The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced Thursday it will spend $40,000 to study erosion in the town of Lyman, where the swollen Skagit River dug into an embankment in November along what was previously a small side channel of the river.
The erosion cut dangerously close to three homes, which remain unsafe to occupy. Propane tanks, a garage, a porch, a living room and a stone fireplace have since fallen into the water, and at least one home threatens to fall completely in.
The corps is unable to provide on-the-ground aid to the property owners because the federal agency is limited to protecting public infrastructure, officials said. What the agency can do is provide technical and engineering assistance.
The corps’ Seattle District will do that in part through a Flood Plain Management Study that will evaluate potential long-term solutions the town could implement to reduce flood risks, according to a news release.
The corps does not have the authority to design or construct those potential projects.
Travis Ball, flood plain manager for the Seattle District, said in the release that although it will be Lyman’s responsibility to complete any flood protection projects, the corps’ study could help the town secure funding for such projects.
The corps is also helping the town develop a flood contingency plan to ensure community safety and help expedite getting aid from county, state or federal agencies in the future. The contingency plan and study should be completed in the fall, Ball said.
Lyman is at continued risk of flooding and erosion because it is located near a river channel, according to the corps.
“For several years a side channel near the town has been changing,” Ball said. “You can see it in historical satellite images online, but November’s flood really opened that side channel up, causing the erosion (that impacted three Lyman families).”