Monday, December 20, 2010

Flood Damage at the Seattle Community Farm

a small river washing out the path

Rainstorms and flooding have been a big problem for many farmers here in Washington and last week we found out that the Seattle Community Farm is no exception.

The farm is adjacent to a large hill, whose clay soil was already saturated with water from the normal winter rains. When the big rainstorm came, all of that water had nowhere to go but down the hill and onto the farm. The water overwhelmed the new drainage system, creating a roaring river down the swale and cutting a ditch through the main path.

Although there was damage and the picture looks dramatic, it was probably the best case scenario given the circumstances. Even though the drainage system was overwhelmed, all of the water stayed inside the swale. This almost entirely prevented damage to the brand-new 250 foot gravel path adjacent to the swale. We also had put down straw wattles in case the swale overflowed, so none of the sediment was lost into the storm drains.

moving a log into place to reinforce the swale
We would like to extend a special thanks to our great landscape architect, Eric Higbee. Eric has been so generous donating his work, and he even went down to the farm during the rains to check everything out! He told us that landscape architects love to see how their designs fare in extreme weather circumstances, hence why he was traipsing around in a muddy stream in the middle of a rainstorm.

The repairs we need to make after the rainstorm are relatively simple compared with having the entire gravel path washed away or the retaining wall collapsing. With the help of some dedicated staff and volunteers, we completed some temporary fixes that will help the farm make it through the rest of the winter rains. When spring comes, we will begin working on the long term solutions - planting the swale and adding an overflow pipe underneath the path. As our weather continues to become more unpredictable and extreme, we’re sure to be getting more of these rainstorms in the future, but we will be prepared.

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