LORENZO, Idaho – U.S. Army Corps of Engineers emergency responders completed flood-fight operations yesterday, May 22, to stabilize a section of the Heise-Roberts Levee System, on the Snake River near Lorenzo, Idaho, according to USACE Walla Walla District emergency managers.
High-flow conditions in the Snake River had eroded an approximately 300-feet-long segment of the Heise-Roberts Levee System, about 3.7 miles downstream from the U.S. Route 20 bridge in Jefferson County. The levee was eroding at about 2 feet a day, eventually washing away about half of the width of the levee in that location. Immediate emergency repairs were necessary to prevent further erosion which posed a threat to the structural integrity of the levee and about 65 homes located within the leveed area.
A team of USACE trained flood-fight specialists from the Walla Walla District, arrived on site May 16 in response to a request from Jefferson County emergency managers for help with the situation. The USACE team assessed the levee damage, determined appropriate emergency protective measures, and coordinated for construction-contract work to stabilize the levee. Jefferson County built up access roads for equipment to make it the river and coordinated access to the site with local land owners.
The emergency-repair contract was awarded by USACE to Sand Point Generating, LLC, an Alaska Native Corporation in Boise, Idaho. The contractor brought additional crews and equipment from almost a dozen local contractors.
“Working collaboratively with the county, Flood Control District #1, the state and our contractor, we were able to stabilize the levee as quickly as possible,” said Andy Rajala, Upper-Snake and Clearwater resident engineer for the Walla Walla District’s Construction Branch.
"It is not a quick or easy task to mobilize such a large effort. We are very happy to have this project completed so quickly, and extend our appreciation to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the contractor, and the many local agencies and subcontractors," said Rebecca Squires, Emergency Manager, Jefferson County Idaho.
Cooperation and teamwork was key when challenges arose, Rajala noted.
“There were a lot of unknown factors before we got there,” he said. “One of the complexities we discovered was how much of the levee had been eroded beneath the water’s surface. One of the under-water eroded areas took nine truckloads of rock to fill the void. That’s about 200 cubic yards of material just in that one spot.”
Contractor crews used approximately 6,500-7,000 cubic yards of rock and fill material to conduct the emergency levee repairs.
“The rock and fill material provided locally by the flood control district enabled the work to be completed much more efficiently than if material had to be trucked in from far away," said Rajala. "In fact, we finished just in time, before dams upstream had to increase flows due to spring runoff.”
USACE water management officials continue coordinating with other federal and non-federal dam managers throughout the greater-Columbia River basin to make adjustments in river system operations that will best accommodate the increased seasonal run-off inflows. They’re monitoring stream gages, weather forecasts, snow melt rates, reservoir capacities and other data to best determine how to manage flows to minimize flood risks to communities, while planning for authorized irrigation storage for agriculture needs.
“We're watching rivers and streams throughout the Walla Walla District area of operations and staying in touch with local emergency officials, so if requested to, we can plan, prepare or act,” said Jeff Stidham, Walla Walla District’s emergency operations manager. “Our top priority is the public’s safety, so we’re encouraging folks in low-lying parts of flood-prone areas stay tuned to information and advisories provided by the National Weather Service or their local emergency-service agencies and be ready to take action according to local flood response plans.”
Idaho Office of Emergency Management https://ioem.idaho.gov/ encourages Idaho residents to be prepared to respond to localized flooding. Individuals are encouraged to contact local emergency management agencies to ensure they understand how to receive updates and information specific to their location. Jefferson County residents can register for alerts online http://www.co.jefferson.id.us/Emergency_Management.php.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is authorized to work with states, counties and other public entities to provide necessary resources and information. USACE does not have authority to provide disaster assistance directly to individuals. The organization will continue to carefully watch the evolving situation and respond, when requested, with whatever assistance is authorized, appropriate and available.
The first responsibility for protecting homes and property from flood damage rests with the individual. Local governments and agencies, such as flood control districts, may share in this responsibility, and together form a community's first line of defense in preventing flood damages.
Occasionally, however, local resources are not able to control or contain a flood emergency situation. The USACE flood disaster assistance program is intended to supplement and assist local governments, institutions and special-purpose districts when more help is needed.
The District is prepared to assist states and municipalities with flood-management support, if requested, said Jeff Stidham, Walla Walla District disaster response manager. That assistance could include technical expertise, supplies and materials, equipment or contracts for emergency flood-fighting work.
State, tribal, and county agencies needing disaster assistance from USACE should contact the Walla Walla District Emergency Management Office at 509-527-7146, or 509-380-4538. More information about Flood Assistance programs is available on the District website at http://www.nww.usace.army.mil/Missions/Flood-Assistance/.