. – 23 feet, 10 inches.

1:30 p.m. – 24 feet.

2:30 p.m. – 24 feet, 3 inches.

            Early this morning the river was said to be rising two inches an hour at Concrete.  The flood gates were opened on the Baker river dam at Concrete yesterday, and huge quantities of water poured from that point and later reached the Skagit.  The amount of water coming over the dam was said to have slowed down considerably this morning, indicating it had been colder in the upper stretches during the night.  . . .  Many acres of farm land in the northern part of the county were flooded by the Samish.  It was said the Samish flood was the worst in years.  Wednesday night the water rose to three inches deep over the floor in Joy’s store at Allen and was level with the floor yesterday.  The Pacific highway was covered with water to within a mile north of the Triangle service station in that section of the county.  At Sedro-Woolley serious flood damage to property was saved early Wednesday morning when a group of citizens in the north end of town gathered under the direction of E. C. Carr and cut a channel through the old grade road northwest of town.  A four-foot culvert with which the county had recently replaced a bridge, proved inadequate for rapidly rising waters which soon flooded the homes in the surrounding districts, and but for the prompt action of the men in cutting the channel a serious flood menace would have threatened, putting the entire north end of the city under from three to six feet of water, with perhaps several feet in the business district.


USGS 131,000 cfs Concrete (37.9), no figures for Mt. Vernon.  More than 1975, less than 1979.






24 feet at this gage would be 32 feet at todays gage.


Water flowed over the top of Lower Baker Dam.


Samish River flood worst in years.






Sedro-Woolley business district flooding averted.  This flooding would most likely have been from Brickyard Creek and not the Skagit River.


Danger of Serious Flood Is Lessened As River Starts Receding--Danger Not Yet Over, But Hundreds Breathe Easier; River At Highest Point Since 1917; Dropping Rapidly In Eastern Section of County; Scores Labor To Stop Dike Breaks

            Hundreds of residents in many sections of lower Skagit breathed a little easier this afternoon when it became apparent that the threat of the worst flood in years was gradually passing.  . . .  It was believed the high point in the river had been reached early this afternoon, and the Skagit was expected to start receding later today.  At 2 o’clock, river watchers said the Skagit was no longer rising.  The county gauge was out of sight, but it was estimated the river had reached a height of 28 feet, which is within a very few inches of the high in 1917 when sections of the county were visited by disastrous floods.  The river was at least a foot higher than three years ago when dikes broke at various places causing the inundation of hundreds of acres of farm lands.  All that saved a recurrence of the flood of late February in 1932 was the strengthening of the dikes under the CWA program, many declared.  . . .  There was only one actual dike break, which occurred on the south bank of Freshwater slough, south of Fir. … was flooding approximately 25 acres of land near the Island Gun club.

Gage Out Of Site – Estimated 28 Feet


1917 flood a little over 28 feet.  That would be a little over 36 feet at todays gage, which would be the same as the first flood in 1990 and less then the second flood in 1990 and the 5th flood in 1995.





One dike break….Freshwater Slough.

River a foot higher then 2/27/32 flood when many dikes broke (USGS 147,000 cfs Concrete 39.9 ft, 157,000 cfs Sedro-Woolley.)


No question levees raise the level of a flood event.


county cities recover from flood scare – dike breaks northeast of burlington, but flood is averted; much damage is done to roads, bridges

Mount Vernon and other Skagit county towns were almost back to normal today after experiencing the worst flood scare in years. . . .  Roads and bridges were damaged to the extent of several thousand dollars, but the exact amount cannot be determined until a survey is completed. . . .  Excitement during the high water reached its peak at about 3:30 Saturday afternoon when Burlington residents prepared to “move out” when it was learned that the dike had collapsed near the Cleveland ranch, northeast of Burlington. Hundreds gathered at Varney slough, a short distance east of the Burlington hospital, to watch the water as it roared down the passage. It was feared that the water would run down the Burlington main street from that point, but the receding of the river saved Burlington from inundation. The water reached within a few hundred feet of the hospital, but most of it raced down the slough, . . .


USGS 131,000 cfs at Concrete (37.9), no figure for Mt. Vernon.



Cleveland Ranch is located adjacent to Lafayette Road where road is the dike. 


“Varney slough” is today referred to as Gages Slough.


what river did

The Skagit river, on its rampage last week, rose approximately 18 feet to one of the highest points in years. Gauges were out of sight, but it was estimated that the river has reached the 28-foot mark. . . .  Here’s how the river acted last week, readings being taken at the county gauge each morning at 8 o’clock:

Jan. 21 – 10 feet 10 inches

Jan. 22 – 11 feet 8 inches

Jan. 23 – 16 feet

Jan. 24 – 17 feet 8 inches

Jan. 25 – 23 feet 2 inches

Jan. 26 – 28 feet (estimated)

Jan. 27 – 25 feet 2 inches

Jan. 28 – (Today) – 21 feet

Mt. Vernon Gage Readings


If 28 feet is accurate (at the Moose Lodge in downtown Mt. Vernon) then this flood would be comparable to the first flood in 1990 and the October 2003 flood event.  Given the condition of the levees in 1935 it is believed highly unlikely that the river reached this level.


marblemount isolated 5 days

Marblemount, situated ten miles east of Rockport, with its population of approximately 40 people, was completely isolated from the remainder of the world for five days during the severe weather of the last week. . . .  The Skagit river was almost solid with ice in many places. Snow, which had fallen a few days previously, was blown into high drifts Friday and Saturday. Sunday the weather moderated, and an additional two feet of snow fell, rendering travel impossible. . . .  Newhalem has reported six feet of snow and is entirely isolated.

Skagit River Almost Solid With Ice


Newhalem had 6 feet of snow.


flood control measure is now on file

. . .  The rules committee introduced a flood control act, giving the state, through the department of conservation and development, full regulation and control over all waters in the state. The state hydraulics engineer would have authority to reject or approve plans for any structure to be built over or across any flood plain or floodway of any stream or body of water. As soon as funds are available the state is ordered to make a study of flood control needs. 

State Takes Control Of Floodplains



city will seek assistance from diking districts

Enlargement of a diking district to include all of Mount Vernon, as proposed yesterday by Mayor C. W. Vaux has been found impossible, and city officials will now seek the cooperation of commissioners of dike districts already formed to bring about a program that will include strengthening in dikes within the city limits of Mount Vernon. . . .  He said something would have to be done or Mount Vernon will face a disastrous flood in the future. . . .  South Mount Vernon, including the business district, is in dike district No. 3, of which Edor Bergstrom, Peter A. Lee and Victor Lillquist are the commissioners, while west Mount Vernon is in district No. 1,   . . . 

Mt. Vernon Mayor Wanted All Of Mt. Vernon To Be Included In Dike District




car goes off broken dike; 2 drowned


Mrs. Harry Dimmick, Small Son Succumb At Break Near Burlington

Road Not Barricaded

Husband, Exhausted As Efforts Under Water Fail, Narrowly Escapes


Tragedy brought indirectly by the high waters of the Skagit River took the lives of a young mother and her three-year-old son early Tuesday night when the automobile in which they were riding slowly vaulted over the edge of the broken dike-road between Burlington and Sedro-Woolley and buried itself in about fifteen feet of water.

January 25, 1935 Flood Event


Flood crested 1/25/35 at Concrete 131,000 cfs, 37.9 on gage.


Flood related death.

Dike break was on Lafayette Road.


lower valley farmers keep dikes secure


Constant Patrolling Wins Over Turbulent Waters Of Rising Skagit

3 Breaks Reported

Damage is comparatively Small – Samish floods Northern Part of County


Combined efforts of more than 1500 lower Skagit valley residents to effect a 60-hour constant patrol of the river dikes during the highest stages of the Skagit proved effective despite the fact that the river rose to the peak obtained during the flood of 1922.  Stronger dikes constructed during past year by the dike districts also proved instrumental in checking the turbulent waters that rose to within inches of the dike tops Saturday afternoon.  . . .


Two breaks were reported south of Mt. Vernon, one at the freshwater slough and the other between Brown and Dry sloughs.  . . .

The County recordings of the river taken each day last week show the unusual speed in which the river rose.  On Sunday the reading was 7 feet, Monday and Tuesday 10 feet, Wednesday 16 feet, Thursday morning 17 feet, Friday 23 feet, Saturday 28 feet.







Since there was no flood in 1922 assume they meant 1921.  Same level??  Dikes broke south of Mt. Vernon, Freshwater Slough, and between Brown & Dry Slough.  Also broke in Burlington on Lafayette Road.  (See previous article.)  This strongly suggest flood in 1921 not as great as Stewart said it was.


three skagit cities have flood scares; danger past

The present flood danger in Skagit county is now ended, but three cities, Mt. Vernon, Burlington and Sedro-Woolley, had some bad moments.  Sedro-Woolley was not threatened so much by the river as by high water from the hills north of town, which for two days surrounded several hundred homes and would have flooded the city, but for blasting out the old grade road in the middle of the night.  . . .  Saturday night was the flood crisis in Burlington and Mt. Vernon.  At Burlington Saturday afternoon, the siren sounded an alarm to bring more help on the dike northeast of town.  This time the dike held and it was thought the danger was past.  However, a real break occurred Saturday evening and Burlington citizens prepared to move out.  . . .  The flood reached the Burlington hospital, but the fact that the river was receding at the time, prevented any inundation.  The creek just east of Burlington washed away part of the road.  The big break on the dike near the old Cleveland place, took away a large stretch of highway.


USGS 131,000 cfs at Concrete (37.9).  No figure for Sedro-Woolley or Mt. Vernon.


Sedro-Woolley blows up old grade road.




The Burlington dike they are talking about is Lafayette Road where it takes a 90 degree bend and parallels Highway 20.



two drowned in road hole

Victims of a tragic aftermath of the high waters, Mrs. Harry Dimmick and her three-year-old son, Perry, were drowned Tuesday evening when the car in which they were riding, plunged off the road into the opening caused by high water, near the Cleveland ranch northeast of Burlington.  Harry Dimmick, the husband and father, was able to free himself from the auto, which was submerged in 15 or 20 feet of water, and is recovering from shock and bruises.

Flood Deaths


This is why people shouldn’t drive around road barricades during flood events.

Both of these 1/31/35 articles have now helped us locate the Cleveland Ranch which is mentioned in many flood articles.


A Flood Control Plan

            Flood control talk again takes the spotlight, after the highest water seen in Skagit county in years.  A year from now, with more melting snow in the hills, we’ll probably still be talking, with nothing more accomplished A three-point practical control plan that would cost certainly no more than is now being spent, is here presented by The Journal as something to start from:         1. Secure co-operation in some way with the power dams up river to help regulate the volume of water in the river.  At periods of low water in winter or spring, water in these reservoirs could be lowered; during periods of heavy thawing there would be room to hold much water while the river was naturally full.           2. With the money being spent this year and next by diking districts, buy or build a Skagit River Dredge that would remain constantly in the Skagit, digging a channel deep enough to carry the water out, straightening out the stream by taking out the bends, and putting the rich silt where it will do the most good.       3. With the foregoing dredge, build strong emergency dikes equal distant from the river banks all the way down.  This would eliminate the wide places and “bottlenecks” in the present dike system, which so often causes breaks and weak spots in the dikes.


3 Point Suggestion to Flood Control





Have dams lower levels (more storage).





Buy a dredge., straighten river.




Build more dikes equal distance from the river edge (setback levees)..


one million for skagit dikes to be asked – congressmen to go direct to president to present his views on flood relief in this state

Plans to carry the program of Washington state for adequate flood control of its rivers to President Roosevelt were disclosed today by Representative Wallgren (D-Wash.). . . .  In addition to the projects which Wallgren said had been classed as meritorious, he said other projects totaling $10,520,000 should be started. . . . $1,000,000 for Skagit river flood protection for delta by raising levees to 11 feet. This latter project, Wallgren said, was listed by the engineers as being justified as an unemployment relief project. The same classification was given for bank protection on the stream at an estimated cost of another $100,000.

Raise Levees To 11 Feet

The levees in 1935 were quite a bit smaller then they are today.  In fact, in 1952 the levees “varied from 5 to 10 feet high”.  (SourceCorps of Engineers Report on Survey for Flood Control of Skagit River and Tributaries, February 21, 1952)

This proposal would have made levees uniform in protection but far below what we have today.


county faces damage suit over deaths – gilbert retained by dimmick and says suit will be filed for $25,000; county is blamed

Skagit county will probably face a $25,000 damage action as a result of the accident nearly a week ago which snuffed out the lives of Mrs. Myrna Dimmick, 22, and her three-year-old son Perry. The Daily Herald obtained this information today from Attorney Warren Gilbert, who admitted he is preparing to file a claim against the county in behalf of Harry Dimmick, husband and father, who narrowly escaped the same fate as the two others. The two were killed when the auto which Dimmick was driving plunged into the water-filled gap left by flood waters on the Burlington-Sedro-Woolley combination dike and road. . . .  “We believe someone is responsible for the failure to provide a proper barricade and light to give the motorist notice of the danger ahead,” explained Gilbert. “The family realizes that money cannot compensate it for the loss of the mother, son and grandchild, but they fell that the county should pay a reasonable compensation for the loss they sustained,” the attorney added. Reports at the time of the accident were to the effect that a sawhorse with a couple of boards on it served as the only warning of the 100-foot gap in the highway ahead. Dimmick said he drove around the sawhorse and his wife exclaimed: “There’s been a little washout.” A few hours later, county officials erected a permanent barricade, making it impossible to drive within several hundred feet of the water-filled hole.

County Blamed For Flood Deaths


Woman and son were drowned when husband drove around flood barrier into river near Doc Clevelands Ranch on Lafayette Road.


This is why people shouldn’t drive around flood barricades.


dike union is urged to get federal aid – burlington c.c. wants dike organization similar to union high schools; dredger also proposed

A super organization of all county diking districts, so that the county can appeal to the federal government for aid in curbing the flood waters of the Skagit and Samish rivers, was proposed at a meeting of the Burlington chamber of commerce here last night, and the group adopted a resolution asking the state legislature to pass the necessary laws to make this possible. The proposal, as outlined at last night’s meeting, does not mean that the dike districts would consolidate, which was described as virtually impossible. The idea is to organize a dike union, similar to union high schools. This would give all the dike districts an organization which could go to the federal government for aid. At present, no single district is large or strong enough to carry any weight in appealing to the government, it was pointed out. . . .  Another flood control measure was advanced at the meeting by W. D. Knipe, well known local man. He proposed an investigation to determine the feasibility of the county bounding itself to the extent of $100,000, or the amount necessary to purchase a dredger for use on the river. He said various districts which use the dredger could be assessed a certain amount for operation expenses and depreciation. The dredger would not only deepen the channel, but at the same time it would aid in strengthening the dikes. In this connection, Knipe said it would permit the building of sloping dikes to that the pressure of the river during high water would not undermine.

Proposed Formation Of Dike Union


Consolidation of dike districts “virtually impossible”. 


“Dike Union” would have allowed dike districts to go to federal government for aid.




Proposal to purchase a “dredger”.  Like the proposal to form a dike union it never happened.


flood loss in skagit place at two million

The survey of the Skagit river flood damage, which has been carried on during the past few weeks under WERA funds, has found an estimated loss of more than two million. This amount was given by farmers and others as actually lost to them over a period of years and is some half a million dollars more than the figures turned in to the federal government some months ago, before the survey was made, as the Skagit flood loss. . . .  While figures given to the men making the river survey have not been given out in detail, many thousands of acres of fine Skagit farm land are reported washed down the river with many more threatened.

Damages in 1/25/35 Flood

2,000,000 loss in 1935 would equate to $27,000,000 in 2003 dollars using the Consumer Price Index inflation factor.  By comparison the November 1990 floods caused 39,800,000 in damages.  (Source:  Corps of Engineers, Letter Report, Alternatives for Compensation for Flood storage Capacity, Upper Baker Reservoir, 22 January 2003 Review Copy)


flood gates at dam aided high water control


Current Belief That Gates Caused Excess Water In River Refuted


Management of the gates in the Puget Sound Power and Light Company’s Baker River dam during the recent high water was a matter of much conjecture on the part of the public.  Many people had the suspension that the gates were open that critical period and consequently swelled the already threatening stream.  Statements by Harley LaPlant, Lyman Lumberman, and Fred Slipper of Hamilton made in Mt. Vernon a few days after the high water were a direct refutation of this suspicion.  They told the Argus that the contrary was true and requested that the facts be given to the people in all fairness.

A statement to the press made this week by the Puget Sound Power & Light Co. tells just how the gates were handled.  The statement follows:


“With Skagit suffering from the effects from the most disastrous flood it has experienced in recent years,  . . .  More than a week before the flood, according to Mr. Hatcher, the lake level was lowered gradually from an elevation of 435 feet to an elevation of 429 feet, thereby providing storage for part of the tremendous volume of water brought down by the rapidly melting snow.   He stated that plant records indicated that 1,247,000,000 gallons of flood water were stored on Thursday, January 24th; 1,247,000,000 gallons on Friday January 25th; and on Saturday January 26th, 1,355,000,000 gallons were stored instead of being allowed to sweep over the dam and through the valley.”


All gates on the dam were closed from 5:30 p.m. to 8 o’clock p.m. Saturday in order to lessen the flood at high tide, and during this period and additional surplus, estimated at 620,000,000 gallons was stored and held until the receding tide permitted its discharge.  At no time, according to Mr. Hatcher, during the entire flood period did the flow of water released at the dam equal the tremendous volume poured into Lake Shannon from above.  This clearly demonstrated, he said, the value of the dam and the lake in minimizing property damage as a result of the flood.”





Local residents blame Baker Dam for flooding.










How Baker Dam (Lake Shannon) was operated in January 25, 1935 flood event.  Lowered lake level 6 feet.  Need to break gallons down to cfs.   This analogy is bogus.  Without dam in place most of that water wouldn’t have been there to begin with. 





January 26, 1935 is day after flood crested.





Can we use this demonstration now?


skagit river floods cause 2 million loss


Early Estimates Fail To Cover All Damages Substained

Federal Aid Probable

Wallgren, Schwellenbach Promise Shrauger That Aid Will Be Given


The survey of the Skagit river flood damages, which has been carried on during the past few weeks under WERA funds, has found an estimated loss of more then 2 million dollars.  This amount was given by farmers and others as actually lost to them over a period of years and is some half a million dollars more than the figures turned in to the Federal government some months ago before the survey was made as the Skagit River loss.







2 million since when?  Article did not state when survey began.


river survey shows losses

The survey of the Skagit river flood damages, which has been carried on during the past few weeks under W.E.R.A. funds, has found an estimated loss of more than two million dollars.  This amount was given by farmers and others as actually lost to them over a period of years and is some half a million dollars more than the figures turned in to the federal government some months ago, before the survey was made, as the Skagit flood loss.  . . .  While figures given to the men making the river survey have not been given out in detail, many thousands of acres of fine Skagit farm land are reported washed down the river, with many more threatened.

River Erosion


$2,000,000 worth of farmland lost.


“thousands of acres” washed down the river.


This would beg the question of how has  this impacted the previous studies of the  hydraulics of the river.


Power Dam Held Up Flood Waters


            With Skagit County suffering from the effects of the most disastrous flood in recent years, and with flood control one of the principal topics of discussion throughout the state, as well as locally, the following figures furnished by C.K. Katcher, superintendent at the Baker River plant of the Puget Sound Power and Light Company, are of particular interest.

            More than a week before the flood, according to Katcher, the lake level was lowered gradually from an elevation of 435 feet to an elevation of 429 feet, thereby providing storage for part of the tremendous volume of water brought down by the rapidly meting snow.

            At no time, according to Mr. Katcher, during the entire flood period, did the flow of water released at the dam equal the tremendous volume poured into Lake Shannon from above.  This clearly demonstrated, he said, the value of the dam and the lake in minimizing property damage as the result of the flood.

January 25, 1935 Flood


PSPL lowered Lake Shannon 6 feet more than a week before the flood.  This is same data given to Mt. Vernon Argus.



Reader Suggests Hydraulic Dredge Instead of Dikes


            The Journal’s discussion of flood control in the Skagit valley, started last week, brought many comments and the first of a series of letters from readers.  The letter, written by a Burlington man who for the present desires to remain anonymous, is printed below.

            In our cussing and discussions on this problem of river control…there is one law that may not be violated with impunity; i.e. water in seeking its own level follows the line of least resistance.

            Formerly this river shaped its course along the line of the least resistance, occupied that course until by deposition the accumulated particles of mountain that course became untenable, then moved over to a new bed.  Hence the fairly level area extending from Blanchard south for miles.

            Then comes puny man.  Now we have no fault to find with the pioneer who diked his land with a dike a foot high, extending from spruce root to spruce root.  As a matter of expediency this was an acceptable plan.  However, since the bottom of the river at Conway has now become elevated by deposited silt until it is above the extreme high water mark of forty years ago, having added elevation at an average rate of six inches per year.  It seems reasonable to suppose that the present bed will soon become untenable, for the water is now finding its line of least resistance through and not between the dikes, and we have long since reached the limits of that method of flood control as an expedient.

            With the increased erosion to be expected with the removal of timber from the upper areas that dike in another forty years will be approximately fifty feet high.  Then when she breaks, as she surely will, LOOK OUT BELOW!  For every annual six-inch addition to the lower dikes at least an equal amount must be added to the dikes farther up.

            Why not put in some good substantial control gates in the river dikes which will permit of an ordered and orderly flow into Varney slough and such other depressions as may serve as setting basins, thus securing for our use this valuable silt deposit, thus raising the level of the land and adding fertility, permitting the excess water to pass out through the saltwater dikes through well constructed automatic flood gates of ample capacity!







A more profound observation has never been observed in Skagit County.






Bottom of river coming up 6 inches per year.









Dikes by 1975 should have been 50 feet high if his theory was correct




Overtopping levees, flood gates and use Varney (Gages) Slough to disperse flood waters.  Much more viable than is dredging the river.



Why Any River Dikes?


            People who really know the Skagit river seem to agree that the whole valley would be much better off if there were no river dikes at all, provided the bed of the stream could be kept deep enough and straight enough.  A dredge is needed to do that job.

            Not impeded by dikes, ordinary winter high water would help, not hurt, the Skagit valley.  Dredging the river and perhaps small dikes would protect the crops from spring freshets that would do harm.

            Leave the river alone and it rises at least half a foot a year at the mouth.  Under our present system, dikes must be raised, too, every year.  The dikes have never yet held the river at flood stage and when they do break, look out below.

            The whole argument points to spending dike money on a dredge and getting at the bottom of the thing.  What do you think?








Dredging and small dikes.




Look out below!!


city ownership of dikes here is again debated

Now arguments for city ownership of all dikes within Mount Vernon, in the event the dike commissioners do not order them repaired sufficiently to prevent a disastrous flood here, were heard at last night’s meeting of the city council. Thomas K. Chambers declared he was certain the dike commissioners would cooperate with the city, but if they don’t, he said he was inclined to support the attitude of Mayor C. W. Vaux, that it might be best for the city to take over the dikes and maintain them. . . .  The discussion arose after passage of an emergency ordinance whereby the city will furnish $2,313.39 on a WERA project for work on the dikes now owned by the city. The city owns and maintains the dike between Montgomery and Myrtle streets, two blocks. . . .

Mt. Vernon Wanted To Own Dikes In City Limits


City apparently owns the dike between Montgomery and Myrtle Streets.


plan flood relief (editorial)

Apparently the forgotten Skagit farmer, whose valuable land has been washing downstream for years, is to be remembered.  The Puget Sound Flood Control Council was instrumental in having legislation passed to permit counties to form districts to raise funds for stooping erosion and floods, and the big federal appropriation for public works, including a huge amount for flood relief work.  . . .  Congressman Wallgren has taken the lead in flood and erosion control work at Washington, D.C. and through his efforts it is expected that $1,500,000 will be appropriated for the Skagit.  This will be the first time that much has been done to stop erosion, which goes on at low water even more than during floods.

Erosion Control Proposed


It appears that the Congressman fell short of his desired amount of $1,500,000.  See 10/31/35 CT article.


flood control program takes new life here


Ninety Representatives Attend Meeting at Courthouse—Immediate Action Is Advised—Investigating Engineer Praises Skagit County


B.H. Allen, special investigating engineer from the department of conservation and development . . . told the gathering that he was deeply impressed with what he had seen of Skagit County.  “I believe this is the most fertile and beautiful farm country I have ever laid eyes on; it is beyond anything I have imagined; it more than lives up to its reputation,”


Attorney James G. Smith advised immediate action looking toward the formation of a district, which would include all the dike and drainage districts and eliminate the costly method now employed.  . . .  Attorney R. V. Welts presided and put the question of organization to speakers from every district represented and received favorable replies from every one.  Not one dissenting opinion was expressed.












Consolidation of dike and drainage districts.


flood expert here to see river farms – concrete spillway to be built south of town

Inspection of all parts of Skagit county endangered by Skagit river floods or erosion is progressing, with Mr. Allen, the federal expert, to spend the next few days in this district as the guest of County Commissioner Hugo Bauman.  He has already inspected the other two districts in the county.  Bauman will take Allen to the various places along the river, such as Utopia, Hamilton, Lyman, Sterling and wherever the river is cutting into land or threatening to do so.  . . .  Commissioner Bauman announced that a spillway will be built at once, south of Sedro-Woolley, on the fill between here and the river bridge.  . . .  The plan is to surface the roadway with concrete and also to put concrete along the sides, and for five feet along the bottom, so flood waters cannot undermine the fill.

Concrete Spillway South of Sedro-Woolley


Although no proof has been located that this “spillway” was ever constructed it is believed that the location the Commissioner was talking about was located at the end of Township Street near the current Riverside Park, and would have served to allow floodwaters to flow into Beaty slough near the Weyerhaeuser mill.


drainage and road surveys to start here – to be first wera job bauman reports; to work on river

The big drainage district project north of Sedro-Woolley and the completion of the Arlington road survey, have been approved by the state W.E.R.A. heads and will be the first work done in this district under the new relief work project plans, according to County Commissioner Hugo Bauman, who, with the other two commissioners, spend Tuesday in Olympia, conferring with state relief heads.  Approximately $19,000 will be required for the drainage system to be developed to drain a big area north of the city.

Drainage Projects Proposed


“North of the City” at that time would have been near the bottom of the Dukes Hill area.


fund is ok’d for raising skagit dikes – chairman of flood control committee confident congress will pass bill appropriating big sum

The house flood control committee today approved a bill authorizing an appropriation of #340,000,000 for flood control activities. . . .  Projects included: . . .  Skagit river and its tributaries, Washington, raising of flood protection levees on the delta to 11 feet to prevent erosion, cost $2,000,000. . . . 

Congress Okay’s Rasing Levees to 11 Feet in Delta.


See 2/5/35 MVDH article.  Cost increased to $2,000,000.


flood district hearing to be held in July – sisson arranged for official hearing here; report of engineer shows need of immediate control measures

A public hearing on the formation of a flood control district in Skagit county will be held in Mount Vernon either July 1 or 2. Grant Sisson, a member of the state’s flood control commission for Skagit, disclosed today. . . .  The proposed district will embrace all of the county east of Swinomish channel. . . .  Formation of the county’s first step in compliance with rules laid down to obtain federal aid for flood control. . . .  Engineer’s Report Given B. H. Allen, flood control engineer of the state department of conservation and development, recently made a survey in this county and a copy of his report to E. F. Banker, state director of the department, has been sent to Mr. Sisson, Allen had the following to say: “About ten days was taken covering the area west of Sedro-Woolley in county district Nos. 1 and 2. A flat bottom boat was used on the South and North forks of the Skagit river and every dike and drainage district covered. There are now organized 11 drainage districts and 15 dike districts, having a combined area of 39,222 acres. Outside of these organized districts there are privately operated districts kept up by the farmers of an estimated 15,000 acres, making a grand total of 54,222 acres. The population of all this area is 25,000 (estimated). During the past 10 years there was levied upon these organized dike and drainage district the sum of $36,319 per annum, for damages arising from floods. $75,431 in 1934 “The past year, 1934, this assessment amounted to $75,431.65. The average levy for 1934 for dike and drainage districts was about 43 mills. This does not take into consideration the money spent unorganized districts by private owners. . . . What Should Be Done 1. Dredging of lower channels of river. A dredge operating in lower channels would deepen same, thereby releasing pressure upon dikes and supply the necessary material for broadening and strengthening dikes. Sloughs at the western ends of the North and South forks of the Skagit river should be cleaned out to allow free passage of water. This work should be carried out to deep water. 2. Bank Projection. Bank protection should be started as soon as possible to save existing banks and the erosion of acres of valuable bottom land now in danger of being carried away at the next stage of high water. . . .  3. Cooperation of Shannon and Diablo dams at peak of floods: This is shown by the graph compiled by the U.S.G.S. of the high water of 1932 in the flood of February 27, when the peak of 182,000 cubic second feet, a control of 61,500 cubic second feet. . . .  Nookachamps creek, running from Big Lake to the Skagit river, offers another possible storage reservoir. . . .”

Another Flood Control District Proposed


District needed in order to obtain federal aid.






54,222 acres covered by dike and drainage districts containing 25,000 people.



Average sum levied was $36,319 per year.


In 1934 that soared to $75,431.



Report recommended dredging lower channels of river (north and south forks), erosion control bank protection; Shannon and Diablo dams should be used for flood control; and use storage in the Nookachamps.


flood control aid sought by commissioners


Two Resolutions Mailed To Olympia This Week—Skagit, Samish Named

Receives $2,000,000

District Will Meet In July—County Chamber Discusses Subject


Resolutions were passed this week by County Commissioners which ask the Federal Government for funds with which to finance flood control projects on the Skagit and Samish Rivers.  The Commissioners signed the instruments Monday and the Auditor was instructed to forward them to the State Director of Relief at Olympia as soon as possible.  . . .  The Skagit River project as outlined in the resolution lays the river bank out in sections, giving the engineers estimate of the cost of each.  The resolution states that the County agrees to pay 5% of the cost and will furnish all the right-of-way and will assume responsibility for damages and that it will operate and maintain the work after completion.  Part of the right-of-way has already been acquired, says the resolution.  . . .

The Skagit River project calls for 2,000 feet of 1 foot rock rip-rap to cost $20,000; 12,000 feet in Avon Bend to cost $120,000; the Burlington Bend, 3,400 feet, to cost $34,000.  Other stretches of bank, totaling more than 4,000 feet are estimated at $405,250.  An appropriation of $2,000,000 for the raising of the flood protection levees on the delta of the Skagit river and its tributaries was included in the $340,000,000 House Bill at Wash. D.C., late last week . . .

A public hearing for the formation of the flood control district will be held in Mt. Vernon, either July 1st or 2nd, it was announced this week by Grant Sission, a member of the state Flood Contorl Commission for Skagit.  After the hearing the district will be permanently set up at an election which will be called in this district to vote on the proposal.

“This election is of vital importance to everyone in the County,” Sisson told members of the Chamber of Commerce at a meeting in Concrete Tuesday evening.  He denied that an immediate bond issue would be forced upon the people, stating that in any event County Commissioners may not exceed 2 mils for flood control purposes. . . .

E.F. Banker of Okanogan and George Moore of Seattle also spoke on the subject.  Moore spoke on the proposed Ruby dam, which, he stated, “would permanently solve the Skagit flood problem.”  Moore presented figures and data concerning the Skagit that members of the Chamber had never heard before.  Banker told that it would cost the County, state or federal gov’t 14,500,000 dollars to control the Skagit.




























E.F. Banker was state director of Conservation and Development, the forerunner of the State Department of Ecology.   Must assume Moore was from Seattle City Light.  Would like to find what figures he presented.  Does Chamber of Commerce keep any archives?


$850,000 required for skagit work projects


Flood Control Proposals Will Use $578,000—Highway, Bridge Construction Will Require Remainder—Will Employ Many


Expenditures of more than $850,000 in Skagit County were requested this week by the board of county commissioners when approximately 35 federal emergency relief project applications were announced.  . . .$578,000 requested for 25 different river projects.  Ripraping with rock and brush constituted the improvements for the entire expenditure of $578,000.  The largest project is that of a 12,000 foot west bank on the river at the Avon Bend.


A complete flood survey reveals that the following expenditures could be made:  Mt. Vernon waterfront, 2000 feet, $20,000; river banks at Riverside bridge, 2,000 feet, $20,000; 3,400 feet southeast of Clear Lake, $34,000; 1,500 feet south side of Burlington Bend, $15,000; 2,600 feet opposite side of Burlington Bend, $26,000; 4,000 feet east of Burlington, $36,000; 3,000 feet northeast of Clear Lake, $30,000; and three projects at Lyman totaling 92,000.  Four projects for Hamilton total $88,650,; . . .






Rip-rapping and brush mat placement.


this district to get aid in flood control -- $300,000 to be spent on river east of here, plan

Using figures prepared by the recent survey of the Skagit flood area by state experts, the county commissioners have filed a detailed description of the proposed work with the United States engineer in Seattle.  . . .  According to the report, some $160,000 would be spent on riprap work along the river at Mt. Vernon and the Riverside bend; on the Burlington bend, where the flood broke through east of that city, $75,000 is to be spent in riprap work to strengthen the banks.  In the vicinity of Sterling, some 4,000 feet of riprap at an estimated cost of $36,000 is provided for. 

Flood Control Projects Planned

$160,000 riprap Mt. Vernon

$36,000 riprap at Sterling

$130,000 riprap Skiyou[9]

$66,000 riprap Utopia

$63,000 work at Lyman

$25,000 work at Hamilton

$75,000 work at Burlington Bend


u.s. engineers recommend new river cut off


Proposal Calls For Canal From Avon Westward To Padilla Bay

Request Reservoir

Dam in Upper Skagit Country Advised By Federal Government for Flood Control


A $4,740,000 canal leading from Avon westward into Padilla Bay, augmented by power reservoirs in the upper Skagit country, has been named as the most feasible method of flood control for the Skagit river and its Tributaries.  The recommendation was made by Thomas M. Robins, colonel of the United States Army Corps of Engineers in a news release . . . The construction of the channel westward from Avon was recommended as essential and it would be started at once. 


“This report finds that the best plan for flood control on the Skagit river is to construct a by-pass, leading from the river near Avon into Padilla Bay, and to provide storage in connection with proposed power developments on the Skagit river system at the Ruby, Cascade, lower Sauk, and Baker lake dam sites.  Provision of storage cannot be undertaken at this time because the proposed power developments ar not now warranted, but the by-pass should be built as soon as practicable because this work alone will afford much needed protection.









With the exception of the Herzog report this is the beginning of the Avon By-Pass saga.







Even with By-Pass storage still needed behind dams.


$13,500,000 project for skagit river


Calling for expenditure of $13,500,000, a construction program for City Light’s Skagit project including the Ruby reservoir and dam to be financed through a government loan and sale of utility bonds was disclosed here today following a meeting yesterday in Seattle.


Clearing Ruby basin to elevation 1,600 feet, $1,250,000; constructing the Ruby dam to elevation 1,500 feet, $7,750,000; transmission line from the Gorge plant at the Skagit to the south substation in Seattle, $2,500,000; . . . houses, etc. at Gorge and Diablo, $97,940.



Ross dam constructed with federal loan.


flood control district o.k’d by plan council

Organization of a flood control district in Skagit county, embracing all the territory east of Swinomish channel, has the backing of the Skagit county planning council. The group, meeting in the office of Welts & Welts here last night, approved unanimously a motion to recommend the formation of a legally organized district. Senator W. J. Knutzen moved for approval and was seconded by Harold McFarlane.

Countywide Flood Control District


See 1/20/35 MVDH article.


flood district is approved at public meeting here today


Election Date Will Be Set As Soon As Necessary Field Work Is Completed, E.F. Banker Tells Group—All Of Skagit Except Islands Included


E.F. Banker, state director of conservation and development, told a gathering of about 150, mostly farmers, that as soon as the date of the election has been fixed all the data relating to Skagit river flood control will be turned over to the county commissioners, who will have complete charge of all future steps.  His department will after that have no more authority in the matter.  The district will comprise all Skagit County except the islands.  All the land within this area, both bottom and high land, would be levied upon to finance such a flood control project, as may be adopted.   A.G. Moser of Sedro-Woolley was the only objector.  He thought the drainage area in the district should include only the Skagit and Samish rivers that the Nooksack and Stillaguamish, which are separate projects and outside, ought to be eliminated.


Senator W. J. Knutzen . . . suggested Skagit County Flood Control district as the official title, and so it was written in the minutes.  . . . E.R. Pierce, representing Blodell-Donovan timber interest, asked permission to enter a protest against the inclusion of certain timber lands in the district.  . . . Mr. Banker interposed with the opinion that to exclude any special areas within the district would cause confusion and would complicate the running of the boundary lines.  He said the tax would fall lightly on timber and that there was nothing to fear by timber owners.






Why would District include Snohomish and Whatcom county?  Nooksack and Stillaguamish don’t flow into Skagit.


go into court

TACOMA, Oct. 23. –(AP)– Canvassing of the returns and certifying of the results of Tuesday’s special election to determine whether or not a flood control district shall be established in the Puyallup valley, apparently overwhelmingly approved by voters of the district, was restrained by Superior Judge Ernest M. Card today on petition of the Weyerhaeuser Timber company, St. Paul & Tacoma Lumber company, Milwaukee Land company and the Northwestern Improvement company. . . .  In the meantime the ballots will be impounded by the auditor as they are received from the election boards and held pending the outcome of the injunction proceedings.

Puyallup Valley Flood Control District Challenged in Court


Weyerhaeuser filed suit to prevent formation of flood control district as they would eventually also do in Skagit County.


ruling given

Flood control districts, the attorney general’s office has decided, may not properly spend money to drain lands, except to make outlets for flood waters. The opinion, written by Assistant Attorney General George C. Hannan, was given to Director E. F. Banker of the department of conservation and development yesterday. The department had asked whether the law was broad enough to include drainage.

Attorney General Rules F/C Districts Cannot Spend Money on Drainage Projects


flood control district will rest on voters


Special Election Will Be Called December 3 to Determine Issue

Notices Are Posted

Entire Mainland of County Is Included In Proposed District


Proposals for the organization of a flood control area in Skagit County to be known as the “Skagit County Flood Control District” will be placed before registered voters of the affected localities at a special election which will be held on Tuesday, December 3.  . . .  The order for the election was made by E. F. Banker, director of Conservation and Development for the state of Washington . . .







District received a lot of hype in local press.


u.s. engineer lists projects for work here – major portion of $358,100 fund to be expended on skagit from burlington; samish river gets $104,500

An offensive on the Skagit and Samish rivers, with scores of men taking up various implements as cudgels in the fight against future floods in the county, is soon to be underway. . . .  Federal funds amounting to $358,000, obtained through the works progress administration, will be expended in building up and strengthening the existing banks of the two streams in the hope that this method will contribute immeasurably in controlling the waters of the Skagit and Samish rivers, which in the past have caused thousands of dollars of damage in their wild rampages through rich farm lands of Skagit county. Projects are outlined . . .  1. Clearing and snagging and brush revetment of the Skagit river in Township 35, in the amount of $216,600. 2. Work on the upper Skagit from Hamilton to Marblemount, with some work on the branches in the delta area below Skagit City, with the exception of the North Fork in the amount of $104,500 3. Work on the Samish river from its mouth to Friday creek, and also a limited amount on Friday creek, in the amount of $104,500. . . .  He also revealed that the projects as outlined, are the original ones planned by the corps of U.S. engineers, who have previously made an exhaustive survey of the flood situation here. . . .  At the county engineer’s office here, it was said corrective measures will undoubtedly be taken at Hamilton, Lyman, Utopia, Sterling and immediately northeast of Burlington, where the river condition was described as “serious.” . . .  Clearing and snagging of the river, as mentioned by Col. Wild, was declared here of much importance. What method will be employed in this work was not revealed. . . .  The Skagit county planning council had previously asked $2,000,000 for dredging in North Fork and South Fork and main channel of the Skagit river, and had requested $1,000,000 for sloping and riprapping banks to prevent soil erosion. The council had also petitioned for $275,000 for dredging and building adequate dikes on the Samish river. Flood control has been designated as the main objective of the planning council.

WPA Federal Projects Funded For Erosion Control Work on Skagit and Samish



Hamilton, Lyman, Utopia, Sterling, Burlington. Friday Creek, all to receive erosion control projects.




Dredging of North Fork and South Fork not included in funding.


Big sum for skagit flood work, voted – to spend $358,000 for river control; to start soon

According to word received from Congressman Mon Wallgren … some $1,700,000 for flood control work in his district has been approved by federal works program officials and will be available in a short time.  Of this sum, $358,000 has been allocated for work in Skagit county.  . . .  A. G. Mosier, local engineer, was sent yesterday by the Sedro-Woolley Chamber of Commerce to confer with Col. H.J. Wild, United States district engineer in Seattle. . . Mosier was informed that the money would be spent at all points along the river, as recommended by the recent Skagit river survey, made for the state planning commission by government engineers. . . This report includes the Lyman and Burlington bends and other dangerous points on the upper river, and according to Mosier, these places will evidently be included in the work, rather than having all the sum expended on the lower river.

Money for Flood Control



Work proposed for Lyman and Burlington Bend area.


flood control election dec. 3 vital to county


            The future of flood control in Skagit county will be decided at a special election Tuesday, Dec. 3, when voters of the county will indicate their wishes on the proposal of forming a giant, county-wide flood control district as provided by the 1935 legislature.

            Voters will mark their ballots “For” the proposition or “Against” the proposition, indicating whether or not they wish the special district formed.

            Territory included in the proposed flood control district, and in which people will vote at this election, is all of Skagit county mainland, Fidalgo Island excepted.

            The district, if approved by the voters, will not take over the present diking or drainage districts and will not support them, Kloke said. The law does state that if the big district should want the use if present ditches or dikes, paying maintenance costs, etc.

            The board of county commissioners will become directors of the new district, with the auditor as ex-office clerk. The only money-spending power they would have, would be a maximum levy of two mills on assessed valuation of property within the district. A maximum levy of five mills could be made, but only by majority vote by the people at a special election. No levy would be made, of course, until some flood control plan had been worked out with army engineers, etc., Kloke said.



Future of flood control at stake.






All of Skagit County in District.


District would not take over dike or drainage districts but also would not support them.

Unfortunate the newspaper did not finish the sentence


flood control election dec. 3 vital to county


            The future of flood control in Skagit county will be decided at a special election Tuesday, Dec. 3, when voters of the county will indicate their wishes on the proposal of forming a giant, county-wide flood control district as provided by the 1935 legislature.

            Voters will mark their ballots “For” the proposition or “Against” the proposition, indicating whether or not they wish the special district formed.

            Territory included in the proposed flood control district, and in which people will vote at this election, is all of Skagit county mainland, Fidalgo Island excepted.

            The district, if approved by the voters, will not take over the present diking or drainage districts and will not support them, Kloke said. The law does state that if the big district should want the use if present ditches or dikes, paying maintenance costs, etc.

            The board of county commissioners will become directors of the new district, with the auditor as ex-office clerk. The only money-spending power they would have, would be a maximum levy of two mills on assessed valuation of property within the district. A maximum levy of five mills could be made, but only by majority vote by the people at a special election. No levy would be made, of course, until some flood control plan had been worked out with army engineers, etc., Kloke said.



Future of flood control at stake.






All of Skagit County in District.


District would not take over dike or drainage districts but also would not support them.

Unfortunate the newspaper did not finish the sentence


flood control district is debated here – planning council and newspaper men confer on proposal; council to issue statement

A speedy publicity campaign to inform the public about the proposed Skagit county flood control district, on which the people of the county will vote next December 3, was agreed upon by the county planning council at a meeting in the office of Attorney R. V. Welts here last night. . . .  Carol Brider, farmer member of the council, who resides near Sedro-Woolley, reported that the people are complaining that they don’t know enough about the proposed flood control district, and that those who live on upper land won’t vote for the plan. Mr. Welts president of the planning group, explained that individual groups have been fighting floods in the county for the last fifty years and that a plan is now available where all people in the county living east of Swinomish channel can cooperate in bringing about permanent flood control. He argued that floods affect everyone, whether they live on the flats or on the upper land, since a flood on the flats, causing thousands of dollars in damage, cannot help but injure those living on hill land.

Countywide Flood Control District


Voters to have say on December 3rd on formation of proposed district.


2 weeks before election, voters not educated on what district could do.





“Floods affect everyone.”  Even people who live on the hills.


need for flood control – federal and state aid at stake in election planning council says

A statement pointing out the need for organizing a flood control district in Skagit county, upon which the eligible voters residing east of Swinomish channel will make a decision December 3, was issued today by the Skagit county planning council. [Council’s statement follows] The Planning Council believes the formation of our flood control district is the most important thing this county has attempted to do. The Skagit and Samish rivers have always presented a serious problem. Through the years, instead of growing better, the dangers have constantly increased. Something must be done or the entire valley faces disaster. In the past we have tried to work single-handed. This has failed. Can’t Succeed Alone The land in this valley has been reclaimed from overflow by rivers and salt water at tremendous cost. Fifty years ago the individual tried to dike and drain his land. In a few years he learned that he could not succeed alone. His neighbors joined with him and formed dike and drainage districts designed to protect and reclaim small isolated units. . . .  We have recently realized, through the flood of two years ago, when over 20,000 acres were under salt water and through the fact that each winter we now have floods from the Skagit and Samish rivers, that we must have help. Cities Are Menaced As we have been building our dikes, the timber has been logged from our hills. They are now bare. The no longer hold back the rainfall and melting snow. This water comes into the rivers more rapidly than before. At Hamilton, Lyman, Sterling and a hundred other places on both the Skagit and Samish rivers are each year washing away acres upon acres of land. This silt has filled up the mouths of the rivers and the river beds. The dikes cannot hold back the flood waters. Each year the condition is growing worse. . . .  At Sterling the Skagit has so changed its course and is so rapidly cutting away the river bank that it will soon force a new channel north of Burlington through the farming country to salt water. . . . Realizing that something must be done, the last legislature passed a series of laws known as the flood control legislation, which permits formation of large flood control districts practically county-wide. . . .  The federal government has recognized the fact that the problem of controlling rivers is too large even for the community or the state to handle and is entering this field and lending federal help. . . .  The federal government does not recognize and will not recognize an application of an individual for flood control aid. The existing dike and drainage units are so small and so scattered that neither the state nor the federal government will recognize them as agencies through which to work in attacking a problem involving a whole valley or a whole river. . . .  The proposed district upon which you will vote December 3, embraces all of Skagit county except Fidalgo island. To avoid the cost of setting up new machinery and a completely new set of officers, the law makes the three men elected as county commissioners, by vote of that election, the directors of the district. The law specifically limits the power of the district, when formed, to tax any land. This act leads: “Any flood control district may raise revenue by the levy of an annual tax on all taxable property within such district, . . .  Such levy not to exceed 2 mills on the dollar in any one year.”  . . .  How long would it take you to lose $2 if Burlington, Sedro-Woolley, Hamilton, Lyman, Mount-Vernon were flooded by the Skagit river? . . .  In 1909, the flood in this valley did approximately $1,000,000 of damage. In 1917, the damage was at least $300,000. . . .  In 1917, the county, because of flood, spent over $100,000 in repairing bridges and highways. . . .  There has never been a flood in this valley that has not cost the county itself, for the road and bridge and highway repair, at least $25,000. . . .  No tax levy beyond 2 mills can be made by the directors under law, without submitting the matter to a vote of the district so formed. . . .  Levy Is Explained The fact that the directors have power to levy 2 mills does not mean that they must levy that much. That is the most they can levy in any one year. . . .     

Proposed Flood Control District To Include All Of Skagit County Except Fidalgo Island




Dangers from floods have increased over time.  Entire valley faces disaster.





1932 and 1933 floods showed locals they needed help from State and Federal governments.




Blamed increased flooding threat on logging of the hills, “They are now bare.”

Logging caused melting snow and rainfall to enter the river “more rapidly than before”.



Were afraid of Skagit cutting “new” channel north of Burlington to saltwater.  This is where Skagit used to flow several thousand years ago.  (Source:  Prehistoric Settlement Changes In the Southern Northwest Coast, A functional Approach, Gail Thompson, 1978)




District would have had County Commissioners as officers.  Could only levy “2 mills” maximum in any given year ($2 per 1,000 of evaluation).








(See 11/27/24 Argus article re damage figures.)


flood control plans presented to voters by planning council


Attorney R. V. Welts Outlines Proposition In Detail For Skagit Residents’ Study Before Special Election Which Will Be Held Tuesday, Dec. 3


The Planning Council believes the formation of our Flood Control District is the most important thing this county has attempted to do.  The Skagit and Samish Rivers have always presented a serious problem.  Through the years, instead of growing better, the dangers have constantly increased.

The land in this valley has been reclaimed from overflow by rivers and salt water at a tremendous cost.  Fifty years ago the individual tried to dike and drain his land.  In a few years he learned that he could not succeed alone.  His neighbors joined with him and formed dike and drainage districts designed to protect and reclaim small isolated units.  Neighboring farmers formed similar districts; each trying to protect its property, regardless of what happened to the adjoining district.  We now have 27 independent diking and drainage units.  Through the years they have spent over $1,000,000 of the taxpayer’s money for protection.  . . .  We have recently realized, through the flood of two years ago, when over 20,000 acres was under salt water, and through the fact that each winter we now have floods from the Skagit and Samish rivers, that we must have help.  As we have been building our dikes, the timber has been logged from our hills.  They are now bare.  They no longer hold back the rainfall and melting snow.  This water comes into the rivers more rapidly than before. 







(NOTE:  Article was continued on Page 3 and was not copied.  Must obtain.)


Taxpayers to Discuss Flood Control Vote


            Tax payers of Skagit County will convene in a special meeting of the Skagit County Taxpayers association next Tuesday night, Nov. 26, in the Burlington city hall, D. W. Barclay, president announced yesterday.

            The coming flood control election Dec. 3, and reports from the state taxpayers’ association meeting this Friday and Saturday at the Washington hotel in Seattle, will be discussed.

            The regular meeting night of the association is next Thursday, and the date is advanced to Tuesday because of Thanksgiving.



several more projects for skagit o.k’d

New Skagit county WPA projects amounting to $50,486 have been approved, it was announced in Seattle today... . . .  Among the projects approved, three were listed for Mount Vernon. They are $16,257 to reconstruct the Skagit river dike here, $9,729 to improve the dike here, and $384 to construct storm sewer and improve Division street. In the list was also $7,774 to improve drainage ditches at Burlington, and $12,000 to construct a school building at Burlington. Superintendent Oliver Hazen said Burlington has no school and building tennis courts, etc.

More WPA Projects Approved


Dike reconstruction, storm sewers and drainage ditches.


taxpayers to study flood control plan

Following a lengthy discussion in Burlington city hall last night, members of the Skagit County taxpayers association agreed that a committee should make an investigation of the proposed flood control district in Skagit county and issue a statement on the subject prior to December 3 when residents residing east of Swinomish channel will vote on the proposal.



voters to consider flood control

Federal Funds Available For Flood Expenditures


The dikes cannot hold back the flood waters.  Each year this condition is growing worse.  The problem is not that of the farme5r who owns land, but the problem of every business and every man who has investment in Skagit County because the life and continued existence of the entire community is dependent upon its solution.



This article reprinted portions of the 11/21/35 article.


flood control election dec. 3 vital to county; skagit voters have first chance to begin permanent river control plan; will save millions


            Most far-reaching, most important of all action ever taken toward permanent flood control in the Skagit and Samish valleys is next Tuesday’s special election at which Skagit county will decide whether or not it wishes to join hands in one organization that will be able to obtain sensible, permanent control of flood waters in the future.

            Voters will vote for or against the formation of a “Flood Control District” comprising all of Skagit County except the islands, as specified in flood control laws passed by the last legislature.  This district would be able to “talk business” for state and federal aid, where small districts and communities are not recognized.


            Advocates of the measure point to the following reasons:


1.       This is the first opportunity Skagit County has had to start a comprehensive flood control plan that will eliminate the hit and miss expensive methods now being employed by individuals and small groups.

2.       Other counties of the state have already adopted such measures overwhelmingly and Skagit County with the worst flood problem of all should do something likewise.

3.       While a new organization is set up, no new officials or overhead is allowed under this plan.  The county commissioners will become directors of the flood control district, at no extra pay.

4.       Only money-spending powers of the flood district will be in the district, which could amount to only $30,000 in the whole district if a plan is found which such money could be used.

5.       Local dike districts have had to dig up far more than $30,000 to pay for damages from one flood, and then had nothing but repaired dikes for their money.

6.       Lower district assessments will result as soon as the rivers are put under permanent control as local districts would have no more expenses.

7.       If nothing is done to control the Skagit, that stream will change its course and destroy millions of dollars in property in cities and farms.





Most far-reaching action ever taken.





Formation of Flood Control District.







First opportunity for Comprehensive Flood Control Plan.  In 2004 we now have a draft of a Comprehensive F/C Plan.




County Commissioners to control District.





voters will decide issue on Tuesday – safety and prosperity of county depends on solution of flood problem, council says in statement

Declaring that the safety, the prosperity and the future development of the entire valley depends upon the solution of the flood control problem, the Skagit County Planning Council today issued a final appeal for approval of the proposed flood district in a special election to be held Tuesday of this week. “We must recognize it (flood control) as a county-wide problem and organize ourselves into a legal unit large enough to be effective and large enough to be recognized by the state and federal government,” the council’s statement said. . . .  Indications point to a big vote due to intense interest taken during the last few days in the proposal to form a district. A committee of the Skagit Taxpayers association openly opposed the plan on their belief it would give the commissioners to much taxing power. . . .  “Every possible safeguard was written into the statute to limit the taxing power of the commissioners of such a district. The statute forbids the directors to levy a tax beyond 2 mills on the dollar in any year. That means the board has no power to assess in any one year more the $2.00 on farm or other property having a valuation of $1,000. It is true that the timber interests have been outspoken in their opposition to the formation of a district. They feel that if the district is formed they will be called upon to help pay the bill which the farmers are paying today. The planning council adopting this matter of flood control as its major objective. It did so because it felt that the solution of the flood problem was the most important thing confronting this valley. It felt that we have tried for 50 years to let the farmer solve this problem alone. He has failed. He will continue to fail, because it is too big. The safety, the prosperity and the future development of the entire valley depends upon its solution. . . .  The opponents of flood control offer nothing constructive, but merely wish to leave the situation as it is. Something must be done. Do you realize that the taxpayers, instead of paying 2 mills a year on the dollar, in various localities are paying as high as 280 mills on the dollar for flood protection? Following is a list of the levies in the 20 dike districts of the county for 1935:

Dike District Levies


No. 1    15.00

No. 2    60.00

No. 3    24.90

No. 3    9.80

No. 5    30.10

No. 8    103.00

No. 12   19.83

Countywide Flood Control District


Endorsed by Skagit Planning Council.



Expected a “big vote”.



Timber interest outspoken in opposition to formation of District.













Farmers tried for 50 years to solve problem but failed because problem too big.



Some dike districts paying 280 mills per year.



A mill is one dollar per 1,000 dollars of assessed valuation.



few votes are being cast on flood control

Lack of interest in today’s election to determine whether most of Skagit county shall organize itself into a flood control district was indicated this afternoon. A check of the Mount Vernon precincts showed that only 73 had turned out to make their choice up until after 1 o’clock this afternoon.

Few Voters To The Polls For Flood Control


Lack of interest in flood control district.


flood control district carries – timber companies attack district in court – district wins by margin of 1,134 votes – residents of district vote 1,901 to 767 in favor of united flood control program

By a vote of nearly three to one, Skagit county residents residing east of Swinomish channel yesterday decided to carry out an organized effort to control flood waters in this section, which in recent years have caused damages running into the thousands of dollars. . . .  Only 2,688 voters out of the 12,754 citizens registered in the district, marked ballots in yesterday’s election. Points west of Swinomish channel, including Anacortes, the county’s largest city, are not included in the district, and as a result did not vote. . . .  Of the three cities, Burlington made the best showing, 300 residents of that city voting favorably, and only 42 against. In Mount Vernon, 290 voted for the district and 91 against, while at Sedro-Woolley, 170 favored the issue and 84 opposed it. . . .  La Conner, Hamilton, and Concrete backed the district by substantial margins.

Countywide Flood Control District Passes by 3 to 1 Margin, However:


Only 2,688 voters out of 12, 754 took the time to vote.  1,901 in favor, 767 against.





All cities voted in favor of District except Anacortes which was not included in District boundaries.



flood control district carries – timber companies attack district in court – two companies say election is null and void – sound timber and weyerhaeuser claim banker was without authority; district not economically sound, claimed

Alleging that yesterday’s flood control district election was null and void, the Sound Timber company started an action in superior court here today in an attempt to prevent final organization of the district. . . .  The action in court here was directed at E. F. Banker, head of the state department of conservation and development, and head of the state flood control boundary commission, and Auditor C. P. Kloke, Commissioner Hugo Bauman, and Prosecutor Richard Welts, members of the county election board. . . .  The lengthy complaint filed in court here sets forth that Banker did not find that the proposed plan was economically feasible, nor adopt a comprehensive plan. It goes on to claim that “Banker acted in excess of his authority and jurisdiction in recommending that the said district be created for the stated purpose of creating an agency that may enter into contracts with the state and federal governments for funds, if available, to carry out a complete plan of development of control works for flood water protection.” Continuing their complaint, the two timber companies assert that the state flood control boundary commission found that $508,000 could be raised by assessment, whereas the cost of the proposed work would be $2,426,852. The theory was used that the state would contribute 25 per cent of the cost of the improvement and the federal government 50 per cent, the companies maintain.

Timber Companies Immediately Sue To Stop Formation Of District


Allegations against state agency was that they failed to adopt a comprehensive plan, failed to ensure that the district was economically feasible, and that agency acted in excess of his authority.



Timber companies showed that only $508,000 could be raised by District where the cost of the proposed work was $2,426,852.  Even with the state contributing 25% and the federal government 50%, the assessment would not be enough.


So no one made the suggestion to cut back the size of the project?


court action halts flood control work

Timber Companies Restrain Election Board From Certifying Returns to State

Voters Want District

Flood Control Plans Carry, 1891 to 767 at Tuesdays Election


Final organization of the flood control district was abruptly stopped Wednesday morning shortly after announcements had been made of the district victory when the Sound Timber company and the Weyerhaeuser Timber company took legal action in the superior court here.  . . .  The complaint holds the election null and void on the alleged grounds that E. F. Banker, director of state conservation and development, had acted in excess of his authority in recommending that a district be created.  The two companies further claim that the district is not economically feasible since the federal PWA refused to make any contribution for flood control work and that no such funds will be available. 


The cost of the improvement is estimated at $2,426,852, of which $508,000 may be raised by assessment, complainants say.  The remainder would have to come from state and federal sources.  The complaint also asserts that the district gives the commissioners power to subject the property of the two companies to double taxation in contravention to the fourteenth amendment to the U.S. constitution


No article at least through 1937 was identified which reported the outcome of this legal dispute, however, since the District was never formed and it was never mentioned again in any article, it must be assumed that the timber companies prevailed.


Flood control district wins county’s vote – entire election is now being contested by timberman

Local citizens showed their approval of flood control work in this district by a vote of 170 for the proposal and 84 against, when they visited the polls Tuesday.  The vote was light throughout the county, unofficial results showing 2,669 ballots cast out of a possible 12,754.  Because of court action being taken by the Sound Timber company and the Weyerhaeuser Timber company alleging that the election was null and void, the election board is temporarily prevented from canvassing the vote and certifying the returns to state officials.  . . .  Both companies own large tracts of timber in Skagit county which they claim are “far above a possible overflow,” yet were “arbitrarily, capriciously and fraudulently included” in the district.

Flood Control District Vote


There were 12,754 registered voters in Skagit County in 1935.  Only 2,669 of them voted in this election.


Weyerhaeuser and Sound Timber fled suit to invalidate the election and were ultimately successful in defeating the formation of the district.


Flood Control Wins, Then Blocked by Injunction

Timber Companies Allege Plan Would Tax Unfairly


            By a vote of nearly three to one, Skagit County voters said “yes” to the proposition of forming a giant flood control district for permanent work on rivers and salt water problems in Skagit county. County totals were 1,901 approving and 767 against the district, giving a margin of 1,134 votes.

            Even while ballots were being counted, however, flood control organization struck a legal snag. Early Wednesday morning two timber companies obtained a temporary restraining order against county and state officials completing the organization.

            Judge Geo. A. Joiner granted the injunction until Dec. 28, when County Auditor C. P. Kloke, Prosecutor Richard Welts, Commissioner Hugo Bauman and E. F. Banker, state director of conservation and development, must appear to show cause why the injunction should not be made permanent.     

            The timber companies maintain that the proposed flood control district is discriminatory against them, because of their large holdings on the hills in the upper valley, where flood control “could not possibly benefit them, directly or indirectly.” The complaint said the district would result in unfair taxation.




Only 2,500 people voted but approval rating was 3 to 1.




Judge Joiner was a Skagit County Superior Court Judge.

Need to get January  3,1936 article to find out what happened.


Flood Control would not benefit timber companies. 


Up to Commissioners Now


            Voters of Skagit County acted wisely in their behalf in Tuesday’s flood control election. Now, if the law and election are upheld in court, the machinery has been set up whereby Skagit County can take advantage of any opportunity for permanent constructive flood control.

            The county commissioners will do well by themselves and the public by not abusing the confidence placed in them as directors of the flood control district. The law says taxes up to two mills MAY (not must) be levied. The commissioners should not grasp this merely as another way to raise money, but instead make no flood control levy until there is a prospect of a definite flood plan where Skagit’s money will do the most good.

            As an election sidelight, Burlington voters showed they know which side of their bread is buttered. The Skagit River is Burlington’s most serious problem of the future. One guess is as good as another as to what would happen if the river is not controlled.



Flood Control District voted on and approved by voters.


work starts on $216,000 flood control system


Dangerous Skagit Bend At Sterling Receives First Strengthening

Ten Projects Planned

Entire Work Will Be Done Between Burlington and Hamilton


. . . Engineer Iver Nelson is now at work on a WPA project for which $216,000 has been appropriated for revetment work on dangerous portions of the river bank lying from Burlington to a point east of Hamilton.  . . .  Actual work has started at the C. Brider place at the Sterling bend near Burlington.  The banks are being sloped for placing the brush mats and revetment.  . . .  Some ten projects have been mapped out along the river between Burlington and Lyman, as the most dangerous places.  . . .  . . Both Burlington and Sedro-Woolley have been threatened by possibility of the river breaking through into slough channels, and either running through the towns or causing huge damages. 






Brush mats and willow planting.






Gages and Barney Sloughs.  (NOTE:  Article was continued on page 8 and was not copied.)


work starts at dangerous river points – wallgrens’s $216,000 skagit river job under way

As part of Congressman Mon Wallgren’s proposed $2,000,000 flood control project on the Skagit river, Engineer Iver Nelson is now at work on a WPA project for which $216,000 has been appropriated for revetment work on dangerous portions of the river bank lying from Burlington to a point east of Hamilton.  . . .  Actual work has started at the C. Brider place at the Sterling Bend near Burlington.  The banks are being sloped for placing the brush mats and revetment..  A trestle is being built across the slough to reach the big growth of willows in the old Sterling bend channel.  Tool houses and other portable buildings are being constructed.  . . .  Some ten projects have been mapped out along the river between Burlington and Lyman . . . Both Burlington and Sedro-Woolley have been threatened by possibility of the river breaking through into slough channels, and either running through the towns or causing huge damage.  . . .  One of the worst points on the river is the Burlington Bend . . . Another project calls for a long stretch of protective work above the Sedro-Woolley bend.  Then at the danger point at Burns Bar, above Sedro-Woolley.  Another bad place is the Reese farm, where the river has cut far into a new channel . . . Then at Ross Island, near Utopia . . . The river at this point is now more than a mile from its original channel and cutting more every year.  Another bad place is near the Christ Wolfe farm, where more revetment work will be done.

Sterling Bend Revetment Work



The C. Brider place is now owned by the Leonard Halverson family.


There used to be a bridge over Harts Slough.



Sloughs the article is referencing would be Gages (Burlington) and Beatey (Sedro-Woolley).


River Control; Wallgren Secures Appropriations; Work Being Done At Sterling Bend

            As part of Congressman Mon Wallgren’s proposed $2,000,000 flood control project on the Skagit river, Engineer Iver Nelson is now at work on a WPA project for which $216,000 has been appropriated for revetment work on dangerous portions of the river bank lying from Burlington to a point east of Hamilton. Nelson hopes to have 120 men working before long and now has approximately 50 men on the job. This is just the start of the flood control and erosion relief program which Congressman Wallgren plans for the Skagit River, to extend from far up the river to its mouth.

            Actual work has started at the C. Brider place at the Sterling bend near Burlington. The banks are being sloped for placing the brush mats and revetment. A trestle is being built across the slough to reach the big growth of willows in the old Sterling bend channel. Tool houses and other portable buildings are being constructed.

            Concrete blocks will also be made, to be placed on top of the brush mats, all of which will be fastened by cables, with mats and fascines extending well underwater to prevent erosion. Engineer Nelson estimates that the work as outlined will take about a year with a full crew of 122 men.

WPA Work


There is a great picture in the Corps files which shows log rafts floating down the river which destroyed all this work being done.


Wallgren Happy over Flood Bill


            A bill that provided $5,386,000 for second congressional district flood control projects when it passed the House, came back from the Senate with the allotment reduced the $3,411,000 for two projects instead of five million for five projects, according to Congressman Mon Wallgren in a communication to The Journal this week.

            “Despite the reduction, the measure represents a real advance for our district as it is the first direct recognition by law of a flood control project in the district,” the Congressman wrote. “I had hoped for definite projects on four rivers but, for this session at least, will have to be content with the two on the Skagit and Stillaguamish rivers.”




No indication as to what projects the money was to be spent on.


flood control tax plan is hit by decision

Superior Judge H. G. Sutton of Kitsap county established a precedent for the state’s lower courts here yesterday when he ruled lands to be taxed under flood control districts must receive benefit before they can be legally assessed. Judge Sutton commented that “neither the legislature nor any municipal corporation created by it has the power to tax property for the purpose of specially benefiting and improving other private property without some degree of benefit accruing to the property taxed. . . .  The decision is in the case of the Simpson Logging company vs. E. F. Banker, director of the department of conservation and development. It overrules the defendant’s demurrer to the complaint and continues a temporary injunction granted by Superior Judge D. F. Wright of Mason county against inclusion of certain of the company lands either heavily wooded or lying on steep hillsides arbitrarily included in the boundaries of the taxing district. The decision is directly opposite to a similar court decision in Pierce county, he said, and his department will ask the supreme court to decide the issue. . . .  No official canvass of the Skagit vote on flood control has yet been made, and none is scheduled until after the supreme court rulings are handed down. Skagit voters approved a county flood control district by a vote of 1,891 to 767.

Timber Companies Win Court Ruling


Flood Control Districts must provide benefit to those being taxed.  This was the beginning of the end for the Countywide Skagit Flood Control District.


river boat history recalled; many old timers are coming

The old Mississippi river will have nothing on the Skagit river Saturday afternoon, when river boats will converge on this city and bring an array of old and new river captains, mates and engineers, the like of which Mount Vernon has never witnessed. . . .  It is believed that Captain Victor Pinkerton, who resides here, and is captain of the Skagit Chief, is the oldest living river captain still operating on the river. He first arrived on the old stern wheeler Mame 44 years ago as a deckhand, and all he could see of Mount Vernon was a few buildings along the river bank, almost hidden by tall cedar trees. However, the captain states that boats ran up the river with passengers over 50 years ago; the first paddle wheelers being the Zephyr and the Josephine, commanded by Capt. Dan Benson. . . .  Other boats operating on the river will be remembered as the T. C. Reed, . . .  And the Lilly, Glide, Monroe. . . .  Thousands of passengers used these boats as the only means of transportation to and from this city, and many are the stories told of the trips taken during floods and storms, as well as when a boat load of passengers was held up for hours, stuck on the tide flats. . . .  Old river men are beginning to lift the veil of years, as they prepare for Saturday’s festivities on the river, when they honor on of their old timers, 70-year-old Capt. F. A. Siegel, who has been on the river for 43 years, pulling out dangerous snags, and straightening the channel, as well as dredging out shallow bars. . . .  Seattle will send Col. H. J. Wild, in charge of dredging operations of the rivers of the Sound, . . . 

Stern Wheeler’s Ran on Skagit in 1886


They went by the names of Mame, Zephyr, Josephine, Lilly, Glide, and the Monroe.




local expert says not much chance of bad skagit flood

In a recent article in the Seattle Star, James A. Stewart[10], hydraulic expert with the government, who worked for Skagit county after the big flood in 1932[11], states that ten inches of precipitation in 34 hours on the Skagit would cause a major catastrophe.  The 1932 flood had 11 inches of rainfall but was spread over four days.  Experts say this section is due for another major flood catastrophe like the flood of 1815, and that it should come within a century, which makes it 21 years overdue.  The Star article says:  “Today a condition known as a ‘trough’ exists on the Skagit—a section of the country which is as much be-dyked as Holland ever thought of being.  The trough, say City Light engineers, has resulted from a three-month deficiency in precipitation with a corresponding level in water run-off for the period.  “The condition is such that should an extremely heavy precipitation come, a flood would be almost inevitable.  And if a flood should come, Stewart’s report indicates that the communities of Hamilton, Lyman and Burlington would have to be vacated and the lower parts of Concrete, Sedro-Woolley and Mt. Vernon likewise.  “Now that we have the flood all figured out, all we have to do is discover what the possibilities are of getting 10 inches of rainfall in 34 hours.  “How can I tell?  How can anybody tell?’ demands Lawrence P. Fisher, head of Seattle’s U.S. weather bureau.  ‘Experts are continually studying weather conditions and causes, but to say exactly what will happen in the future, is going a bit too far.’”  Harry Devin, Sedro-Woolley official government weather observer for some 40 years, had the following comments to make on the prospects for the weather said to be necessary for this disastrous flood:  “As ten inches of rainfall is nearly double the average per month for the wet months at Sedro-Woolley for the last 40 years, the probability of having that amount in 34 hours, instead of two months, seems rather remote; unless our climate is to become tropical.  . . .  There never has been a major flood in the Skagit river caused by rain.  It has always required heavy snowfall in the mountains and a hot wind to melt it.  Skagit Jim asked the preacher who delivered a sermon on the flood, “All rain?  No Chinook?”  The preacher replied, ‘Yes, it does not say there was any Chinook.’  ‘Heap lie,’ said Jim, and walked off.  “Some data as to the floods of 1615 and 1715 would also be of interest in relation to the hundred-year flood cycles.”

Rain and Floods

It appears that Mr. Stewart returned to the employ of USGS after he quit in 1923 to work for a power company back east.  (Source:  Stewart “Forward” or “Introduction” section to his 1923 Report, 1/27/43)  “Worked for Skagit County.”  Further suggest Skagit owns his study, not USGS.


“10 inches of rain in 34 hours would cause major catastrophe.”  In 1990 15.5 inches of rain fell at Reflector Bar (Diablo) in 4 days.  In 1921 10.2 inches fell at Reflector Bar.  (Sources:  Flood Summary Report, Nooksack, Skagit and Snohomish River Basins, November 1990 Events, Corps of Engineers, 7/18/91; (Stewart/Bodhaine Report, Geological Survey Water-Supply Paper 1527, 1961)



Harry Devin, Sedro-Woolley official government weather observer.

10 inches in 34 hours rather remote.



It has now been proven that several floods on the Skagit have been caused by just rain.  Most recent October 2003.


skagit observer not fearful of disastrous flood

Harry Devin, well known government weather observer here, does not share the belief of engineering experts of Seattle City Light that there may be a recurrence of the disastrous Skagit river flood of 1915. James A. Stewart, hydraulic expert in connection with the United States geodetic survey department, who worked for Skagit county after the big flood in 1932, said if it should happen that Skagit county experiences 10 inches of rainfall within 34 hours, there’s be a flood of the 1915 proportions. After reading an article, which appeared in a Seattle paper, Devin said that he doubted if there’d ever be 10 inches of rain in 34 hours, thereby causing a disastrous flood. The 1932 flood in Skagit had 11 inches of rainfall but was spread over four days. The Seattle newspaper article stated: “Today a condition known as “trough” exists on the Skagit- a section of the country which is as much be-diked as Holland ever thought of being. The trough, say City Light engineers, has resulted from a three-months deficiency in precipitation with a corresponding level in water run-off for the period. . . .  Devin had the following comments to make on the prospects for the weather said to be necessary for this disastrous flood. “As 10 inches of rainfall is nearly double the average per month for the wet months at Sedro-Woolley for the last 40 years the probability of having that amount in 34 hours, instead of two months, seems rather remote; unless our climate is to become tropical. Such downpours occur in the Philippines and other tropical islands, and while the folks along the river are preparing their arks for the flood they should also lay in a supply of sun helmets and other tropical clothing. “There never has been a major flood in the Skagit river caused by rain. It has always required heavy snowfall in the mountains and a hot wind to melt it. Skagit Jim asked the preacher who delivered a sermon on the flood, ‘All rain? No Chinook?’ The preacher replied, ‘Yes, it does not say there was any Chinook.’ ‘Heap lie,’ said Jim, and walked off. Some data as to the floods of 1615 and 1715 would also be of interest in relation to the hundred year flood cycles.”

Chance Of 1815 Flood Remote


This article is full of typos and mis-information.  “The disastrous Skagit River Flood of 1915” should read 1815.  Stewart worked for Skagit County in 1923 not 1932.


Devin doubts we could get 10 inches of rain in 34 hours.




10 inches of rain is nearly double the average rainfall in a normal winter month.  However, more then ten inches of rain has fallen over a 4 day period on several large flood occurrences (1990, 1995 and 2003).





“There has never been a major flood caused by rain.”  Mr. Devin should have told that to the people of Hamilton in 2003 which was entirely caused by rain.


skagit river hits new low

The Skagit river hit a new low this week when the river gauge at Mount Vernon registered the lowest in years. According to the local fire department journal which was begun in 1931, Monday’s river reading was the lowest yet entered. It was at the 3 7/10  foot level on the gauge. Compared to that are the readings in January 1931 when the river climbed from the seven foot mark on January 20 to 16 feet January 23, and reached a peak January 26, when it topped 27 feet. . . .  The cause of the lowering of the river is the severe temperatures experienced in this region when the mercury hovered around the zero point and snow in the mountains was kept from melting.

Attributes Low River To Zero Degree Temperatures Not Allowing Snow To Melt


See 10/24/25 MVDH article.


flood hit island four years ago

Another Leap Year day has rolled around and it is a different one from that experienced by one Skagit county community four years ago. Two hundred people in one community, on Feb. 29, 1932, were so anxious and busy that they didn’t have time even to consider the odd quadrennial date. The Skagit river was on a rampage and had not quite reached its peak in the early hours of Feb. 28, when it broke through the dike on Fir Island at the Iverson farms and completely submerged hundreds of acres and caused much damage, especially to the property of I. Iverson and his son Phil Iverson. . . .  That day saw all danger to other diking systems along the river apparently over, and the break at the Iverson place became the Mecca for hundreds of sightseers.

Recounts Fir Island 1932 Flood




flood control program not in danger, banker says

The state’s flood control program is not in danger because of the failure of congress to provide matching funds, E. F. Banker, director of conservation and development, said today. The program contemplates 50 per cent federal aid, with the state and local districts each contributing 35 per cent. The state’s share would be raised by a $15,000,000 bond issue to be voted upon at the November general election. . . .  Four timber companies, which are attacking the legality of the 1935 flood law, contended the program hinges on federal and state funds which may not be received. . . .  

Feds Fail To Provide Matching Funds


Bolsters timber companies complaint against state law allowing formation of countywide flood control districts.


county board hears appeal for support  – members of planning council want workers from less important projects on flood control

Fighting for more relief workers to carry out the flood control projects in Skagit county, members of the Skagit county planning commission appeared before the board of county commissioners yesterday afternoon and requested that the more important projects in the county be given priority. They asked the commissioners to make a review of the existing projects, weed out the less important ones and assign these men to the flood control project. The commissioners to the plea under consideration and announced they would try to work out the best possible arrangement for all projects. . . .  Mr. Welts presented a detailed list of the projects in the county, showing the men needed on them and the men actually working. This table of project appears elsewhere on this page. He explained that the Skagit river flood control project is not set up under the WPA, but is handled directly by the U.S. army engineering department. It calls for the use of 200 men, but it has been undermanned from the start, the number varying from 20 to the present employment of 100. . . .  A large delegation of farmers residing south of Mount Vernon was present at the hearing and urged that every consideration be given the south ditch project. Ninety men will be needed on this project, it was said. . . .  Commisioner John Mason said definitely that he was going to see the ditch project through “if they hang me for it.” . . .  

More Workers Needed for Flood Control Projects


Corps of Engineers handling flood projects.








Projects undermanned from the start.



“South Ditch Project” assumed to be the same as the current “Hill Ditch Project”.


flood control law at stake

The constitutionality of the state’s flood control program was at stake in a suit being heard by the state supreme court today. The case is on appeal from Pierce county, where the Weyerhaeuser Timber company, St. Paul and Tacoma Lumber company, Milwaukee Land company and Northwestern Improvement company brought a restraining action to prevent canvass of the vote to determine whether the Puyallup valley flood district should be formed. . . .  The case hinges on whether a district can tax property bordering land affected directly by floods for the purpose of specially benefiting and improving other property, without some degree of benefit accruing to the property taxed. . . .  A precedent was established on January 22 in Shelton, when Superior Judge H. G. Sutton of Kitsap county, ruled that lands “must receive benefit from the flood control before they can be legally assessed.” The decision of the supreme court in the present case probably will rule in similar suits now in lower courts against . . .  The Stillaguamish and south Snohomish districts in Snohomish county, and the Skagit county district.

Washington Supreme Court Hears Flood District Case


Because the residents derived no benefit, it was error to include their lands.   Weyerhaeuser Timber Co. v. Banker, 186 Wash. 332 (Wash., 1936)
By the terms "benefits" and "to be benefited," it is meant that the landowner has received, or will receive, by reason of the improvement, an increase in the market value of his property. Union Trust Co. v. Carnhope Irr. Dist., 132 Wash. 538, 232 P. 341, 234 P. 277; Butte v. School Dist. No. 1, 29 Mont. 336, 74 P. 869.


skagit c. of c. to fight for river project – aid of seattle chamber’s  -- representative at national capital will be sought; present rule hit

A campaign for a larger share of WPA funds allotted to this state was launched by the Skagit county chamber of commerce at a meeting in the banquet room of the President hotel here last night, after two speakers had maintained that this county is not receiving its “just share.” It was pointed out that the county’s flood control project will end in almost a total failure unless more workers are assigned to it. H. B. Averill, publisher of the Daily Herald, stated that Skagit was either fortunate, or unfortunate, because of its very low relief load during the period which the WPA is using as a basis for work relief now. He pointed out, however, that “when the showdown comes, every county will pay its share of the WPA program and Skagit county will lose in the long run if it does not get its proper allotment.” Mr Averill added that “we must fight for the funds justly due us.” . . .  

County Not Getting Fair Share Of WPA Funds


Needed more workers.  Flood control work could end in total failure.


the new skagit river bridge which was officially opened yesterday

Picture of New Bridge


Grocery Store ads

Coffee 25 cents a pound


wallgren reports congress more interested in floods

(By Hon. Mon C. Wallgren)

Last year the national flood control bill, which includes Washington state projects, was attached in the senate by Eastern members.  This year many of the same members, now recognizing the need for curtailing floods, want the first steps taken where the most recent floods have already occurred.  . . .  Floods should have taught these men that high waters can never be foretold and immediate need on other rivers may be evidenced at almost any time.  “It is my belief that we should work out a plan where the Federal government would match money in a cooperative effort with the individual states.  A plan similar to the one now in effect with our road building program.”

U.S. Congress Interested in Flood Control


Amazing that when disaster strikes close to home how important a solution is.

No women in the congress at this time.


Matching funds proposed.


skagit gets huge river work fund

Congressman Mon Wallgren reported this week that he had been instrumental in obtaining an appropriation of $3,150,000 for building a spillway from Avon to Padilla Bay as a flood control project for Skagit county.  The bill now awaits the signature of President Roosevelt.  To get this money, it is stated that this county will have to contribute a big sum for right-of-way and damage to property.

Avon By-Pass Funding


A “big sum” would have been over a million dollars.



flood district hearing to be held in July – sisson arranged for official hearing here; report of engineer shows need of immediate control measures


A public hearing on the formation of a flood control district in Skagit county will be held in Mount Vernon either July 1 or 2. Grant Sisson, a member of the state’s flood control commission for Skagit, disclosed today. . . .  The proposed district will embrace all of the county east of Swinomish channel. . . .  Formation of the county’s first step in compliance with rules laid down to obtain federal aid for flood control. . . .  Engineer’s Report Given B. H. Allen, flood control engineer of the state department of conservation and development, recently made a survey in this county and a copy of his report to E. F. Banker, state director of the department, has been sent to Mr. Sisson, Allen had the following to say: “About ten days was taken covering the area west of Sedro-Woolley in county district Nos. 1 and 2. A flat bottom boat was used on the South and North forks of the Skagit river and every dike and drainage district covered. There are now organized 11 drainage districts and 15 dike districts, having a combined area of 39,222 acres. Outside of these organized districts there are privately operated districts kept up by the farmers of an estimated 15,000 acres, making a grand total of 54,222 acres. The population of all this area is 25,000 (estimated). During the past 10 years there was levied upon these organized dike and drainage district the sum of $36,319 per annum, for damages arising from floods. $75,431 in 1934 “The past year, 1934, this assessment amounted to $75,431.65. The average levy for 1934 for dike and drainage districts was about 43 mills. This does not take into consideration the money spent unorganized districts by private owners. . . . What Should Be Done 1. Dredging of lower channels of river. A dredge operating in lower channels would deepen same, thereby releasing pressure upon dikes and supply the necessary material for broadening and strengthening dikes. Sloughs at the western ends of the North and South forks of the Skagit river should be cleaned out to allow free passage of water. This work should be carried out to deep water. 2. Bank Projection. Bank protection should be started as soon as possible to save existing banks and the erosion of acres of valuable bottom land now in danger of being carried away at the next stage of high water. . . .  3. Cooperation of Shannon and Diablo dams at peak of floods: This is shown by the graph compiled by the U.S.G.S. of the high water of 1932 in the flood of February 27, when the peak of 182,000 cubic second feet, a control of 61,500 cubic second feet. . . .  Nookachamps creek, running from Big Lake to the Skagit river, offers another possible storage reservoir. . . .”

Another Flood Control District Proposed


District needed in order to obtain federal aid.






54,222 acres covered by dike and drainage districts containing 25,000 people.



Average sum levied was $36,319 per year.


In 1934 that sored to $75,431.



Report recommended dredging lower channels of river (north and south forks), erosion control bank protection; Shannon and Diablo dams should be used for flood control; and use storage in the Nookachamps.


huge sums available here for flood control projects

(By Congressman Mon C. Wallgren)

A bill that provided $5,386,000 for second congressional district flood control projects when it passed the House, came back from the senate with the allotment reduced to $3,411,000 for two projects instead of five million for five projects.  . . .  The bill allots $3,150,100 for the construction of the Avon-Padilla Bay cut-off on the Skagit river and $261,000 for channel and bank work on the Stillaguamish.  . . .  The 17 projects in five counties being carried out under the direction of the Corps of Engineers and WPA represent a real start toward meeting flood and erosion threats.  . . .  The needs for flood control are being recognized. 

Avon By-Pass Funding


Federal funds to build the Avon By-Pass were authorized by Congress.  What the Congressman didn’t say was that local cost would have been over $1,000,000 in local funding which ultimately killed the project. (See 6/4/36 Argus article.)


work on river is progressing

Erosion prevention work on the Skagit River is progressing rapidly now, after some trouble with quicksand, Iner Nelson, engineer in charge, reports.  He now has a crew of 175 men at work on project #12, the big Burlington bend, and expects to be finished before the Burlington bend job was started, is in fine condition, with the willow trees growing all along the bank and making a strong protection.  . . .  The work encountered a lot of trouble a short time ago when the men struck a large quantity of quicksand.  Several hundred cords of brush and several hundred yards of material slid into the river. 

River Erosion Projects Progressing


Large amounts of “quicksand” found.  Sounds like they were digging into the volcanic lahar that underlies Burlington.


two big river bank projects are completed – big crew of men moves to utopia; seen other jobs

The largest of the ten revetment jobs on the Skagit river, under the direction of the United States Engineers office and sponsored by Skagit county, will be completed this week.  This is the second job on the project finished this year, making a total of 7,900 feet of river bank protection.  The high banks on both the Sterling and Burlington bends required a greater expenditure of material and labor than is ordinarily found on river improvement projects.  The length of the Burlington bend job is 5,800 feet, built in a great semi-circle, and the sight, with the river at a low stage, is very impressive.  The brush mat extends a distance of approximately 80 feet from the top of the bank out into the river.  For those interested in river improvement, a trip to see the Sterling and Burlington job shows a very good growth of willows which were planted last spring.  The Burlington job is now being planted, much of the value of the revetment depending on the growth of the willows.  Operations have been transferred to Utopia, where the construction of a 4,200 foot job is in progress.

River Erosion Projects Completed


Ten revetment jobs. 


Sterling and Burlington Bends.



One has to wonder if they had to get permits to extend a rock revetment “80 feet from the top of the bank out into the river” and how hard would it be to get them today.


flood control channel held most feasible – army engineers speak at monthly luncheon of chamber of commerce; directors nominated

Two U.S. army engineers from the office of Col H. J. Wild, in charge of the district, today told the Mount Vernon chamber of commerce that $4,982,000 flood control channel from Avon to Padilla bay is the most feasible procedure to eliminate flood danger in the lower part of Skagit county. . . .  “The Skagit river has been studied from many different angles.” Maj. Baker stated, and after naming several stated that the most effective means visualized was by the diversion of the channel at Avon.” . . .  When questioned as how he had arrived at the cost of the benefits, Maj. Baker stated that damages from all the past floods had been totaled and the average annual loss computed with the construction costs. The proposed channel is to start at Avon but preliminary work would have to start east of the Great Northern railroad bridge. The proposed channel is to be 1,500 feet wide at the bottom. It will be used strictly as a flood control measure and will not carry water except during flood conditions. Maj Baker reviewed the history of floods on the Skagit during the past 26 years for which records have been kept. The highest flow of water at Sedro-Woolley during that time has been 220,000 feet per second. The present river below Mount Vernon can accommodate a flow of about 120,000 feet per second. The proposed channel is to carry any in access of 100,000 feet per second, Baker stated. The channel’s capacity is 120,000 feet per second. We have had larger floods, the speaker stated.  In 1815 it is known that a flood with 450,000 cubic feet per second was seen. In 1853 there was a flow of 350,000. The building of power dams on the Ruby, at Diablo, on the Baker and Cascade rivers will all tend to help the flood control situation and although the channel itself is not capable of handling flood waters to such extremes as has been mentioned, with the aid of these other factors it should be adequate. Many questions and suggestions were raised by the people present. Suggestions by Wm. Hayton, Albert Mosier and Gene Dunlap that rip-rapping the cut banks of the river from Mount Vernon to the Sauk and dredging the mouth of the river were heard. The guest speaker stated that such was a good policy but that its cost would far exceed that of the channel proposal. He estimated the costs of such a system at eleven million. Dredging at the mouth of the river met opposition from the speaker. Dredging will have no effect on high tides, he stated. And high tides are always higher during flood periods. It is the high tide that will tend to hold your river up, he added.



By-Pass “most feasible” flood project.



Average annual benefits computed by adding all damages from past floods and dividing by cost of project.  Is this how it is done today?




Channel of river could only carry 120,000 cfs. In 1936. 
















Dredging the mouth of the river would have no effect on high tides.  “It is the high tide that will tend to hold your river up.”



chamber hears discussion on flood control

Army Engineers Present Proposed Plans For Consideration


“The Skagit River has been studied from many different angles,” stated Major Baker.  “The estimated cost of this project (Bypass) is $4,982,000 of which the local sponsor would have to allocate $1,832,000.”  . . .  The building of power dams on the Ruby, at Diablo, on the Baker and Cascade rivers will all tend to help the flood control situation and although the channel itself is not capable of handling flood waters to such extremes s has been mentioned, with the aid of these other factors, it should be adequate.  . . .  Dredging at the mouth of the river met opposition from the speaker.  Dredging will have no effect on high tides, he stated.  And high tides are always higher during flood periods.  It is the high tide that will tend to hold your river up, he added. (Major Baker)




Here’s an understatement if there ever was one.


Dams alone won’t stop it from flooding.



Dredging mouth won’t stop high tides.


No water for power; river is lowest in many years

This section is having the driest season it has known for many years.  H.L. Devin, official weather statistician, says that the Skagit river is the lowest he has ever seen it in the month of November for the past 47 years.  The water as low now as it ordinarily is most Februarys, when everything is frozen in the mountains.  The water in the Baker river dam at Concrete, which generates electricity for Sedro-Woolley, is 75 feet low, and for the last six weeks it has been necessary for Sedro-Woolley to get power from the Shuffleton plant on Lake Washington.  . . .  There has been only one-fifth as much rainfall as usual for this month.  Precipitation from November 1 to 24, inclusive, has been 1.34 inches, while the normal precipitation for this period is 6.74 inches.  October also was a dry month.  The rainfall was 1.06 inches as compared to the normal of 4.80 inches.  For the past month and three-quarters there has been only 2.4 inches of rainfall, while the normal for the same period would be 10.2 inches.

Drought Conditions


H.L. Devin—official weather statistician.


Water behind Lower Baker dam 75 feet low.



Normal November rain 6.74 inches.  Normal October rainfall 4.8 inches.


bills filed in state house pass 500 mark – creation of flood control districts authorized under new bill filed in house

. . .  Chief among proposals offered in 30 bills, two memorials and one resolution were: 1– Creating of flood control districts . . .  The committee on flood control introduced the bill authorizing the creation and maintenance of flood control districts. The measure would permit the director of conservation and development to call a special election on petition of 50 per cent of the landowners in a district, and if approved by 60 per cent of the majority of votes cast, he would appoint a commission of three to supervise flood control. The commission would have the power to set boundaries, fix a levy of assessments, issue bonds and enter into contracts with the United States government for flood control money. 

New Flood Control District Legislation


50% of landowners within proposed district had to petition state agency and 60% of the majority of votes cast required for district approval.


flood control hearing will be held here – two u.s. departments to hear flood facts at session called for march 2 at city hall

. . .  Congress has directed a preliminary examination of the Skagit river and its tributaries, with the view to control of their floods. . . .

New Study Of Skagit River

P/E led to 3/29/37 recommendation to study river.


flood control hearing will be held here


U.S. War Dept. Announces Public Meeting for March 2 At City Hall

Information Desired

Oral Evidence Will Be Heard; Arguments Asked To Be Submitted In Writing For Records


Congress has directed a preliminary examination of the Skagit river and its tributaries, with the view to control of their floods.  . . .  Six copies of all letters, papers, maps and photographs submitted are desired








Another study.


III.                Advises Sauk River Control

At last week’s conference on Skagit flood control problems held with U.S. army engineers, A. G. Mosier, prominent local civil engineer, submitted a report advising the construction of a reservoir at the Sauk river, rather than a huge spillway plan, which army men had recommended. “Having an experience of 47 years with the actions of the Skagit river, it is my belief that channel control, or bank erosion control, is the most important element of the situation,” said Mosier. “The relief for surface drainage is also urgent. That flood control begins at the source and not at the mouth of a stream is common sense. Now that the Seattle project insures the building of the Ruby Creek dam, which insure 26 percent control of most floods, and with the enforcement of the operation of the Baker River dam for a reserve reservoir to handle emergency run off from that region, my contention that all floods could be controlled if a flood reservoir were built on the Sauk river. The estimate for such a dam given out by the U.S. engineer’s office, is $5,700,000, only about one million more than the Avon Cut Off, which, in my opinion, would be entirely unnecessary were this reservoir dam built.

Sauk River Dam Proposal


“Common sense” proposal. 



“…and with the enforcement of the operation of the Baker River dam for a reserve reservoir to handle emergency run off from that region…”


“All floods could be controlled if dam on Sauk allowed. “  This is the same river that carried 3 volcanic lahars to the lower valley from Glacier Peak.  There will never be a dam built on the Sauk.


avon-padilla channel gets committee o.k. – flood diversion channel is recommended for immediate construction; drain district, sauk project also listed.

. . .  Of the 190 projects in Washington, Oregon and Idaho, 113 projects, cost $189,984,00 to construct or complete, were listed for immediate construction. Among these projects in Washington state were . . .  The proposed $4,798,000 cutoff in the Skagit river; . . .  Fifty projects, costing $219,374,000 and recommended for deferred construction, included dredging the Columbia river from Vancouver to the Bonneville dam at a cost of $2,380,000; . . . Among 22 projects, costing $111,510,000 and listed after the deferred group, were the $25,532,000 Ruby dam project on the Skagit river; the $14,612,000 Sauk river project; . . .  Among local projects recommended for deferred construction were . . .  Skagit county drainage district 17, flood control, $107,000; Sauk river channel, river channel, revetments, $53,000; . . . 

Avon By-Pass


Cost $4,798,000.


$25,532,000 for Ross Dam placed on back burner.


u.s. engineers not favorable to dredging

A letter written by U.S.  Senator Homer T. Bone last April 26, and received here by Mrs. W. F. McCormick, secretary of Skagit Pomona Grange, revealed that the chief of engineers, U.S. war department, considers the dredging of the lower Skagit as “inadvisable” at the present time. The letter from Bone, and several others, was read at last night’s Pomona meeting. . . .  Major Gen. E. M. Markham, chief of army engineers, wrote to Bone as follows on the subject: “I have recently had a report from the division engineer, north Pacific division, advising me that three of the subsidiary sloughs were closed by the construction of dams or dikes at their heads in 1910 and 1911. These dikes have been reinforced and reconstructed from time to time. Their purpose was confine the discharge to one channel and thus increase the navigable capacity of the south fork of the river. “If the sloughs were opened, the water would be divided between the sloughs and the main channel, and the existing navigation channel would be destroyed. This channel is used by tugboats towing logs from Tom Moore slough and from points up the river to Utsaladdy where they are taken in tow by deep water tugboats.

Corps Says No To Dredging Lower Skagit




“three of the subsidiary sloughs were closed by the construction of dams or dikes at their heads in 1910 and 1911.”


skagit dredge given special consideraton


Army Head Approves Bill For Special Survey Of North, South Forks


Indications that Skagit county’s proposed river dredge for Puget Sound rivers willl receive favorable consideration from the federal government were apparent this week . . .  Senate bills authorizing the war department to make a survey of the Skagit have been introduced by Senator Schwellenbach, it was reported.  . . .  “General Pillsbury, who is familiar with the Skagit problem, expressed the opinion that this project as outlined was feasible.  The result of this conference with the War Department was the introduction of a bill for an immediate survey of the North and South fork of the Skagit river for the purpose of determining the cost in order to present a bill to dredge.





Dredging project for North and South Forks proposed.


$23,000 ditch here, finished by wpa work – drains 3,200 acres north of this city; big help to local farmers

This week brings to completion of the Sedro-Woolley ditch project, reports zone engineer A. E. Hoopes to Leslie A. Lechner, Works Progress administrator of District No. 3. This project was made necessary due to the fact that the banks of the Skagit river are higher than the adjoining land, and water standing in the fields until late in the season makes early spring planting impossible one more than 3,200 acres of farm land.  . . .  The drainage project, sponsored by the local Chamber of Commerce, cost approximately $23,000 to complete and includes six and one-half miles of ditches. The drainage system starts at a point northeast of town and about a quarter of a mile from the Northern State hospital property and extends west and south, finally having its outlet in the Skagit river, two and a half miles west of Sedro-Woolley, near Sterling.

3,200 Acre Drainage Project


6 ½  miles of ditches.



Sounds like the ditches ended up in Brickyard Creek.


flood control policies will be determined – program for annual conference here next Thursday is given; many leaders will attend

. . .  At the present time, nineteen streams have been designated for preliminary surveys, but no funds have been made available for this work. A total of $50,000,000 in the flood control work is outlined for Washington but under the flood control act of 1936, much additional preliminary study must be given the work. . . . 

Puget Flood Control Council Meets In Mt. Vernon

Feds need preliminary “studies” before work can start.


skagit flood danger told at conference – seventy attend annual conference in this city; speakers stress need for equalized tax

. . .  Mayor C. W. Vaux welcomed the visitors, representing five northwest counties, to the city, and a short response was given by Charles M. Dial of Seattle, representative of the chamber of commerce of that city.  . . .  Col. Hanson feels that the state should equalize the cost of flood control throughout the various counties of the state, and should assume the burden of the costs of lands and damages to property in constriction work relative to flood control. “The individual counties can then make adequate plans to bear the cost of maintenance of flood control works,” Col. Hanson stressed.  . . .  Mr. Smith touched briefly upon the floods of 1932, 1921, 1917, 1909, and 1856, but the last really big flood, he stated, was in 1815, nearly 120 years ago. In 1923, James Stewart of the U.S. Geological survey set out to make a study of floods of the Skagit river, and with such information as he gathered he discovered that in 1815 a flood occurred in this valley which left layers of river silt in the inner bark of cedar trees on the Skagit flats fifteen feet above the level of the surrounding country. The survey was carried from the mouth of the Skagit river to Ruby Creek, and Mr. Stewart found evidences of big floods all the way. In the Diablo canyon in the upper Skagit are well marked evidences of water having raised to more than a hundred feet above the normal stream elevation. “I suppose we could work out by the theory of probabilities just how often such a big flood might occur. It may be once every hundred years, or every four hundred,” said Mr. Smith, but the only condition necessary is to get ten inches of rain over the watershed in a period of 34 hours with the temperature above 50 degrees. In 1932 we had 11½ inches of rain but it was spread over a period of 72 hours. In 1932 conditions were all in order for a flood in the proportions of that if 1815, but the rain broke one day early.” If such a flood should occur, all of Sedro-Woolley, Burlington, Hamilton and La Conner would be under water, and most of Mount Vernon. Every farmhouse on the Skagit flats would stand in 7 to 15 feet of water, explained Mr. Smith. In the report of the survey made in 1923, Mr. Smith further commented, Mr. Stewart recommended that should the Skagit valley area every get six inches of rain or more in one day, the whole valley would be abandoned without attempting to take any possessions along. He also recommended that dikes twelve feet high be built around the entire city of Burlington. In his second point, Mr. Smith showed by a series of charts how the City Light project on the Skagit river has materially lessened the danger from floods by its huge reservoir at Diablo. The Baker river reservoir at Concrete also is instrumental in lessening flood danger. The city of Seattle has spent $25,000,000 on the Skagit power project, and receives 85 per cent of its current therefrom. Thus, the city of Seattle is deeply interested in flood control work in the Skagit valley.

Speaker Quotes From Stewart Report



Speaker was Glen Smith engineer with Seattle City Light.  Confirms that City Light had copy of Stewart Report.  Smith felt 1815 flood could be 100 to 400 year event.  Quoting Stewart, “only condition necessary is to get ten inches of rain over the watershed in a period of 34 hours.”  1932 had 11.5 inches of rain but spread over 3 days.




Stewart recommended dikes 12 feet high be built around Burlington.













Diablo reservoir lessens flood damage.  Baker dam also instrumental in lessening flood danger.


City of Seattle deeply interested in flood control in Skagit County.


ruby dam will aid in skagit flood control


Statewide Tax for Control Is Advocated At Meeting

Leaders Gather Here

Interesting Facts On Skagit River Told By City Light Engineer


Construction of Ruby dam as a vital factor in bringing about an effective flood control for the Skagit river was strongly recommended by Glen H. Smith, outside construction engineer for City Light, at the annual conference of the Puget Sound Flood Control Council which is in session in Mt. Vernon today.  Smith spoke briefly shortly before noon today, outlining the history of the Skagit river floods and emphasizing the assistance already realized through the Baker river and the Diablo dams.  The Ruby dam with the assistance of the proposed Avon cut-off will eliminate flood danger for the Skagit Valley, he concluded.


The Skagit problem was then presented by Mr. Smith.  “This rich fertile valley is in danger of a flood such as the white man has never seen, “ he reported.  “A survey made by James L. Stewart in 1923 revealed that the flood of 1815 swept down on the Indians without warning, covering the lower Skagit flats to a depth of 10 to 15 feet.  Evidence of the flood has been found in cedar trees in the lower flats, where river silt has been found in some 15 feet above the ground.  In Diablo and Ruby canyons the water marks show levels more than 100 feet above the normal stage.  Geological surveys in the upper canyons have revealed that the Skagit in times past has gone on dozens of such rampages and that such is possible today.  (NOTE:  Article was continued on page 4 and was not copied.)




Committee was critical that California got $486,000,000 for flood control and Oregon got $102,000,000 but that Washington only got $52,000,000.



Ruby dam and By-Pass will stop it from flooding.








Seattle City Light has Stewart Report by this date.


100 feet??  Where did he get this data?  Not in Stewart report.


state tax for flood control also favored – puget sound council adopts resolution asking solution to skagit problem, which is one of most serious in entire state

Skagit county’s need for a solution to its flood problem gained a new convert yesterday when the Puget Sound Flood Control Council, in annual session here, unanimously adopted a resolution asking the responsible authorities to take immediate action. . . .  The resolution stressed that the federal government had allocated money for a spillway between Avon and Padilla bay but that the county could not take advantage of the allocation since Skagit residents have no means of raising a million dollars, which is mandatory before the project is undertaken. . . .  Earlier in the day, Glen H. Smith, engineer for City Light, Seattle, had told the 70 in attendance at the conference that the Skagit valley is in danger of a flood “such as the white man has never seen.”

Avon By-Pass Dead


Skagit County has no means to raise a million dollars for local share.  PSFCC recommended statewide tax for flood control.  Recognized Skagit’s flood problem as “one of the most serious in the entire state.”


house committee o.k’s 31 millions for rivers, harbors

The house rivers and harbors committee today reported favorably, by a unanimous vote, a $31,720,000 omnibus bill authorizing construction of 119 rivers and harbors projects.

Feds Allocate Money For Flood Control


engineers to rule soon on river survey – wallgren says army engineers will decide within ten days on whether to survey lower skagit

Decision on the necessity for a detailed survey of the Skagit river, including the north and south forks, for navigation and flood control will be made by the board of rivers and harbors engineers in the next 10 days, Congressman Mon C. Wallgren has been informed by official of that board. . . .  If action is taken under the report of the local engineers, it will be the result of the inclusion of an authorization to conduct a preliminary survey of the Skagit which Congressman Wallgren succeeded in having placed in the flood control act of 1936. The report of the local engineers recommends a detailed survey of the Skagit. . . .  “The division engineer, north Pacific division, has now submitted a report on preliminary examination, recommending the undertaking of a detailed survey. . . .”

Corps Considering Doing Study On Skagit River


Examination & survey of Skagit River authorized by Congress on 8/28/37.  (Source: Corps letter dated 9/25/47).


war department kills bill for skagit survey


Existing Flood Control Act Covers Local River, Secretary of War Rules

Senator Homer T. Bone Advises That Delegate Be Sent To Portland To Present Local Cause


Failure to receive the approval of the Secretary of War, the Washington delegation’s senate bill authorizing a preliminary examination and survey of the North and South forks of the Skagit has been recommended to be killed.



dredging one step nearer by u.s. action – congressman wallgren sends telegram to shrauger telling of action in fight for dredging project

Congressman Mon Wallgren today notified Postmaster C. F. Shrauger of this city by telegram that U.S. army engineers in Washington, D.C., had approved plans for a complete survey of the north and south forks of the Skagit river from the bay as far as Mount Vernon. “This means that we are one step nearer in our campaign to have the lower Skagit dredged for the benefit of flood control, drainage and navigation,” declared Shrauger.   . . .  Officials of the Skagit dredging association expressed much concern over a report sent to Washington, D.C., that the association was advocating a government owned dredge. While this might be desired the association did not think it advisable to ask for other than the dredging of the river, Mason declared. He commented that today’s action by the army engineers shows that the congressman and the two Untied States senators have fully presented the Skagit problem to the war department.

Skagit Dredging Association


Corps approved plans for “survey” of Skagit from mouth to Mt. Vernon.


Local association wanted to dredge lower river.  Felt survey was first step to accomplishing that.


skagit river survey okayed at washington


Engineers Approve Plan; Dredging Action on Results of Survey; Local Boosters Are Pleased


Plans for a complete survey of the north and south forks of the Skagit river from the bay to Mt. Vernon received the official approval of U.S. Army engineers in Washington, D.C., . . .  “This means that we are one step nearer in our campaign to have the lower Skagit dredged for the benefit of flood control, drainage and navigation,” Shrauger told a press representative.  . . .  Congressman Wallgren has filed a bill calling for the dredging of the north and south forks of the Skagit.  The future of the bill depends on the findings of the U.S. engineers in their survey, it has been pointed out.









skagit flood work will continue – project assured for five months more, nelson says

Work on the big Skagit river flood control project will not be stopped, according to Iner C. Nelson, engineer in charge of this important work. He has received word from WPA headquarters that the project can continue at least four or five weeks, with the county commissioners paying their promised share of five per cent of the cost. When the original project was set up, on an appropriation of $216,000, largely through the efforts of Congressman Mon Wallgren, the county commissioners pledged themselves five per cent of the total cost. Up to the present time they have paid in some $5,000 on emergency appropriations, leaving about $5,800 of the original pledge still unpaid.  . . .  A crew of one hundred men is at work near Burns bar near Sedro-Woolley and is preparing to start work at Lyman in the near future.

Erosion Control Project To Continue


County still owed over $5,000.


skagit flood control work is unfinished – up river projects need additional funds for completion

. . .  Those in charge of the $216,000 project estimate that to complete the original plans will take at least $100,000 more. As explained previously, the shortage in funds is not due to unit costs being greater than the original estimates, but that changing conditions of the river, made each job of the project cover a longer stretch of river bank than the original plans called for. Immediate action obtaining the additional funds is most desirable at this time as the present appropriation will be used up by February with a large part of the originally planned work unfinished. Engineers recommend trying to get a supplemental WPA project, which can be approved in a few weeks. Contribution of some funds by the county is necessary. Of the original project some 50,000 square yards of the brush mat revetment work remains to be done between Mount Vernon and Hamilton.

Erosion Control Projects Finished


Another $100,000 needed.  Changing river conditions to blame for cost overrun. 




County still owes money.


harry devin gives sketch of sedro-woolley history – editorial

I have been asked to sketch briefly, for the younger members, why the city was located here, the origin of its name, what supported it in its early days, now, and the prospect for the future. Several factors contributed to its location at this point, but the principal one was the bitter fight between Seattle and Tacoma over the location of the terminus of the Northern Pacific Railway.  . . .  Kelly believed that where the railroad crossed the Skagit river would be a good location for a town, as at the time the Skagit river was the only means of transportation for a large portion of the county.  . . .  Choose “Sedro” As Name As a name for his town he took Sedro, the name of a post office already established on the bank of the Skagit, half a mile from Jameson’s land. The post office had been located by Mortimer Cook, some three years before. Cook was a typical frontiersman who had had a varied and adventurous career; a Mexican war veteran, he joined the rush to California when discharged, mined, tried stock raising, storekeeping, and organized the first bank in Southern California, opening the First National Bank of Santa Barbara in 1871 and being its first president.  . . .  In 1884 he came to Skagit county with a modest stake and believing that the completion of the Northern Pacific railroad would open a market for Puget Sound lumber in the prairie states he bought considerable timber land on the Skagit, and 34 acres on the bank for a landing, at the upper end of Batey’s Slough, where the city dump is now located.  . . .  In 1886 he wanted a post office and applied for one, asking that it be named Cedra, the Spanish word for cedar, but the department refused the name, having several Cedras already, so Cook changed the first and last letters, making Sedro, which the department accepted and appointed Cook postmaster.  . . .  Woolley Plats Town In 1890, P. A. Woolley platted 80 acres adjoining the plat of Sedro on the north and called it “Woolley, the Hub of Skagit County.” All three lines of railroad were being rushed to completion at the same time and Sedro was the supply point and pay station for them all, giving the town a flying start.  . . .  There was bitter rivalry between the two towns of Sedro and Woolley for several years, and in 1896 the Twin City Business League was organized to try to get the business men of the two towns to work together for the common good. It was successful, and after a couple of years the two towns united under the compound name of Sedro-Woolley, neither being willing to give up its name, and the Twin City Business became the “Commercial Club,” later changing to the Chamber of Commerce.  

Sedro-Woolley History


Two towns.  Sedro was name of post office which was changed from requested name of Cedra, Spanish for Cedar. 


Woolley was named after P.A. Woollley who first platted town.  Known as “The Hub of Skagit County”.  Clearly, Burlington stole this label.  


wallgren praises skagit river work – congressman , honored guest at dinner of lions rotarians and chamber of commerce; favors flood control; fine meeting

. . .  Wallgren told the meeting that he was much pleased with the flood control and river bank erosion work being carried on along the upper Skagit river under the $216,000 WPA project, and favored enlarging the project to complete needed bank protection, before any money is spent in dredging the mouth of the river. He said he could see no sense in spending a huge sum dredging the lower part of the river so long as land and silt is washed down in huge quantities to fill the lower river as rapidly as it is dredged. When the river banks are all protected, is the time to talk about a big appropriation for dredging the mouth of river, he said. The river bank protection, clearing the river of snags, diking and dredging should all be part of the task of making the Skagit river safe from flood and land destruction.

Congressman Wanted To Enlarge Erosion Control Projects


Favored river erosion control work before any dredging of the mouth of the river.


need more wpa funds in skagit river erosion work

The work of protecting the Skagit river banks from erosion will stop before it is much more than half completed, unless additional WPA funds are obtained, Iner Nelson, U.S. engineer in charge of this huge project for the past two years, told Congressman Mon Wallgren and some eighty Sedro-Woolley men at the Wallgren dinner here Tuesday evening. 

3½  Miles of river bank have been protected from Burlington to Utopia.


river work passes high water test – engineers pleased with failure of flood to damage

The brush mat revetments along the Skagit river bank had their first real test last week, when the river rose fourteen and one half feet in less than twenty-four hours, after a night and a day of hard rain and warm winds in the hills. Iner Nelson, U.S. Army engineer in charge of the river bank protection projects, reported that all completed jobs were undamaged. The river at the N.P. bridge here rose twelve feet in twelve hours during the night of October 26 and the day of October 27, rising to a point within six feet of the 1935 spring flood stage. At present the river is back to within four feet of extreme low.  . . .  Below Sterling and above Burlington, for the first time, there was no land washed away, due to the perfect protection afforded by the thousand of feet of brush and concrete pavements.  . . .  Engineers estimate that without the work already done, at least 200,000 cubic yards of Skagit county land would have been washed into the river, from the points now protected. 



USGS 89,600 cfs Concrete (32.16), no figures for lower river.  This would have been comparable to the February 9, 1996 flood which produced 81,800 cfs at Mt. Vernon or 29.27 ft on the gage.


Flood was about 1 foot over flood stage.  Very small flood to be judging the effectiveness of the erosion control projects.


river, slough projects await federal action


$100,000 Earmarked For Swinomish Channel Protection Dike

Report River Findings


Earmarking of $100,000 for the construction of a dike to protect the recently constructed Swinomish slough channel against the Skagit river silt, insuring an early start on this work, was announced in Washington, D.C., this morning by Congressman Mon C. Wallgren . . . A second project dealing with the completion of a survey of the Skagit river and a report of findings to the board of engineers for rivers and harbors before its January meeting, is also well underway, Wallgren announces.






$100,000 for dike construction to protect Swinomish slough from Skagit River silt.  (Hole in the wall?)





plan new $200,000 skagit flood work --county board confers with u.s. engineer; agrees to sponsor project; john mason heads new flood control group

Promise of a new $200,000 Skagit flood control program to supplement the river bank revetment work, for which funds are now exhausted, was given by the Skagit county commissioners this week after a conference with Captain Trudeau, U.S. army engineer in charge of flood control work in this district.  Details of the new program will be worked out through the new Skagit Flood Control Association of which Chairman John Mason of the county commissioners is president.  According to tentative plans for the new Skagit flood control project to be sponsored by the county, all parts of the river will be included, with a couple of projects for the Day Creek district, the big project at Conway, one at Sterling, at Hamilton, Utopia and other danger spots on the river, which the crew of men under the present appropriation, were unable to complete.

New Flood Control Committee


Chairman of new committee was County Commissioner.  Dredging and snag work proposed.  Upriver and downriver farmers to work together.


editorial – new flood control work

With the Skagit county commissioners agreeing to sponsor a new flood control program for the Skagit river to supplement the work already done, and the organization of a new county association to coordinate all bank protection, dredging and snag work in one flood control program, some real progress was made this week.  John Mason, chairman of the board of county commissioners, is president of the new flood control group, and deserves much credit for forming the new organization.  All the upper river communities have joined and will work to help get the lower river dredged, as part of the flood control program, which will be presented by Mason, in detail at a meeting to be held soon.

Editor Approves of New Committee


Everyone will work together.


editorial – skagit flood work

Under the direction of John Mason, chairman of the county commissioners, plans are progressing for a comprehensive program for the Skagit river to include completion of river bank protection work, dredging and snagging, and other work needed to make the Skagit less dangerous both as a source of damaging floods and as a constant menace to farmland by erosion.  United States army engineers are preparing a detailed project to include the entire river, and it will not be long before a river project larger than the former one will be set up, with government funds, backed by the county, to complete the bank protection work at Utopia, Day Creek, Conway and other dangerous points left unfinished when the funds were exhausted this month, and work was transferred to the Samish river.  The county officials deserve the thanks of the entire county for agreeing to carry on this most important work, which will be of untold value to the entire county, and is the first constructive work done in this district to try to save the huge loss to rich Skagit farmlands, and to make the lower part of the Skagit deeper for navigation.

Flood Control Progressing


Relying on Corps for a new study.


log rafts do much damage to revetment -- action must be taken to protect bush bank work

Damage estimated at $10,000 has already been done to the revetment work along the Skagit river by the log rafts which are being towed down the river.  The rafts have already ripped out some three hundred feet of revetment at Utopia, which if not repaired before the next freshet, will cause a lot more damage.  . . .  Carr said today that something must be done to stop this, or huge damage would be caused to the revetment.  His idea is to drive dolphins at each of the sharp curves where the log rafts threaten to swing into the river bank, and to fasten sheer booms to these dolphins, to keep the rafts from striking the revetment.  The first question to determine is whether the state, county, federal government or loggers should pay for the considerable expense which will be incurred in installing these booms.  Carr hopes to work out this problem in the near future, because immediate action is necessary if many more thousands of dollars’ damage is not caused.

Log Rafts Damaging River Banks


Rafts ripped out 300 feet of revetment at Utopia.



Needed to determine if state, county, federal government or loggers should pay for damage and new protective works.


river gouging more land east of city – farmer reports acres of woodland, soil eroded by skagit

. . .  W. H. Merchant, who owns 117 acres along the river, said the river is eroding his property at a rapid rate. He lost about 50 acres during the last year, the farmer declared. At present the river’s erosion has slowed down, he said, but that the sudden change in the course of the river has produced a condition similar to that near Burlington Bend.  . . .  Merchant related that the river now turns northward opposite a log dump on the south side of the river. The river is cutting its way toward Skiyou slough and eventually could reach Hansen Creek which is too small to handle them. The farmer said that the logging firm which owns land adjacent to his has lost many acres of timberland by the river’s sudden change of course. He surmised that the river is being forced to take an unnatural channel. Merchant has not yet contacted the transportation tugboat firm operation at the log dump opposite the turn in the river.

Erosion Problems


River changing course near Skiyou Slough and could reach Hansen Creek.  Log dump on Southside of river blamed as cause.


new $400,000 skagit flood project, o.k.  --  president approves big appropriation for this county

A federal allotment of $334,425 for a new Skagit river flood control project, was approved yesterday by President Roosevelt and now goes to the state WPA administrator for final approval.  With the county’s share of some $60,000, this means an additional $400,000 will be spent on river bank revetment work on the Skagit River, between Rockport and mouth of the river.  Already approximately $250,000 has been spent on the Skagit and the new appropriation should make it possible to strengthen the banks along the entire river, according to Iner Nelson, who has been general superintendent of the work since its start.

President Roosevelt Approves Grant For Flood Control


$60,000 matching funds needed by County.  Cost would ultimately prove downfall of project.


much damage is reported

Thousands of dollars worth of land in the Sedro-Woolley district is threatened anew by the Skagit river because of damage done to revetment work, it is claimed here. Nearly one quarter of a million dollars have been spent in protecting the river banks, and a new project calling for the expenditure of more than $400,000, to start this month, has been authorized by the WPA. . . .  Log-towers claim they cannot help causing the damage unless booms are placed to protect the worst places at the sharpest curves. Some of the farmers have complained to the county commissioners about the matter, but the board of commissioners claims it has no funds to repair the damage. On the other hand, WPA authorities state that once the work is done it is up to the county to maintain the revetments.

Revetment Work Damaged By Log Rafts


Log towers claim they cannot avoid the damage caused by their log rafts.


$250,000 already spent.  $400,000 will ultimately be left on the table due to no maintenance policy of the County Commissioners.


Commencement of $420,000 Skagit Flood Work, Delayed

The Sedro-Woolley Chamber of Commerce is making every effort to speed up the starting of the new $420,000 Skagit river flood control project, which has been postponed by the WPA, due to failure of the county commissioners to purchase the new dragline which was promised the U.S. war department engineers in charge of the project.  . . .  The county commissioners state that the Utopia project should never have been left by the engineers without construction of a wing dam to protect it from the logs.  They say the logging companies were willing to furnish the logs for the piling and the booms to be used to protect the work, as it is protected below Sterling and at other dangerous points in the river.  The board members state that it is difficult to find money with which to buy the new dragline.

Flood Control Work Postponed


County couldn’t afford purchase of new dragline.


committee to inquire about river project

The Skagit County Chamber of Commerce, meeting at Burlington last night, authorized appointment of a committee to confer with the board of county commissioners relative to two phases of the Skagit river revetment program. Action was taken after Attorney Arthur Ward of Sedro-Woolley informed the group that much damage has been done to the revetment recently by log booms, and that a new $400,000 project on the river is being held up by WPA officials until the county furnishes a dragline outfit. . . .  Ward pointed out that $250,000 had already been expended on the river and maintained the investment should be protected. In its application for the first project, the county agreed to maintain the project, he stated. Up until recently, before funds were exhausted, the government engineer saw that the project was maintained. No funds are available for the purpose now. . . .  A. G. Mosier of Sedro-Woolley said piles should be driven to protect the revetment work. He thought farmers whose land is washed away might have recourse against the county. L. R. White, president of the Mount Vernon Chamber of Commerce, said if the river changes its course there is danger to Sedro-Woolley. He said water pipe lines running into Sedro-Woolley are also threatened unless the river is kept in its present channel. He advised watching the river above Sedro-Woolley at high water stages, saying “you can’t tell what will happen.” Jack Davis, Burlington banker, said the $250,000 already spent would be wasted unless the project is maintained.

Skagit County Chamber Of Commerce Forms Flood Committee


Committee was formed to help County Commissioners deal with river erosion problems and damage to revetments by log rafts.


dike project is finished

Work on the government dike south of La Conner has been completed. . . .  Work started May 16, 1938. The purpose of the jetty was to deflect the North Fork of the Skagit river to stop silting Swinomish Slough channel. During the work on this project 80,000 tons of rock taken from the government quarry on Coat island was used, and 2,900 cords of brush used in building mat placed under rock. The length of the dike was 5,800 feet. Winston Bros. company were contractors, J.G. Montgomery, superintendent. The work was done under the general supervision of Col. H. J. Wild, Seattle, district engineer, and Frank S. Greely was chief inspector on the job.

Corps Of Engineers “Dike” Project At Hole In The Wall



Editorial – The River Situation

The federal government has already spent more than a quarter million dollars on revetment work on the river banks to protect them from erosion, and save valuable farmland from being washed down the river, and is prepared to spend another $420,000 in the same work.  But unless something is done to hold the log towing companies responsible for damage done to this work, a large part of it will be wasted.  At Utopia, some five hundred feet of the revetment has been eaten away because tows of logs were allowed to swing into the river bank, breaking the steel cables that held the brush mats in place.  The farmers who thought they had finally obtained protection, are now threatened with destruction of their farms.  . . .  The county officials should take a little more interest in maintaining this quarter of a million dollars work on danger spots on the river, and should delay no longer in the purchase of a $10,000 dragline which will automatically result in another $420,000 in WPA funds being spent immediately in Skagit river bank work.

Log Towing Companies Must Be Held Responsible


500 feet of revetment work at Utopia destroyed by log rafts.


County should maintain the $250,000 investment and purchase $10,000 dragline.




Damaged River Banks

            Farmers east of Sedro-Woolley are busy in a campaign to stop destruction of river revetments by log booms.  According to reports, tug boats, pulling logs have become snagged in the revetments, pulling out at least 500 feet near Utopia.  More damage has been done at Sterling.              As a government project a year or two ago, this work cost much money, and so far has apparently been useful.  But as the new revetments are ruined, great chunks of farmer’s land are dropping into the river again.  Losses already are estimated at $10,000.  . . .              Sedro-Woolley farmers have gone to bat on the proposition, with the aid of business and civic leaders.  Burlington had better get busy too, for if log booms have caused such trouble up river, the same thing can and probably will happen along the river banks just east of Burlington.  Local leaders, in a spirit of self-preservation, should join hands with the up-river boys both to stop the cause of the trouble, and to see that damage already done is repaired.

Log Booms Destroy River Banks


See 1/10/36 article.


county hopes for start on river project – commissioner mason sees end of difficulties, but he says county can’t maintain project

J. T. Mason, chairman of the board of county commissioners, said today he thought “everything will be all ironed out in the near future,” so that a start can be made on the Skagit river flood control project. The WPA has allotted more than $420,000 for the new project, which includes bank revetment work at strategic points along the river. Complaint was made at a recent meeting of the Skagit county chamber of commerce by A. H. Ward of Sedro-Woolley, that the project is being held up because the county has refused to provide draglines and because the county has refused to agree to maintain the project.  Mason said the county is ready with its 20 per cent of the cost of the project, and that it has a first class dragline, which was used on the old river project, ready for use. At the chamber of commerce meeting, Ward declared the army engineers were waiting for a new dragline and for a county guarantee of maintenance. The chairman of the commissioners said maintenance of the project is a big problem. The cost would be practically prohibitive, according to his viewpoint. Also, if the county agreed to maintain the project, he thinks the county might be liable for damages to property should the bank revetment go out and wash away property. Then also, if the county maintains the improvement in any one place, it would be expected to maintain it all up and down the river, and the county has no money for that purpose and no prospect of getting any, according to Mason. . . .  When the new project starts, it is expected repair crews will be sent to places near Sedro-Woolley where log tows have damaged the work done under the old project. It has been suggested that piles be driven in the future to protect the revetment work. 

County Refuses To Provide Maintenance of Revetment Work.


Cost prohibitive according to County Commissioners.




Commissioners also worried about liability of maintenance on projects.


county chamber hears about $750,000 wpa river project

. . . some $260,000 has been spent in revetment work on the Skagit river under the first project which started in December, 1935; most of this work has stood up well under all kinds of conditions; there are a few places, such as Utopia, where engineers claim log tows have started damage which has resulted in considerable under-mining of the work; some means of financing maintenance of the work must be provided and a new $420,000 WPA project, all ready to start now, to place more revetments all along the Skagit river, will commence as soon as the county commissioners can agree with the government engineers on the matter of a new drag line.  Nelson said that the county was expected to maintain the work after it was completed, but County Commissioner John Mason stated that the county had no funds for maintenance.  . . .  Several farmers joined Mason in telling of the big cost of maintaining dikes along the lower river, paid by a district tax on the farmers.  They claimed that it would be unfair for the county to pay for maintenance of the revetment work, since they had paid for their diking by a special tax on the farms.  G. Knutzen of Burlington stated that he considered the maintenance of the river banks was a county problem and not something that the upper river should be forced to finance. 

More Revetment Work Proposed


$260,000 already spent.  Revetment work began in December 1935. $420,000 additional work proposed, however, maintenance on first projects needed first.


County was expected to maintain work already completed and had not done so.  Lower dike district’s did not want to pay for it.


Three Flood Control Bills Are Proposed

            Three bills designing legislation for flood control in the eight western countries will be sponsored by the Puget Sound flood control council as the result of a meeting in Everett Friday.  . . .  Two of the bills to be sponsored deal with setting up machinery for state administration of flood control projects through the department of conservation and development.  . . .  Two of the bills to be sponsored deal with setting up machinery for state administration of flood control projects through the department of conservation and development.  . . .  The other bill repeals a 35-year-old river control act that has never been used.

New State Legislation Proposed



PSFCC sponsored legislation for setting up state administration of flood control projects.


plan big district to control river – utopia farmers start move to finance maintenance of river revetment work; county board will then start $420,000 wpa job

A big flood control district may be formed from Burlington to Marblemount, to raise funds for maintaining the revetment work done by the WPA project on Skagit river banks.  . . .  All three commissioners explained that under the 40 mill limit the county had no funds for maintenance.  Goodyear said that if the river broke through and went into Minkler lake that it would cut across the valley to the north and cut a new channel to salt water.  The board said the new project would start at this danger spot.  . . .  The big damage done at Utopia would never have resulted had the commissioners repaired the break when first reported.  The commissioners have agreed to install a log boom along the entire revetment work on the river to try to protect it from the log tows, which have damaged it in many places, according to farmers who have seen many cables in the revetment broken.

Maintenance District Proposed


The eastern boundary was Hamilton not Marblemount (See 2/16/39 CT article.)


40 mill limit kept County form using general funds for maintenance.



Damage to revetments being caused by “log tows.”


help control erosion (editorial)

Backed by the Sedro-Woolley Chamber of Commerce, the farmers of Utopia have become roused to the necessity of immediate action to protect their farms from being washed into the river, and are really getting action.  . . .  There is no sense in spending three quarters of a million dollars in brush, concrete and steel cables and revetment work along the Skagit river banks to protect farmland, and then not have a few thousand dollars a year available to keep a crew busy inspecting and repairing damages and doing general maintenance work.

Editor Urged Formation of District


No sense in spending $750,000 without maintenance. 


River Project Model Shown

            Depicting in miniature the intricate details that make up a flood control project, a model of the revetment work completed at Lyman several months