Friday, April 18, 2014

Working hard to clean up the SR 530 slide near Oso

by Janna Ryan and Kate Nagel, Washington Conservation Corps

Continued rains keep crews fighting mud

Base camp of operations for logistical support

Forestry skills help the search and cleanup
The SR530 landslide struck unexpectedly on Saturday, March 22. The Washington Conservation Corps (WCC) rallied to support the response efforts in Arlington, Oso, and Darrington — growing from one 6-person crew deployed on March 26th to nine crews (54 AmeriCorps members and staff) on scene at the peak of the search and rescue operations.

Crews tackle whatever needs to be done

Now, as search operations are nearly complete on the West side of the landslide, seven crews remain.  As this response has evolved so have the roles of our crews — from shoring up logistical infrastructure to providing ground support to responders in the field, our crews have tackled each new project with a strong sense of duty and pride.

Early in this deployment, crews helped to establish the “spike” camp in Darrington for responders staying in tents onsite. This required the construction of yurts that are now used for a variety of purposes like camp logistics, food services, laundry, waste disposal, and sleeping quarters. Within just a few days, response organizations filled this camp. It swelled to a population of more than 500.

The remaining crews have made the Arlington Incident Command Post (ICP) their home, providing logistical and ground support to responders in the field. Much of their work is behind the scenes.  It includes ordering and delivering supplies and equipment, maintaining inventory, operating a donation “store” for local community members, and delivering fuel to the field for chainsaws and excavators. Some of the work has improved the facilities. The crews built accessibility ramps, installed canopy tents, and constructed directional signage using repurposed scrap wood salvaged from the old Arlington High School.

Planning ahead makes efficient work

Showing their concern for conservation, crews designed a recycling system at the Arlington ICP. This system ensures that aluminum, glass, plastic, batteries, and food scraps are being diverted from the landfill. The goal of this project is a “no waste” bin system. After getting the project off the ground, crews are now implementing it in Oso, Darrington, and the debris field Drop Point. Local pig farmers pick up food scraps on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Crews deliver the recyclables to the Arlington Transfer Station on a regular basis.

Forestry skills and technology join the effort

WCC forestry skills have also been put to good use. The Washington State Department of Transportation asked that WCC sawyers assist with clearing downed trees in order to install LiDAR equipment. This sophisticated equipment creates a 3D image that geologists can compare to future maps of the site to determine whether the hillside is shifting further and is therefore a risk to the safety of responders below.

These same sawyers have been clearing downed trees from the perimeter of the debris field, allowing water removal for search and rescue operations. Our crews’ background in wildland fire has also proven useful in constructing trenches to funnel water off the field.

Prepared to work as long as needed

WCC crews will remain in Arlington, Oso, and Darrington, as needed, completing 14 day rotations. A special thanks to the local community members for keeping our crews going with home baked treats and kind words. In addition, thanks to our local, state, and federal partners who have voluntarily rescheduled habitat restoration or trail construction projects so that our crews can assist with this response.

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