Farmers in Whatcom County were hit hard by flooding last week. Local dairyman and Whatcom County Flood Control Zone District Advisory Committee member Jeff DeJong says that the flood was predicted well so they were able to prepare for it. His farm wasn’t affected directly by the flooding.
Community members were warned by authorities to not drive through standing water on roads, but often times, farmers and farmworkers have to drive through the water in order to get their work done.
“We’re doing it safely on our own discretion,” Dejong said. “One of our challenges is getting employees in and out safely.”
He added that he doesn’t think people realize how fast the water is and get too far into a situation when their vehicle starts having troubles.
As a Flood Control Zone committee member, Dejong says his work really comes after the flooding. While the flooding is happening he gets to focus on his own stuff to make sure his farm and home is taken care of.
Dejong says from what he has heard, the flood damage was mostly minor. He hadn’t heard final numbers from the Everson and Sumas area yet, but as far as he had heard there were no major castaphrophies from the flooding.
“It’s a very dynamic system — we all know that,” Dejong said. “The river changes year to year, day to day. My personal thoughts are, we are seeing some sediment build up in the river; we’re seeing a slug that’s moving down from Everson that’s causing some issues, some undo, over topping in some places. The County is taking a real, hard look at that.”
Dejong added that the County is taking a closer look at their models to see what’s changing and what work needs to be done to control future situations. The river moves a large amount of sediment. In years past, about 30 years ago, sediment deposits were removed, according to DeJong. But that hasn’t happened in decades, so the sediment has just been building up.
“This might be the new normal,” Dejong said. “A 5-year event may send water to places it normally did not.”