Corie and the giant landslide

Sections of the old SR 410
among the landslide ruins.
By guest blogger Summer Derrey

"Cooorrrriiiiee!" The employees at Eagle Rock Grocery west of Naches, echo his name like a familiar character from the sitcom Cheers. Corie is easy to spot in his orange safety vest and boots.

Most everyone in the Nile Valley recognize Corie Henke, WSDOT field engineer. He’s the guy who stood side-by -side with the residents of the Nile Valley when the mountain collapsed in Oct. 2009, crushing the highway, uplifting the river bed and flooding their properties. Corie was the lead field engineer organizing the chaos in the midst of disaster.

Property owners were told to quickly remove all their belongings, and say one last goodbye to their previously peaceful and beautiful Nile River Valley homes before the river busted through the temporary dam. Corie was the compassionate WSDOT employee begging for just a few more hours or maybe one more day so all the property owners could get there before it was too late.

Governor Gregoire declared a state of emergency, and told the Nile Valley residents they would get a temporary route in 30 days, by Thanksgiving.

Our crews gulped.

“I was just the conductor in a very large and expensive orchestra.” Corie said he did not do all of the work.

Our contracted crews built the temporary route by the deadline. They were nervous, but they did it.

Natural disasters speed up funding and permitting processes; that’s why the temporary route went up so quickly more than two years ago. Since the area is now stable, crews have to follow the rule-book for the permanent fix. Federal partners provided funding, and the legislature stepped up with the necessary match. Construction to build the permanent route along the toe of the landslide is starting in June with some preliminary work in March.

The $9.3 million project removes traffic from Nile Loop Road and reroutes it closer to the original SR 410 highway along the toe of the landslide. Crews will also stabilize the slope on the west end of the slide, and add guardrail to the new route. The intersection by the Woodshed Restaurant is also getting a few upgrades.

In anticipation of construction, Corie went out to the Nile Valley to make some field observations. On that morning, the fog held tightly, cuddled in the crevices of the landslide as if it were a permanent part of the valley. Two years after the disaster, slabs of yellow skip-striped asphalt still peek out of the rubble like an orphaned highway.

Corie’s boss asked him to take off the hard hat and put on a tie for the project’s upcoming open house. He has a saying about putting on a tie; “it’s not this field engineer’s style.” Residents probably won’t recognize Corie with a tie on, but they will recognize his bright orange safety vest and ear-to-ear grin.

Come say “hi” to Corie at the open house on March 27, 2012, from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Nile Valley Community Church at 60 Bedrock Lane in Naches.