When disasters occur, local and tribal government partners and state officials often request on-the-ground assistance from Ecology’s Washington Conservation Corps (WCC) AmeriCorps members and crew supervisors.
The WCC provides hands-on experience, field skills, and training opportunities to young adults between 18 and 25 and military veterans. Our 300 members and 55 field supervisors across the state restore critical habitat, build trails, and protect the state’s natural, historic and environmental resources.
During disasters, however, WCC members and supervisors respond to assist communities in Washington and beyond.
2017 flood response in Sprague and Yakima
March 18, WCC crews help keep rising flood waters from Sprague.
City officials and the state Military Department requested help battling flood waters in the Lincoln County town of Sprague on March 17, and WCC was able to respond the next day. WCC members based in Spokane, Walla Walla, Wenatchee, Yakima and Ellensburg filled and placed about 3,500 sandbags to protect Sprague homes and businesses. Members also reinforced and fixed sandbags to stay ahead of rising water levels.
The crews received a warm welcome. “It was refreshing to see the community come together and help our crews and each other,” said WCC supervisor Matt Cone, who was deeply moved by the experience. “The people volunteered their time, labor, supplies and food so that everyone was taken care of. Even in a stressful situation, this community showed a lot of heart.”
WCC crew in removing sandbags in Yakima
On March 20 and 21, another WCC crew responded to a similar request from the city of Yakima. Members took a day off from their regular duties with the North Yakima Conservation District to help the city clean up after widespread flooding. The crew removed nearly 4,000 sandbags from a previously flooded interchange.
WCC disaster response program
Our WCC crews have responded to local floods, wildfires, oil spills and landslides and have also been deployed to provide disaster relief and recovery assistance for floods, hurricanes and tornadoes around the nation. Four WCC crews are designated disaster response crews but any crew has the potential to be deployed.
Members and staff are trained to safely and effectively:
- Clean up homes, roads and structures
- Install emergency repairs such as roof tarps
- Manage volunteers and donations
- Remove trees and debris
- Set up and operate emergency shelters
The WCC was created in 1983 and became an AmeriCorps program in 1994. The federal Corporation for National and Community Service administers AmeriCorps. The proposed federal blueprint budget would eliminate funding the agency’s funding. For the 2017-18 federal budget year (Oct. 1, 2017, through Sept. 30, 2018), AmeriCorps provided Ecology’s WCC program:
- $1.8 million in grant funding – about 20 percent of WCC’s budget.
- Authority and funding to support Ecology WCC AmeriCorps federal disaster and response and recovery efforts.
- A $5,775 education award to each WCC member who completes a year of services. They can use the AmeriCorps award to pay for future college expenses or toward existing student loans. This year the awards, paid directly to post-secondary institutions, will provide more than $2 million in tuition income to trade schools, college and universities attended by WCC alumni.