Washington State Department of Ecology - July 11, 2013

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WCC sending crews to help Alaska communities affected by severe floods

OLYMPIA – In response to severe flooding and ice flow damage along the Yukon River, the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) has sent 14 Washington Conservation Corps (WCC) AmeriCorps members and staff to Galena, Alaska, and other communities along the river to assist with recovery efforts.

High flood waters in late May forced most of Galena’s 450 residents to evacuate. Most homes, buildings and other structures were heavily damaged or destroyed. Many people are still living in temporary shelters while cleanup operations continue.

On June 25, President Barack Obama issued a federal disaster declaration for the affected area.

Last week, the federal Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) requested WCC help from Ecology. The 14 WCC staff left today for Anchorage where they will then board smaller aircraft bound for Galena and possibly other locations.

This includes a six-member team from Wenatchee and another six-member team from King County. Another two WCC supervisors have joined the group for the 30-day deployment.

Once in Galena, WCC staff will help lay the groundwork for other AmeriCorps crews to come in and assist. They will help set up and operate community shelters, distribute food, clothes and other supplies and assess damages to homes and other structures. Their work will be funded by Federal Emergency Management Agency funds.

Last year, WCC members went to New York and New Jersey to help with Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts. Staff also assisted with wild land firefighting efforts in Eastern Washington last summer. WCC have also sent members to Alabama, Florida, Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Texas to help residents affected by floods, tornadoes and hurricanes.

Established in 1983, the WCC is made up of young adults between 18 and 25. The program enrolls more than 300 AmeriCorps members annually. There are WCC crews and individual placements in more than 40 locations across the state.

Members receive job training, help restore and protect Washington’s environment, offer environmental education and volunteer opportunities for thousands of residents of all ages, and provide emergency assistance to citizens in Washington and across the nation.

Typical work includes building trails, planting trees and other natural vegetation and biological monitoring projects. In addition, WCC members attend a series of paid trainings throughout the year such as advanced wilderness first aid, wild land firefighting including using chainsaws and water pumps, and flood and hazardous material response.

WCC greatly expanded its environmental and community service to Washington residents in 1994 when it became a federally supported AmeriCorps Program. Being part of AmeriCorps enables the WCC to work outside Washington during national emergencies.

In exchange for their year of service, members earn minimum wage and an AmeriCorps education award of $5,550 that they can use to repay student loans or toward future tuition expenses.

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Media Contacts:

Curt Hart, 360-407-6990; cell, 360-480-7908; curt.hart@ecy.wa.gov

For more information:

Washington Conservation Corps (www.ecy.wa.gov/wcc)

Ecology’s social media (www.ecy.wa.gov/about/newmedia.html)