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Langley bluff erosion woes continue

Langley resident Rosalie Ballinger waves hello to one of the many boats passing by her South Whidbey home. The huge portion of the high-bank property has been consumed by erosion from an underground spring.  - Justin Burnett / The Record
Langley resident Rosalie Ballinger waves hello to one of the many boats passing by her South Whidbey home. The huge portion of the high-bank property has been consumed by erosion from an underground spring.
— image credit: Justin Burnett / The Record

The sudden and catastrophic erosion that began claiming large chunks of high-bank property from a Langley couple in late July appears to have finally ceased, though the final toll is high and may not be over.

Last week, it was recommended that Roy and Rosalie Ballinger begin emptying their two-story workshop due to its proximity to the edge of the massive hole — about 150 feet by 50 feet — that used to be their backyard.

While their home remains safe, having to abandon the workshop was a terrible blow for the couple, especially for Roy. Up until last week, he spent a lot of time in the building working on various projects.

“I feel very, very sad for Roy,” Rosalie said.

The Ballingers’ lives turned upside down about two weeks ago when an underground spring began eroding their backyard. Within a week, they had lost a massive amount of property and their plight was splashed across headlines across the country.

Their heart-rending story even appeared on the ABC television broadcast, Good Morning America.

Things have since begun to calm down; their telephone isn’t ringing off the hook but their property is still the subject of intense public curiosity. During a 40-minute interview with a Record reporter, a small plane continually buzzed overhead and several boats came in close to shore for a better view of the land slide.

The event has been financially taxing as well. It appears their home insurance, USAA, a company Roy has been with for more than 50 years, will not be covering any of the damages to their property.

The couple are keeping their chins up, however, and trying not to let the tragedy completely dominate their lives. Last week, they participated in the belt-sander races in Freeland and walked away with $200.

It was a moment of relief but the reality of their situation is never far away.

“We have our ups and our downs,” Rosalie said.

“I sometimes wake up in the morning and cry,” she said.

The couple did hire a geotechnical engineer to come and look at their property. The company came up with a plan to mitigate the problem but the Ballingers have decided not to pursue it at this time.

The plan involved shuttling rocks over the edge via a conveyor belt and the estimated price tag for the job varied by up to $50,000 between the low and high end. For now, they are going to hold tight before deciding on any course of action.

Although the erosion appears to have been arrested, the Ballingers are unsure whether or not they will stay in their Langley home. Rosalie said she is a positive person but there is just so much uncertainty with their property.

“My cup is always full,” she said. “It’s going to be OK but we don’t know if it will be OK here.”

Rosalie said nothing good has come from this situation but the outpouring of concern and compassion from the community has meant a lot. The efforts of the family, friends and host of emergency responders who have come to their aid will not be forgotten, she said.

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