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for people who care about the West

Flooding: Whose fault?

  It's been a tough winter in the Pacific Northwest. After enduring widespread flooding and landslides in November (HCN, 1/22/96), the region was slammed even harder in early February by a combination of heavy rains and melting snow. The recent landslides were the worst in three decades, say experts; repair costs could exceed $40 million.


While the weather has cleared, controversy over what caused the destruction remains. Environmentalists continue to blame logging roads and clearcuts, plus wetlands destruction and urbanization, for decreasing the land's ability to soak up heavy rains. A recent aerial survey of the Mapleton Ranger District of Oregon's Siuslaw National Forest revealed that only three of 185 landslides were natural, says Andy Stahl of the Association of Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics. The rest resulted from deforestation and logging roads on steep hillsides. "It was no act of God that caused these landslides," says Stahl. Oregonians have asked newly elected Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., to look into manmade causes of the flooding.


Still, some people have stood up for dams. U.S. Army Corps engineers say Portland and Eugene would have suffered far worse flooding without dams and reservoirs on the Willamette River.


"Elizabeth Manning