Flooding is a chronic problem for livestock farmers in the Snoqualmie Valley. As rising water has worsened over the last few years, a King County program that protects cattle during floods is also rising in popularity.
K-T Cattle beef cows spend their entire lives on the same farm, but their home is about to move closer to the Snoqualmie River.
"In order to move the operation up here in order to scale it, the whole thing goes under water. We have to be able to get them out of the water," explained owner Jim Haack. "It looks like a lake with the tops of the trees sticking out."
Like most livestock farmers in the Snoqualmie Valley, flooding is an annual challenge. It's why his new elevated barn sitting atop a "farm pad" will literally save lives. It will also help feed lives, keeping beef local year round but also dry.
"A flood can be devastating for livestock. They get hypothermia and they'll drown," Haack said. "They get confused, and they don't know where to go. You'd think they'd swim for high ground, but a lot of times they do exactly the opposite."
The King County farm pad program helps farmers secure funding and engineering work. Since the program started in 2008, 30 farm pads have risen in the Snoqualmie Valley. According to the program's website, it gives "technical assistance for flood modeling; engineering and design assistance; logistical support for construction of farm pads, such as facilitating the movement of material from our capital project sites in the vicinity to the farm pad site; and assess alternative means of mitigating flood risks without placing fill material in the floodplain."
Haack has a 2-year waiting list for his beef. His cows may not know they're in such high demand, but they do know they prefer walking over swimming.
"What the pad and the barns give us (is) the ability to do is manage them on the pad all year long," Haack said.
The deadline to apply for King County's farm pad program is March 17.