The hillside located south of Sunset Falls in Index remains unstable, and members of the community are being strongly encouraged to register for emergency funding through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
The Mt. Index Riversites Community Club (MIRCC) Board of Directors, as well as residents of the area heard from Snohomish County Director of Emergency Management John Pennington on Saturday, April 19 at an emergency meeting.
Between 80 and 100 residents who live east of Sunset Falls, have experienced extremely limited access to and from their homes due to the ongoing, slow-moving landslide. The Mt. Index River Road, a privately maintained roadway, has been largely inaccessible since January. The MIRCC Board, which is responsible for the road’s maintenance, has struggled to obtain the essential funding to correct the problem and their efforts to reopen the roadway have been unsuccessful.
Currently, the road is blocked and residents who live east of the slide have to park their vehicles near the base of Sunset Falls and hike in through the slide area to get to and from their homes.
Pennington thanked Index residents for their patience and apologized for the fact that efforts of his department have been solely focused on Oso since the devastation hit a month ago.
“It’s time to start turning our focus towards you guys and where you are,” said Pennington.
Providing some background, Pennington talked about his process so far. On March 16, six days before the Oso slide hit, Pennington sought an emergency proclamation from Snohomish County Executive John Lovick to acknowledge the worsening conditions in Index.
“I’ve not been able to do that in the past,” said Pennington. “To the executive’s credit, he was great. He said, ‘You know what? I trust your judgment.’”
The idea behind that action was to help streamline the permit process so that the MIRCC board could work on obtaining safe and reliable access for members of the MIR community. Currently, the Snohomish County Public Utility District is considering partnering with the MIRCC to help them pay the costs associated with a potential bridge that would be installed near Canyon Falls.
No final decision has been made and any agreement between the two organizations will require approval from PUD Commissioners.
The fact that the roadway is private has been problematic, and has hindered the MIRCC in being able to obtain any kind of government assistance.
Pennington explained that when the Oso landslide hit, he made a decision to amend the emergency proclamation belonging to Index and to incorporate Oso into the same proclamation. Essentially, this resulted in acknowledgement in both the county emergency declaration as well as the state’s declaration that the Index Riversites community is in distress due to ongoing, slow-moving landslides.
When it comes to the presidential proclamation, Pennington explained that there is a lot of grey area and, essentially, lawyers will eventually make a determination on who is and is not eligible for assistance.
He said that residents will likely not have recourse in regards to damages that occurred prior to March 22, but residents who have experienced property loss or damage on or after March 22 should make sure to register with FEMA.
At best, Pennington estimated that residents have a 50 percent chance of getting federal assistance through FEMA, but suggested that reaching out to political leaders could help. He recommended that all residents take some time to contact their local representatives.
“Our congressional delegation is on fire,” said Pennington. “They are motivated to help.”
He recommended residents contact United States Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, along with District 1 Congresswoman Suzan DelBene.
“She’s been invaluable,” said Pennington about DelBene. “She’s really out there doing some good stuff.”
He stated that, the more evidence that can be provided to government officials as far as the current situation in Index, the better off the community will be in the long run.
“I’m meeting with the President on Tuesday, and my commitment to you is if I have even 10 seconds with him I promise I will say the word ‘Index,’” said Pennington.
For more information about Saturday’s meeting, please visit the Mt. Index Riversites website at http://www.mountindexriversites.com/.