By Chris Hendrickson, Monitor
As of Sunday evening, approximately 80 residents of the Sunset Falls area in Index had been without power since Friday, due to an unstable hillside making the roadway impassable.
On Thursday, the hillside located south of the Mt. Index River Road, directly east of Sunset Falls, underwent a major shift, causing trees to dangle precariously over the power lines. A portion of the roadway was blocked by mud and timber from the hillside that continued to be unstable throughout the weekend. The private roadway is maintained by an organization called the Mt. Index Riversites which has hired a contracting firm to assist in attempting to clear the roadway and control the sliding hill.
“Every time we move a dump truck full of mud, two more come back down,” said Mt. Index Riversites Board Secretary and Treasurer Lynne Kelly.
The residents who live to the east of the slide area were affected by the long-term power outage. The Snohomish County Public Utility District has been unable to restore power due to issues with access. Any vehicle which passes the sliding hillside runs the risk of being trapped should another slide occur.
The entire section located near Canyon Falls known as “G” section was without power all weekend. Further complicating matters is the fact that the roadway has had to be closed, off-and-on, in the interest of public safety. As of Saturday, trees were tumbling down the hillside in a sudden and unpredictable fashion.
“It’s really a very dangerous place to be,” said Kelly.
Crews worked all weekend trying to control the sliding area.
“We’re trying to move it away as much as possible, but it just keeps coming down,” said Kelly.
Concerned for the welfare of the residents, Kelly contacted the Snohomish County Department of Emergency Management. The fact that Mt. Index River Road is a private roadway has been a complicating factor as far as receiving assistance goes. The county has stepped in to provide emergency vehicles that have been positioned strategically near the area should a resident require emergency assistance.
As of Sunday evening the road was closed with access completely prohibited. Residents were communicating via Facebook, seeking information on whether or not they would be able to leave the area.
“They’re sweating whether or not they’ll get back to work this week,” said Kelly.
There is no certainty as far as when power will be restored to the area.
Even if the residents without power are fortunate enough to own generators, they will soon need additional fuel to power their equipment, pointed out Kelly. With access being prohibited, this effort will be impossible.
“They can’t come out to get more gasoline,” said Kelly.
Kelly stated that the Mt. Index Riversites has likely spent more than $20,000 thus far in their attempts to control the landslide area.
This instability increases concerns among citizens regarding the proposed PUD dam project known as the Sunset Fish and Energy Project. Preliminary plans for the project include a 2,235-foot long subterranean tunnel that would extend from the dam’s intake structure to an area below the existing trap-and-haul facility beside Sunset Falls. The 19.5-foot diameter underground tunnel would extend immediately adjacent to the unstable hillside that is continuing to slide.
The area recently slid back in December, cutting off power to residents for approximately 24 hours and preventing access. In a preliminary analysis done at that time, it was thought that there was little likelihood of any further movement, although the engineer’s ability to study the area may have been inhibited by snowy conditions.
The Mt. Index Riversites Board is asking for folks to not ignore the road-closed signs as the area remains hazardous. For further information see the website at: http://www.mountindexriversites.com/.