Langley couple suddenly losing cliffside property to erosion
By JUSTIN BURNETT
South Whidbey Record Island County
July 27, 2012 · 3:41 PM
A Langley husband and wife made national headlines this week when their back yard began to collapse down a 150-foot cliff.
Although losing high-bank property to erosion is a common occurrence on Whidbey Island, the circumstances involving Roy and Rosalie Ballinger’s home on Douglas Street is more than unusual.
Rather than losing property inch-by-inch over a long period of time, they have lost about 90 feet in about a week, according to some estimates, and several buildings are under threat of being lost.
As of Friday morning, South Whidbey Fire/EMS Assistant Chief Paul Busch said the process has slowed but is still ongoing.
“It’s continuing to slough off,” Busch said. “It really is a tragedy for these people.”
Attempts to reach the Ballingers Friday for this story were unsuccessful.
It’s believed the culprit is an underground spring or geyser that, for some unknown reason, changed direction and is now eating away at the yard’s foundations. Large amounts of rain could also be responsible.
So much property has fallen away that Roy’s two-story workshop is now threatened. The massive hole has already claimed an ancient yew tree and the couple’s greenhouse is teetering on the precipice.
A sunken propane tank is also feared to be in danger. The gas was shut off Wednesday but the gas company could not get close enough to safely pump it out, said Mike Cotton, deputy chief for South Whidbey Fire/EMS
“It’s in line to go ... but it was not safe to recover it,” Cotton said. “We’re watching that very, very closely.”
Although the Ballingers’ home is believed to be safe, family and friends have helped to empty the workshop in case it’s lost. The contents are being housed in a storage container until it’s more certain what will happen.
“Right now, they’re just hoping for the best,” said Eric Brooks, deputy director of Island County Emergency Management.
He did confirm, however, that the Ballingers hired a geotechnical engineer and the property was examined Thursday in an attempt to find out just what’s happening and see if anything can be done.
At the time of the interview, Brooks said he had not been apprised of the findings or if any plan had been developed.
If nothing can be done, and the situation continues to deteriorate, the Ballingers’ property could be condemned but he was not aware of any such decision having been made as of Friday noon.
Contact South Whidbey Record Island County Justin Burnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.