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Homes teeter on edge of Washington state river

The Skagit River is cutting away the bank under Michael Taxdahl's home. (Photo: KOMO News)

LYMAN, Wash. (KOMO) - Flood waters are receding along the Skagit River.

But that's little solace to many people in Lyman, where three homes teeter on the banks of the river. And there seems to be little official help for homeowners.

Already a large shed has tumbled into the river because of bank erosion.

"All of a sudden it went. There was no real warning for it," said Casey Long, who captured on his phone the shed's tumbling into the river Friday night. "It was gone in the blink of an eye."

The river is relentlessly chewing away at the river bank, threatening several homes along Main and Second streets.

Some homes have lost as much as 200 feet of property to the river.

Eddie Hills, Lyman's mayor, said Michael Taxdahl has less than 10 feet to the corner of the foundation of his home. "You can hear the ground here sloughing off, and it's nerve-wracking," Hills said.

Michael Taxdahl, his fiancee, daughters and dogs left their four-bedroom home on Thanksgiving. It was too dangerous to remain.

"This is my son's first home," said Sherry Taxdahl, Michael Taxdahl's mother. "My husband built this from the ground up. We just weren't expecting this."

A foundation expert was there Saturday.

"They think they could put pilings to shore up underneath of it," Sherry Taxdahl said. The land is vanishing, so it's not clear how that could be done.

People in Lyman are asking for help.

Sherry Taxdahl said the Army Corps of Engineers has been called, but the agency said it can't do anything until the town, its water system, and sewage system are damaged.

Doug ten Hoopen, director of emergency management for Skagit County, makes the same point.

“There’s not much that could be done for individual homeowners at this point. There is no mechanism in place to take action to save individual homes. Any action by the Army Corps of Engineers would be to prevent the threat to critical infrastructure,” said he said.

On Saturday afternoon, Hills said the Army Corps of Engineers will build a rock berm to help stabilize the river bank, but that work would not start for 30 days. The berm is meant to protect the city's existing infrastructure, not necessarily protect the threatened homes.

Will insurance help if homes slide into the river?

People here want to know, but the holiday weekend has kept them from getting answers.

The Red Cross has set up a shelter at the First Baptist Church in Hamilton to help people.

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