DelBene, Cantwell, Schrier Secure Emergency Stabilization of Fire-Scarred Land Surrounding Highway 2
Today, the U.S. Forest Service announced that emergency mitigation efforts to prevent landslides and floods along Highway 2 in the area burned by the Bolt Creek Fire will begin Thursday.
“Getting relief out quickly to communities impacted by wildfires is critical not only to rebuild from fire and smoke damage but also to mitigate the risk of landslides and other disasters in the aftermath. I am extremely pleased Sen. Cantwell, Rep. Schrier, and I were able to secure this funding for the communities affected along U.S. 2 to help them rebuild from this tragedy,” said Rep. DelBene.
“The Bolt Creek Fire created a crisis along Highway 2 and this week, the Forest Service will be starting mitigation work that will better protect communities from Index to Skykomish from dangerous floods and landslides that could shut down the highway,” said Sen. Cantwell. “There is still more work to do to recover from the fire and I will continue to work with communities that rely on Highway 2 to make sure the land can recover and the highway stays open.”
"When we think of fires, sometimes we just think about the time when we're all breathing in smoke and when homes are at risk, but the risk continues. Because as soon as the rains come, we have a landslide risk," Rep. Schrier said. "That is why I am thrilled that we were able to secure funding for Highway 2 cleanup and mitigation efforts. We need to maintain transportation, exits, and safety here this winter when there's so much peril. This funding will help do just that.”
The emergency stabilization work will focus first on storm-proofing and culvert repairs, according to the Forest Service’s Burned Area Emergency Response Report that was released today. The mitigation work will begin Thursday and will continue until snow restricts on the groundwork. Any work remaining will be completed this spring. The U.S. Forest Service will fully fund the mitigation work.
On October 28, DelBene, Cantwell, and Schrier Sultan, WA and met with local leaders about potential fire impacts. That same day the Members sent a letter to the Forest Service, urging them to expedite emergency repairs. In the letter, the Members noted that the Bolt Creek Fire burned 14,000 acres along U.S. Highway 2, a key connector in Washington state that carries 3.6 million tons of freight each year, and is traveled by over 22,000 vehicles daily.
Since the first fire closure on Sept. 10, 2022, when the Bolt Creek wildfire started, U.S. Highway 2 has closed seven different times. Local leaders and business owners fear even more closures if the post-fire landscape isn’t treated.
The U.S. Forest Service BAER program addresses landscapes that have been impacted by fire on Forest Service lands. The goal of the program is to protect the forest and surrounding communities from further natural disasters, like landslides and flooding, that can occur after the landscape has been burned from wildfire.
As wildfires become more frequent and intense across the region, DelBene is working to ensure state and local governments are equipped with the resources and support needed. On October 4, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) released a new national landslide strategy that includes steps necessary to equitably reduce our risk from landslide hazards. The strategy is a core element of the National Landslide Preparedness Act, legislation that DelBene introduced and was signed into law in January 2021.