19-038 Seasonal runoff forecasted to increase river flows; Corps ready to assist communities

Published April 23, 2019

Warming spring temperatures and recent rainfall in Idaho, and parts of eastern Washington and Oregon, are melting snowpack throughout the Snake River Basin. Corps reservoir managers are monitoring rivers and tributaries within the basin watershed, noting increasing flows from seasonal runoff. Some rivers in the basin are already at, or forecasted to soon reach, bankfull or flood-stage conditions, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Weather Service River Forecast Center which can be found online at https://www.nwrfc.noaa.gov/rfc/.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Walla Walla District activated its Emergency Operations Center at Level-3, yesterday afternoon, April 22, to more closely monitor seasonal flooding conditions throughout the Basin, according to District Readiness Division Disaster Response Manager Jeff Stidham.

“Walla Walla District disaster-response experts are prepared to assist states and municipalities with flood-management support,” he said. “That assistance could include technical expertise, supplies and materials, equipment or contracts for emergency flood-fighting work. District flood support teams and technical experts are ready to deploy should local emergency managers request Corps assistance.”

Recent assistance provided to communities includes 2,000 sandbags issued to Ukiah, Oregon, on April 9, to protect their sewage lift station; and technical consultation provided to Lewis County, Idaho, on April 10, to help emergency managers there address flooding on Lawyers Creek.

The Corps coordinates closely with other federal and non-federal water managers to make adjustments in reservoir system operations that will best accommodate the increased seasonal flows.

For example, the Corps and the Bureau of Reclamation operate three dams on the Boise River as a system to manage flood control and irrigation storage needs -- Lucky Peak Dam and Lake (Corps), Arrowrock Dam (Reclamation) and Anderson Ranch Dam (Reclamation). During the past several weeks, water releases from Lucky Peak were incrementally increased to bring flows in the river to a level just below bankfull level, or near 6,500 cubic feet per second at the Glenwood Bridge monitoring gauge in Boise, Idaho. Water managers plan to sustain this below-flood-stage flow level as the snowpack melts, allowing the system -- Lucky Peak, Arrow Rock and Anderson Ranch reservoirs -- to slowly refill with the high inflows to provide water for irrigators while maintaining space in the reservoirs to minimize flood risks to local communities.

Corps officials communicate with local officials to obtain on-site observations from communities located along rivers throughout the Walla Walla District area of operations. This area covers the Snake River Basin, plus a portion of the middle Columbia River and tributaries.

Disasters and emergency situations -- like flooding -- can occur anywhere, often with little or no prior warning. Corps officials encourage everyone to keep local emergency management contact information handy, keep an eye on evolving weather and streamflow conditions, and be familiar with emergency action plans for your specific location. Be prepared and stay informed so you’ll be ready to react if an emergency occurs near you.

BE PREPARED ~ Become familiar with local emergency management plans for you area. For example, if your home becomes flooded, to which emergency shelter should you take your family? What route should you take to safely get there? Will the shelter allow pets? What should you have ready to bring with you?  Links to emergency management office contact information is provided, by state, below:

WASHINGTON ~ Contact information for county emergency management offices in Washington State can be found on the state’s Emergency Management Division website https://www.mil.wa.gov/emergency-management-division/.

IDAHO ~ County emergency coordinators in Idaho State are listed on the Idaho Office of Emergency Management website https://ioem.idaho.gov/about/contact/county-tribal-emergency-managers-contacts/

OREGON ~ The Oregon State Office of Emergency Management provides a list of county emergency managers on its website https://www.oregon.gov/oem/Documents/locals_list.pdf.

WYOMING ~ Wyoming’s Office of Homeland Security provides contact information for county emergency coordinators at http://wyohomelandsecurity.state.wy.us/counties.aspx

NEVADA ~  Nevada’s Department of Public Safety website offers a list of county and major city emergency management offices http://dem.nv.gov/Resources/Agency_Contact_Lists/.

UTAH ~ The Utah Emergency Management Division website provides an interactive map linking to county office webpages at https://dem.utah.gov/

STAY INFORMED ~ Weather forecast information and extreme weather warnings can be found on the National Weather Service (NWS) website https://www.weather.gov/.  NWS Forecast Stations serving areas within the Corps’ Walla Walla District area of operations include:

• NWS Spokane - serves northeastern and far-eastern Washington (includes Garfield and Asotin counties) and northern Idaho

• NWS Pendleton - serves south-central Washington (as far east as Columbia County) and northeastern Oregon

• NWS Riverton - serves western and central Wyoming

• NWS Boise - serves southwestern Idaho and southeastern Oregon

• NWS Pocatello - serves southeastern Idaho

• NWS Missoula - serves central Idaho and northwestern Montana 

• NWS Elko - serves most of northern Nevada

• NWS Salt Lake City - serves Utah

The Corps works with states, counties and other public entities to provide necessary resources and information.  The Corps does not have authority to provide disaster assistance directly to individuals. 

The first responsibility for protecting life, 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 minimize the effects of flooding. The Corps’ flood assistance program is intended to supplement state and local governments and special-purpose districts when more help is needed.

State and local agencies needing disaster assistance from the Corps should contact the Walla Walla District Emergency Management Office at 509-527-7146.

Individuals and business owners are encouraged to contact local emergency management agencies to ensure they understand how to prepare, respond and recover from a flood.

For more information about the Corps’ Emergency Management Assistance programs, check out the District’s website at https://www.nww.usace.army.mil/Missions/Flood-Assistance/


Public Affairs Office

Release no. 19-038