$6.6 million from feds to buy properties destroyed by Oso slide

EVERETT — Families whose homes and land were destroyed in the Oso mudslide got some encouraging news Wednesday with the announcement that federal authorities had awarded Snohomish County $6.6 million for buyouts.

That’s not the full $9.4 million the county wanted, but it should help ease the financial burden for scores of property owners. Julie and Cory Kuntz own one of the 128 slide-damaged properties. They have been stuck paying a mortgage on unbuildable land where their house once stood.

“We’re hugely grateful,” Julie Kuntz said. “This provides a lot of relief for us and allows us to move on.”

The slide killed 43 people and leveled about 40 homes when it struck on March 22, 2014.

The county applied to the Federal Emergency Management Agency last year for a $12.8 million buyout grant, then lowered the request this spring to reflect properties already acquired for Highway 530 reconstruction.

Word that FEMA had accepted the grant came Tuesday night from Washington’s congressional delegation, said Heather Kelly, the county official overseeing long-term recovery efforts from the slide.

The county intends to pay people the pre-slide assessed value of their property. Participation is voluntary.

Also this week, FEMA announced it had approved $7.6 million to reimburse the state and the county for debris-removal costs at the slide.

Separately, the County Council on Wednesday extended by another six months building bans in the immediate slide area and upriver, where flood dangers on the North Fork Stillaguamish have increased.

The emergency moratoriums are now set to remain in effect until late December. That’s intended to allow the county time to complete buyouts, to adopt new land-use regulations for landslide-hazard areas and to study how flood patterns have changed. Further extensions are possible.

While FEMA only promised about two-thirds of the money needed to buy properties in the slide zone, more could be coming.

“This is initial, to get the effort moving forward,” Kelly said. “There may be additional funds.”

Any land purchased with the buyout grant must be set aside as open space in the flood zone.

The first transactions are expected this fall.

“Anything that we receive, it’s just a blessing for us, because it is a voluntary program,” said Ron Thompson, who lost his home in the Steelhead Haven neighborhood.

Minutes before the slide hit, Ron and his wife, Gail, had left the house with Gail’s then-85-year-old mother to go shopping at Costco. They owned their home at Steelhead Haven outright, so they hope to use any buyout money to upgrade the new house they bought near the Oso fire station.

“I’m more excited for those who had mortgages and are struggling to get things going,” he said.

The Kuntzes, who have spent the past year renting, also bought a new home, near Darrington. They plan to move there next month with their teenage son, Quinton. They were traveling to a high school baseball game when the slide struck. Ever since, they have been paying mortgage on the eight acres where they used to live south of Highway 530.

“We were hoping to find out (about the buyout grant) the first of the year,” Julie Kuntz said. “As time went on, we were getting a little nervous about our ability to move into another home.”

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465, nhaglund@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @NWhaglund.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Traffic idles while waiting for the lights to change along 33rd Avenue West on Tuesday, April 2, 2024 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Lynnwood seeks solutions to Costco traffic boondoggle

Let’s take a look at the troublesome intersection of 33rd Avenue W and 30th Place W, as Lynnwood weighs options for better traffic flow.

A memorial with small gifts surrounded a utility pole with a photograph of Ariel Garcia at the corner of Alpine Drive and Vesper Drive ion Wednesday, April 10, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Death of Everett boy, 4, spurs questions over lack of Amber Alert

Local police and court authorities were reluctant to address some key questions, when asked by a Daily Herald reporter this week.

The new Amazon fulfillment center under construction along 172nd Street NE in Arlington, just south of Arlington Municipal Airport. (Chuck Taylor / The Herald) 20210708
Frito-Lay leases massive building at Marysville business park

The company will move next door to Tesla and occupy a 300,0000-square-foot building at the Marysville business park.

Deborah Wade (photo provided by Everett Public Schools)
Everett teacher died after driving off Tulalip road

Deborah Wade “saw the world and found beauty in people,” according to her obituary. She was 56.

Snohomish City Hall on Friday, April 12, 2024 in Snohomish, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Snohomish may sell off old City Hall, water treatment plant, more

That’s because, as soon as 2027, Snohomish City Hall and the police and public works departments could move to a brand-new campus.

Lewis the cat weaves his way through a row of participants during Kitten Yoga at the Everett Animal Shelter on Saturday, April 13, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Downward cat? At kitten yoga in Everett, it’s all paw-sitive vibes

It wasn’t a stretch for furry felines to distract participants. Some cats left with new families — including a reporter.

FILE - In this Friday, March 31, 2017, file photo, Boeing employees walk the new Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner down towards the delivery ramp area at the company's facility in South Carolina after conducting its first test flight at Charleston International Airport in North Charleston, S.C. Federal safety officials aren't ready to give back authority for approving new planes to Boeing when it comes to the large 787 jet, which Boeing calls the Dreamliner, Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2022. The plane has been plagued by production flaws for more than a year.(AP Photo/Mic Smith, File)
Boeing pushes back on Everett whistleblower’s allegations

Two Boeing engineering executives on Monday described in detail how panels are fitted together, particularly on the 787 Dreamliner.

Ferry workers wait for cars to start loading onto the M/V Kitsap on Friday, Dec. 1, 2023 in Mukilteo, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Struggling state ferry system finds its way into WA governor’s race

Bob Ferguson backs new diesel ferries if it means getting boats sooner. Dave Reichert said he took the idea from Republicans.

Traffic camera footage shows a crash on northbound I-5 near Arlington that closed all lanes of the highway Monday afternoon. (Washington State Department of Transportation)
Woman dies almost 2 weeks after wrong-way I-5 crash near Arlington

On April 1, Jason Lee was driving south on northbound I-5 near the Stillaguamish River bridge when he crashed into a car. Sharon Heeringa later died.

Owner Fatou Dibba prepares food at the African Heritage Restaurant on Saturday, April 6, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Oxtail stew and fufu: Heritage African Restaurant in Everett dishes it up

“Most of the people who walk in through the door don’t know our food,” said Fatou Dibba, co-owner of the new restaurant at Hewitt and Broadway.

A pig and her piglets munch on some leftover food from the Darrington School District’s cafeteria at the Guerzan homestead on Friday, March 15, 2024, in Darrington, Washington. Eileen Guerzan, a special education teacher with the district, frequently brings home food scraps from the cafeteria to feed to her pigs, chickens and goats. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
‘A slopportunity’: Darrington school calls in pigs to reduce food waste

Washingtonians waste over 1 million tons of food every year. Darrington found a win-win way to divert scraps from landfills.

Foamy brown water, emanating a smell similar to sewage, runs along the property line of Lisa Jansson’s home after spilling off from the DTG Enterprises property on Tuesday, March 5, 2024, in Snohomish, Washington. Jansson said the water in the small stream had been flowing clean and clear only a few weeks earlier. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Neighbors of Maltby recycling facility assert polluted runoff, noise

For years, the DTG facility has operated without proper permits. Residents feel a heavy burden as “watchdogs” holding the company accountable.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.