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WA Experts Predict More Fall Flooding

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September 4, 2008

Seattle, WA – The cleanup isn't quite complete from last year's floods in Western Washington, and already state and federal agencies are worried about how to pay for damages when this year's fall rainy season hits. A panel of experts meeting in Seattle last night agreed the timing of the most dangerous flooding in the state has shifted – from spring, to fall – and most believe climate change is contributing to the problem.

Sean Smith, Northwest regional director of the National Parks Conservation Association, explains why the fall rain is more damaging.

"Earlier in the season, snow falls, and then the weather warms and the precipitation falls as rain. It comes down right on the snow, and there's no chance for the ground to absorb it. It just comes roaring down the hillsides, and can cause dramatic damage."

It's a trend, says Smith, that is challenging agencies like the Park Service and Forest Service, after hectic summers of firefighting, and when both already are under-funded.

"Given that the conditions are changing on the ground, how are we going to sustain long-term access to our public lands? Is it going to be this kind of ad-hoc, triage approach, where every year we have damage and we respond? Or, is there something else we can do?"

The National Parks Conservation Association has joined with others to create a Washington Parks and Forests Coalition. The group's plan is to produce suggestions for keeping the parks accessible, and repairing more of the damage. In the coming months, they'll visit communities around the parks to see what residents there have to say.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA