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County to purchase Lyman properties damaged by erosion

July 14, 2018 GMT

Skagit County will soon take ownership of three Lyman properties after residents were forced to leave their homes following flood-related erosion in November.

Skagit County Watershed Planner Kara Symonds said purchase agreements have been signed with the owners of the three homes: Mark Harris, Michael Taxdahl, and Richard and Vicky Guidinger.

Two sales will close Friday, she said. The third will close Aug. 23 after the Guidingers have time to recover as much as they can from the dream home they said they built on land that was long in the family.

“They are still salvaging as much as possible from their home,” Symonds said. “They wanted all the days possible. Everything was custom and they are just really trying to save as much as possible.”

Taxdahl said after several months during which his family lived in a camper, he’s relived that the purchase of his now-worthless property is on the horizon.

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“I’m happy,” he said. “It couldn’t be any better.”

Taxdahl said he has relocated his family to Sedro-Woolley, but he hopes it’s a temporary situation while he pursues new property to buy in Lyman.

Taxdahl and his neighbors’ homes are being purchased by the county using Hazard Mitigation Grant Program money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, as well as about $150,000 in state Military Department funds and about $150,000 from the county in the form of labor, project management and waste disposal.

The three homes are being purchased for a combined $1.2 million, Symonds said. That’s their combined fair market value before the erosion occurred, according to Skagit County Assessor’s Office records.

Once the county has ownership of the properties — which are located north of a curve in the Skagit River that runs through town — what remains of the homes will be demolished, Symonds said.

Two of the homes have partially fallen into a side channel of the river that widened during and after flooding the week of Thanksgiving.

Symonds said the operations crew under Skagit County Public Works will begin demolition as soon as the sales close.

Purchasing the eroding properties and demolishing the homes is the first of a two-part project Skagit County is calling the Lyman Slough Acquisition and Demolition Project.

The second part will involve cleaning debris from the water and determining what to do with the property under county ownership, Symonds said.

The purchase agreements require the county to keep the property as open space, prohibiting any future development.

The county, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and town of Lyman are working on a contingency plan that will outline what to do as the area continues to erode over time, eventually approaching the Cascade Trail and Lyman’s Main Street.

“This is a rapidly evolving landscape,” Symonds said.

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During the November flooding, the river reached the highest flood levels since 2006, cresting at about 35 feet in Concrete, and it reached a flow of about 150,000 cubic feet per second, Symonds said. At one point during the flooding, 150 feet of land at the damaged properties in Lyman was eroded within 24 hours.

Symonds said that data was included in the county’s application for the federal Hazard Mitigation Grant Program funding being used to purchase the three properties.

She said it is believed that the land there erodes quickly under certain conditions because it is made of sand and rock the river left behind over centuries as it shifted its course through the area.