RIRIE, Idaho – Flood-fight experts from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Walla Walla District, and Jefferson County officials are constructing a temporary levee embankment and reinforcing a connecting section of existing levee located on the Snake River near the Roberts Highway Bridge in Jefferson County.
The Corps contracted with Eagle Rock Timber Inc. of Idaho Falls to build up the 1.1 mile-long levee to reduce potential flood damage to nearby residential homes, businesses and critical infrastructure. Contractor and county workers ran up to 27 trucks at a time to complete embankment material placement yesterday, according to Herb Bessey, Corps flood-fight team leader there. They are now working to protect that new fill material by placing large rock rip-rap over the top of it and should be done by the end of the week.
Just across the river, the Corps provided technical assistance to Jefferson County officials who are flood-fighting on that shoreline.
Recent rainy weather and warming spring temperatures melting a record-level snowpack in upper Snake River Basin have caused unusually high flows in the river. Those flows have caused damage to several flood-protection structures that help protect residents, businesses and critical infrastructure along the river from seasonal flooding.
A team of trained flood-fight specialists from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Walla Walla District, deployed May 25 to support Jefferson County’s flood preparation efforts. About a week later, rising river levels in Madison County spurred a call for assistance to the Corps. The Corps’ Jefferson County team expanded its area of support to include Madison.
The Corps team has monitored flood-threatened areas of the Snake River between Heise Hot Springs and Roberts, and also provided technical assistance to Madison County’s efforts to repair erosion damage at the Twin Bridges river crossing near Archer, Idaho.
The Corps continues to provide technical, material or direct assistance in response to requests from state and county emergency management officials.
Recent National Weather Service reports for the Rexburg area indicate there will be plenty for the Corps team to keep an eye on.
The National Weather Service issued an official Flood Warning today for areas of Southeastern Idaho, including areas of Madison and Jefferson counties. The NWS’s Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service website http://water.weather.gov/ahps2/index.php?wfo=pih&view=1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1&toggles=10,7,8,2,9,15,6 offers a map of Southeastern Idaho with clickable links to river gauge locations which include site-specific weather warnings, forecasts and river flow information.
The Henrys Fork near Rexburg peaked on May 26 at stage of 10.96 feet. It has receded but is forecasted to rise again next week to above moderate flood stage, according to National Weather Service forecasts. At moderate flood stage, potential impacts include the flooding of farmland and pastureland near the river, with some low-lying secondary and access roads near the river flooded, and Lower Beaver Dick Park under water, including portions of Warm Slough Access.
Residents of flood-prone areas are encouraged to keep informed of changing river and weather conditions on the National Weather Service website and by tuning in to local radio and television news stations.
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. The Corps also provided 50 rolls of plastic sheeting to Jefferson County and 35 rolls to Bingham County to help protect flood structures from being washed away by flood-level river flows.
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.
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.
For Corps updates and photos of flood-fight efforts in Idaho and Wyoming, visit our Facebook site www.facebook.com/WallaWallaUSACE.