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Island County crew shores up Shoreview Drive

Pete Seybert, right, and Paul Nettleton, Island County Public Works Department employees, reposition what is called a “wattle” that contains materials and protects the dike. They were working on shoring up the Shoreview Drive dike when the rain stopped Tuesday afternoon.  - Jim Larsen / The Record
Pete Seybert, right, and Paul Nettleton, Island County Public Works Department employees, reposition what is called a “wattle” that contains materials and protects the dike. They were working on shoring up the Shoreview Drive dike when the rain stopped Tuesday afternoon.
— image credit: Jim Larsen / The Record

It looked like they were battling a giant python, but in fact Pete Seybert and Paul Nettleton were only grappling with a wattle.

One definition of a wattle has to do with a turkey’s neck, which seemed appropriate for the season. But in this case the wattle is a long, straw-stuffed creation 8 inches around and 25 feet in length that is meant to protect a working site. With a dike roughly 800 feet in length, there were a lot of wattles to readjust.

“It did its job quite well,” Seybert said. The wattle protected the dike from erosion while capturing sea flotsam to strengthen it further.

At the time early Tuesday afternoon, the skies were blue but Seybert knew that was a trick of nature. “It’s a sucker hole,” he said of the sun, explaining it was shining just long enough to draw workers outside before the rain hit again.

South Whidbey was drenched by approximately 2 inches of rain late Sunday and Monday, according to the National Weather Service. The downpour finally let up but light showers were common Tuesday.

Shoreview Drive in front of Nichols Brothers Boat Builders has long been a sore spot with Island County Public Works. In the past, elaborate plans to significantly raise the height of the short, aging dike fell through, but now work is being done to finally hold back the sea water from Holmes Harbor. With an extreme high tide Monday morning, water was seeping through the dike across the road, flooding the wetland and open fields on the other side, and covering the intersection with Woodard Avenue with about 2 feet of water. Most drivers saw the water and “Road Closed” sign and turned around, but others plowed through, not minding water halfway up the doors.

Seybert said the dike was built in 1903 to separate the marsh from the sea, in the process creating enough dry land for Spencer’s Store, a landmark at the end of Holmes Harbor for many years. But in recent years the dike has failed to protect Shoreview from flooding and resulting road closures.

Work to upgrade the dike actually started last January to protect the intersection. Various types of rock were brought in to raise the level of the dike, and the wattles helped capture sea debris to further fortify the structure. “It’s basically a shoulder repair for the road,” Seybert said. The job was about half done before Monday’s storm hit and flooding reoccurred.

Fay Rimer (Alexander) and her brother Donald Alexander were walking their dogs around and through the water. They were raised in the old Peterson house just up the hill starting in 1956 and flooding is not new to their eyes, but Rimer said the deep water at the intersection and extra flooding in the fields alongside the marsh didn’t happen in the past.

“It never flooded where it is now,” she said. Her little Yorkies, Gidget and Fidget, and brother Don’s Chihuahua, Zippy, had fun running along the edges of the puddled road but showed no desire to plunge into deeper water.

Rimer said she’s glad to see the county is making the dike higher and stronger. “It’s going to be a wet winter,” she predicted.

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