La Conner Weekly News - Your independent hometown award-winning newspaper

By Ken Stern 

Resiliency every day, every year


January 25, 2023

Town of La Conner leaders continue to talk, plan and act in preparing flood control measures in the wake of Dec. 27’s flooding from the Swinomish Channel. Last night the town council created a flood commission by ordinance, cementing in place a group charged with developing responses to the next flood.

Last Thursday Mayor Ramon Hayes, Councilmember Rick Dole and Administrator Scott Thomas met with U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen and gained his commitment to have his staff pay attention to Town entreaties to federal agencies. No magic bullets there, but when outreach to the U.S. Corps of Army Engineers and FEMA – the Federal Emergency Management Agency – is made, Larsen’s people will be there.

Hayes says he is taking La Conner’s story to the governor’s office and state legislature. Certainly we are a poster child for small town trauma and for needing a defense against the elements beyond resources that can be mustered locally.

As critical as our preparations are to us, at the state and federal levels there will probably be little funding – and that far down the road – by the time governments turn their attention to us.

What is a small community to do? Continuing to meet, talking and taking notes, as was done Saturday at the Town Talk forum organized by the council’s communications committee, is critical. Folks who talk together stay together, provided they listen to each other and find that their conveners aggregate the best ideas and act on them. Bonds will strengthen when people find out their contributions get used.

Residents and leaders alike will be helped by taking at least one step back, pausing and considering if their approach is that of addressing each crisis after it hits or if the future can be better prepared for by creating a sustainability commission. That option develops a clearinghouse for a master plan that recognizes the alphabet soup of potential environmental crises. But maybe that list is longer than the people of one small town can handle.

Just considering the disaster list is daunting.

Consider the variety that may befall us: Fire, flood, drought, earthquake, heat, smoke, snow, cold, tsunami, wind. What is left out? Is any other natural calamity missing that can wreak havoc on us? As the December flooding proved, a once in a lifetime event will happen in the lifetime of some of the people reading this today.

Establishing the flood commission was critical and done within weeks. Creating a sustainability commission will not be in response to an emergency and will not be rushed into. It might not happen at all. The possibility it offers is for a cohesive and comprehensive assessment of both potential catastrophes and possible solutions that lessens the severity of emergencies.

The Skagit Valley Clean Energy Cooperative is a community initiative of residents pulling La Conner into the 21t century by greatly advancing installation of home solar energy systems. That is a gift, a grass roots effort by our neighbors. We are lucky to have them in our midst.

Let a thousand ad hoc efforts bloom. But, since we have governments, the marshaling of local resources, however limited, is a means to bring more people together more quickly and support them in wider scale efforts that can help more of us.

Natural disasters by definition are a surprise, and devastating. They cannot be averted but they can be prepared for, either singularly or in a comprehensive and collaborative fashion. Discussing preparing for them starts preparing for them.


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