JACKSON, Wyo. – The past weekend was no holiday for flood-fighters along the upper Snake River near Jackson, Wyoming.
Recent rainy weather and warming spring temperatures melting a near-record-level snowpack in river basin have caused unusually high flows in the river. Those flows have caused damage to several sections of the levee system that provides flood-risk management benefits to communities along the upper Snake River near Jackson in Teton County.
Trained flood-fight specialists from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Walla Walla District, deployed May 21 to support Teton County’s flood preparation efforts. Together, with community “levee watchers” they continue to monitor the river’s effect on protective levees owned by the Corps, the county, cities and private land owners.
On Thursday, the Corps completed emergency repairs on Taylor Number 1 and Taylor Number 3 levees near Fall Creek Road where the river was washing away protective rock, and at the 95 Ranch Levee Number 1 where the river had outflanked the levee and was beginning to over-top one part of the structure.
On Friday, work began on an area of the Evans Levee to replace protective rock being scoured away by the river in two areas on the levee structure – one area of damage was about 630 feet long, the other was about 100 feet long. The Corps contracted with Evans Construction Co. of Jackson, Wyo., to perform the repairs. Estimates for the two sites on Evans indicate it will require about one week to complete repairs.
Corps contractor Seaton Earthmover Inc. of Wilson, Wyo., continued work throughout the weekend to perform repairs to the Walton Levee to help protect the Walton Quarry Access Road. About 600 feet of protective rock had been washed away from the river side of the levee. The road is a critical avenue to the quarry where contractors are getting rock rip-rap to use for levee repairs throughout the Jackson Hole Levee Project area. Repairs are estimated to be complete by Wednesday, depending on river activity while work is being done.
Over the weekend and holiday, District staff visited ongoing repair sites and several flood-threatened areas of the levee system, including the Morgan, Imeson and Evans levees, to assess their status. They continue to work closely with state and county emergency management officials, reporting their observations, providing technical expertise and facilitating requests for direct assistance.
Residents of flood-prone areas are encouraged to keep informed of changing river and weather conditions on the National Weather Service website at http://water.weather.gov/ahps/forecasts.php – which includes flows data, weather forecasts and flood alerts – and by tuning in to local radio and television news stations.
Emergency management officials in Teton County encourage 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. Teton County’s website offers an alert system that will send emergency notices by text or email to residents’ electronic communication devices – sign up for free at http://www.tetonwyo.org/AgencyHome.asp?dept_id=em.
Early forecasts indicate that this will be one of the top five years on record. Snake River Basin water volumes are forecasted to be similar to 1997.
Corps water management officials continue coordinating with other federal and non-federal dam managers to make adjustments in river system operations that will best accommodate the increased run-off inflows. Reservoirs are being drafted ahead of anticipated heavy spring runoff. The Corps works closely with other agencies and local government entities to notify the public as early as possible when changes to flows are necessary.
The Corps is authorized to work 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 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 Corps’ flood disaster assistance program is intended to supplement and assist local governments, institutions and special-purpose districts when more help is needed.
The Walla Walla District is prepared to assist states and municipalities with flood-management support, if requested, said Jeff Stidham, Walla Walla District emergency management specialist. That assistance could include technical expertise, supplies and materials, equipment or contracts for emergency flood-fighting work.
“We're watching rivers and streams throughout the Walla Walla District and staying in touch with local emergency officials so, if requested to, we can plan, prepare or act,” said Stidham. “Our top priority is the public’s safety, so we’re encouraging folks in low-lying parts of flood-prone areas stayed 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.”
State and local agencies needing disaster assistance from the Corps should contact the Walla Walla District Emergency Management Office at (509) 527-7146, or (509) 380-4538.
For more information about Emergency Management Assistance, check out the District’s Web site at www.nww.usace.army.mil/html/offices/op/em/flodasst.htm or call (509) 527-7145.