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Community pulls together to help family affected by beaver dam break

  • Written by Lisa Allen, Valley View Editor
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Volunteers help clean up after the Siko family’s home was surrounded by several feet of silt following a beaver dam collapse on the hill above the house. Photo by Stephanie Pickering Larson
DUVALL–Until the morning of November 5th, “Pickering Creek” was mostly a quiet little stream that came down from the hill through a thick forest, meandered past the historic 1906 Pickering house, and crossed over the family’s farmland where dairy cows once grazed. For over 100 years, kids played along its banks and returning salmon have spawned.

It was an idyllic setting that all changed in an instant that day. The now infamous beaver dam break that sent torrents of water, mud, debris and silt onto the farmstead and around and under the house was captured by news photographers in helicopters and shown on CNN and many local news outlets around the country.

The transformation of the farmstead is indeed stunning – everything appears buried in mud and silt – and it is – four to six feet of it. But the owners of the house, Bob and Suzanne Pickering Siko and their four young sons, are thankful they were not home when the contents of the 10-15-acre lake came down the hill taking most of the pond sediment with it.

But no sooner than the time it took for the devastated family to assess the damage and try to figure out what to do next, volunteers from the community showed up to help.

The family continues to be amazed at the number of volunteers who have stepped forward to offer their assistance, said Janetta Pickering, Suzanne’s mother who lives on higher ground on the farm. She emphasized that “the big story now is how many people have volunteered to clean up the house and farmland. This community is amazing.”

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Previous to the dam break, the side yard had been landscaped and included children’s play equipment. The area behind the shed, where the excavator can be seen working, had been a forest that was turned into a mud canyon by the rush of water.
She said the house did suffer some damage inside as well as out. “Drywall will have to be replaced and part of the kitchen was bowed in. But we were just glad the kids weren’t out playing in the yard. The kids like to play outside a lot and watch the salmon – the fish and eggs of course are all gone now. It’s mind-boggling what happened.”

Indeed, the community, including neighbors, friends and businesses, are helping to clean up the mess. Volunteers are everywhere, digging out mud and silt by hand and with heavy equipment. An excavator is working in the field, loading up dump trucks with silt to be hauled away.

On Friday, Suzanne updated her Facebook page on the cleanup work that was going on under their house, which included suction trucks to get the mud out and removing the wet insulation which is “vital right now.”

Janetta said Bob had complained to the King County Department of Natural Resources about his concerns over the increasing size of the beaver pond but they told him it wasn’t in their jurisdiction because it was on private property.

King County engineers are out there now, though, inspecting other beaver dams on the hill, to see if any of them pose a danger, KING TV reported late last week. Some of them told reporters they were concerned the beavers may rebuild but didn’t seemed inclined to do anything about it except possibly warning those who may be in the path of the next dam break.

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The family’s pigs, reportedly up to their necks in goo, were saved in the nick of time.
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Volunteers work to clear the mud from under the house.
In the meantime, the affected family members (they are staying with relatives nearby) continue to take stock of the situation as they go through the house and figure out what they will need.

A Facebook page has been set up: “Pickering Siko Support” with updates on the cleanup effort and a signup sheet for volunteers. Those who wish to help can also visit the Duvall Community Discussion Board.

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