Officials to present Oso mudslide economic recovery plan

ARLINGTON — Officials have finished putting together a long-term plan to boost businesses and quality of life in the Stillaguamish Valley after the 2014 Oso mudslide.

Arlington Mayor Barbara Tolbert and Darrington Mayor Dan Rankin are scheduled to present the North Stillaguamish Valley Economic Redevelopment Plan to the Puget Sound Regional Council on Thursday.

Economic Alliance Snohomish County received a $150,000 federal grant and $50,000 from state and local partners in August 2014 to start the plan, which they finished in October. The goal is to help communities in the valley, from Arlington east to Darrington, recover.

The mudslide killed 43 people. It also destroyed 36 homes and buried a stretch of Highway 530, cutting Darrington off from the rest of Snohomish County. Early estimates of the cost of recovery efforts total $65 million, according to the plan.

A group of elected leaders and county staff worked with representatives from Washington State University and Workforce Snohomish to brainstorm ideas for the plan, which was written by Economic Alliance Snohomish County and contractor Community Attributes Inc. They hosted public forums, interviewed experts on environmental planning and emergency management, and sent surveys to local businesses.

Seven of every 10 local businesses said they suffered due to limited access after the slide.

“Post-disaster, particularly in rural economies that are hit hard, it’s about looking at it and as you rebuild the economy asking, ‘Can we do it better?’?” Tolbert said. “This was not a high socio-economic area before the slide, so we looked at what can we do to make it stronger.”

She and other leaders hope to make the Stilly Valley a place where people want to visit, stay for a while and come back. That means they need to draw more employers and visitors.

The plan digs into the valley’s strengths and weaknesses rather than focusing on generic challenges for rural economies, Tolbert said. It “was developed to tell the whole story,” she said.

The document could be a model for other communities trying to boost their economy or recover from a disaster, such as towns in Eastern Washington ravaged by wildfires over the summer, said Glenn Coil, senior manager of public policy and research at Economic Alliance Snohomish County.

“It is kind of a road map as the communities are moving forward,” he said.

Several infrastructure projects are considered high priority in the plan. Among them is a proposal to pave more of the Mountain Loop Highway, which has a 14-mile stretch of dirt and gravel along its 55-mile route between Darrington and Granite Falls. Building more roads that navigate Arlington’s industrial corridor near the municipal airport is another key project.

Other tasks outlined in the plan include: repairing the Whitehorse Trail, paving sidewalks, planting school gardens, allowing in-home businesses, extending library hours and improving high-speed internet access.

Many of the suggestions for Darrington are centered on the town’s roots in the timber industry and proximity to the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. Protecting forest roads, adding winter recreation options and working toward a sustainable timber industry are mentioned in the plan.

For Arlington’s end of the valley, planners are looking to expand the city as an anchor for family wage jobs in North Snohomish County. That means marketing the manufacturing and industrial corridor and assessing retail options around the city. The plan also recommends expanding the “Visit Stilly Valley” tourism campaign started in June 2014.

“The mudslide really is what caught our attention on the needs of these communities,” said Curtis Moulton, director of WSU Extension in Snohomish County.

Arlington and Darrington are tightly linked and the slide did lasting damage when it cut them off from each other, he said.

Some projects in the plan could happen in 2016, while others may take years, Moulton said. The document needs to look decades into the future if it’s meant to tackle something as big as bouncing back after a natural disaster.

“Our human resources research shows that it takes about five years to recover from a disaster,” Moulton said. “People up there are still really impacted by what happened. Creating new opportunities in the community is a way to help.”

Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; kbray@heraldnet.com.

Talk to us

More in Local News

William Talbott II pleads his innocence before a judge sentences him to life with out parole at the Snohomish County Courthouse on Wednesday, July 24, 2019 in Everett, Wash. A Snohomish County judge sentenced William Talbott II to life in prison without parole, for murdering a young Canadian couple in 1987. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Cold-case murder conviction reversed due to juror’s bias

William Talbott, the world’s first convicted forensic genealogy defendant, was accused of killing a young Canadian couple in 1987.

Dr Chris Spitters (center), Interim Health Officer, makes makes his address Monday evening during a Special Meeting of the Snohomish Health District Board of Health at the Administration Builiding in Everett on March 2, 2020.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Chris Spitters, Snohomish County’s chief health officer, to step down

The physician who has been the official voice of the pandemic here says his departure is not work-related.

Man identified after fatal fall from Arlington cell tower

Michael Vasquez, 24, of Las Vegas, fell about 140 feet while working Saturday afternoon.

Carpenters from America and Switzerland build the first "modular home" made from cross-laminated timber, inside a warehouse on Marine View Drive on Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021 in Everett, Washington.  (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Affordable housing’s future? Innovative home built in Everett

Swiss and American carpenters built the nation’s first “modular home” made of cross-laminated timber.

Houses at the end of the 2100 block of 93rd Drive SE in Lake Stevens used to front a forest. Now the property has been clearcut to make way for a new Costco store near the intersection of Highway 9 and 20th Street SE. (Chuck Taylor / The Herald)
Lake Stevens councilmember says he profited off Costco deal

Until now, Marcus Tageant would not confirm his role in the multimillion-dollar sale of acreage that is soon to be a Costco.

Police: Student, 13, falsely accused classmate of making threat

The student alleged the classmate called to say there would be a shooting at Hidden River Middle School.

John Lovick
State Rep. Lovick gets nod for state Senate

After Legislative District 44 Democrats nominated him, his House seat opened for party jockeying.

Brian Loomis and Michelle Moch browse for a live Christmas tree from Adopt A Stream on Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021 in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
These holiday trees can liven a salmon’s home as well as your own

Adopt A Stream Foundation is selling native trees. Return them after the holidays, and they’ll become critical fish habitat.

Lake Stevens resident Rick Trout shows a Feb. 2020 photo of the rising lake level in front of his home after a storm. (Isabella Breda / The Herald)
Some Lake Stevens homeowners now must buy flood insurance

Updated FEMA maps show some lakeside homes now sit in a designated flood hazard area, due to a warming climate.

Most Read