WCC members serve local communities through AmeriCorps program

A series of storms caused many Eastern Washington streams and rivers to flood last month. On March 17, Gov. Jay Inslee issued an emergency proclamation for all 20 counties east of the Cascades to free up state resources in case wet weather and flooding risks continue.

When disasters occur, local and tribal government partners and state officials often request on-the-ground assistance from Ecology’s Washington Conservation Corps (WCC) AmeriCorps members and crew supervisors.

WCC AmeriCorps members hand sandbags to each other in shallow standing water

On March 18, WCC crews help keep rising flood waters from Sprague.

The WCC provides hands-on experience, field skills, and training opportunities to young adults between 18 and 25 and military veterans. Our 300 members and 55 field supervisors across the state restore critical habitat, build trails, and protect the state’s natural, historic and environmental resources.

During disasters, however, WCC members and supervisors respond to assist communities in Washington and beyond.

2017 flood response in Sprague and Yakima

City officials and the state Military Department requested help battling flood waters in the Lincoln County town of Sprague on March 17, and WCC was able to respond the next day. WCC members based in Spokane, Walla Walla, Wenatchee, Yakima and Ellensburg filled and placed about 3,500 sandbags to protect Sprague homes and businesses. Members also reinforced and fixed sandbags to stay ahead of rising water levels.

WCC members remove sandbags and place them in a trailer

A WCC crew removes sandbags in Yakima.

The crews received a warm welcome. “It was refreshing to see the community come together and help our crews and each other,” said WCC supervisor Matt Cone, who was deeply moved by the experience. “The people volunteered their time, labor, supplies and food so that everyone was taken care of. Even in a stressful situation, this community showed a lot of heart.”

On March 20 and 21, another WCC crew responded to a similar request from the city of Yakima. Members took a day off from their regular duties with the North Yakima Conservation District to help the city clean up after widespread flooding. The crew removed nearly 4,000 sandbags from a previously flooded interchange.

WCC disaster response program

Our WCC crews have responded to local floods, wildfires, oil spills and landslides and have also been deployed to provide disaster relief and recovery assistance for floods, hurricanes and tornadoes around the nation. Four WCC crews are designated disaster response crews but any crew has the potential to be deployed.

Members and staff are trained to safely and effectively:

  • Clean up homes, roads and structures
  • Install emergency repairs such as roof tarps
  • Manage volunteers and donations
  • Remove trees and debris
  • Set up and operate emergency shelters

Learn more about WCC

Ecology's Washington Conservation Corps, an AmeriCorps program, consists of three subprograms: the original WCC, Veteran Conservation Corps and Puget SoundCorps. Recruitment for the 2017-2018 year will begin in July!

See photos of the types of projects WCC members support during their service in our WCC Projects Flickr set and WCC Featured Projects Story Map. To become a member of WCC, learn more and apply online today at ecology.wa.gov/wcc.