IDAHO FALLS AREA – As record spring flows continue to cause flooding in and near Roberts, Heise and Blackfoot, Idaho, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers continues to provide on-site support to county emergency managers.
Six flood-fight specialists from the Walla Walla District deployed yesterday and today to swap places with Corps teammates already at work in Jefferson, Madison and Bingham counties.
“We’re in this for the long haul,” said Walla Walla District Commander Lt. Col. David Caldwell. “The water hasn’t stopped yet, so neither has the Corps. We plan to periodically rotate our deployed flood-fight experts, so they can get a well-earned break, perform at the top of their game, and we can build depth for sustained operations.”
National Weather Service reports indicate the Idaho Falls area of the Snake River is likely to experience high flows through the end of June before the threat of flooding passes. The Corps deployment rotations will help sustain their support to counties’ efforts to minimize flooding in their communities, said Caldwell.
Jon Petersen, a hydraulic engineer from the District headquarters in Walla Walla, Wash., (hometown = Walla Walla) will become the Corps’ team leader supporting Bingham County emergency operations. Deploying with him are Rex Harding, a maintenance worker at Lucky Peak Dam and Lake near Boise (hometown = Boise, Idaho; born and raised in Jerome, Idaho), and Judy Turner, a power plant operator from Little Goose Lock and Dam near Starbuck, Wash. (hometown = Dayton, Wash.); both are trained flood-fight specialists.
Two other flood fight specialists are headed to Jefferson and Madison counties to provide relief for on-site Corps staff in the Heise-Roberts area of the river: Tommy Pangelinan, a maintenance leader at McNary Lock and Dam near Umatila, Ore. (hometown = Walla Walla, Wash.), and Dean Wilson, a utility worker at Little Goose Lock and Dam (hometown = Starbuck, Wash.).
The Corps’ Walla Walla District continues to provide technical, material or direct assistance in response to requests for assistance from Idaho State and county emergency management officials. Since the first week of May, the District has deployed a total of 17 trained flood-response specialists and delivered a total of 602,000 sandbags to counties and cities in the upper Snake River areas of Idaho and Wyoming. The Corps has also provided three Crisafulli pumps, a PTO-powered 'trailer pump', to support flood-fight efforts in Jefferson County, and one additional pump to help Bear Lake County flood-fighters. State, county and city emergency management agencies are taking additional precautions.
Minor to moderate flooding is occurring throughout Southeastern Idaho and Western Wyoming from recent rains and snowmelt. According to National Weather Service (NWS) forecasts, streams and rivers will continue to rise as spring weather continues to move in the region. Reservoirs are being drafted ahead of anticipated heavy spring runoff.
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.
Idaho Bureau of Homeland Security http://www.bhs.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. Most county emergency management departments in Idaho have flood-preparedness information on their websites. Idaho Bureau of Homeland Security has an alert system that, based on zip code, will send alerts to whatever device residents choose – sign up at https://mystateusa.com/alertSignup.aspx?region=670.
National Weather Service 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.