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Can A Little Grass Seed Prevent Further Mudslides In The Methow Valley?

Anna King
Northwest News Network

The Carlton Complex fires burned more than 255,000 acres in Washington’s Methow Valley past summer. There are thousands of fire-scrubbed hillsides and slopes that threaten to become torrents of mud running down in nearly every direction.

Some slopes burned so hot this summer, that there’s little left alive. Even the seeds are gone. Now, federal and state agencies are planting nearly 10,000 acres of native seed by plane on public land. The seed mixture and planes cost about $140 per acre sown.

Craig Nelson, district manager of the Okanogan Conservation District, said the problem is many of the slopes in jeopardy are on private land. And there’s little money to help.

“Don’t wait around for government assistance,” he said. “The biggest thing is just be a heads-up homeowner. You know watch for things like rain events. If you are concerned, get to high ground.”

A couple of highways near Twisp, Washington, have just now reopened after this summer’s thunderstorms and massive mudslides. Washington's Ecology department has installed about a dozen real-time rain monitors in the area. The National Weather Service will use them to alert residents and visitors by cell phone of possible flooding.

Nelson said the Methow Valley gets several feet of snow nearly every year. So there is real worry about spring snowmelt or a rain-on-snow event causing more landslides.


Reseeding by agency:

  • U.S. Forest Service ---- 827 acres
  • Washington State Department of Natural Resources ---- 9,000 acres
  • Washington State Fish and Wildlife ---- 12.6 acres

Editor's note: the text of this story has been updated to clarify which agencies installed and will monitor rain gauges in the Methow Valley.

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.