CLEARWATER RIVER BASIN, Idaho – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Walla Walla District deployed a four-member team of technical experts on Monday, Nov. 30, to assess post-wildfire conditions and associated flood risks in Clearwater and Idaho counties, Idaho.
Tens of thousands of acres of steep mountainsides and watersheds in these counties were scorched by the Municipal and Clearwater Complex wildfires. These severe fires destroyed the vegetation cover, and the charred ground cannot easily absorb rainwater, increasing the risk of flooding and landslides.
In anticipation of this increased risk to lives and property, the State of Idaho Bureau of Homeland Security (IBHS) requested the Corps to provide Advance Measures technical assistance to evaluate the situation there and identify potential mitigation measures. Corps headquarters approved and funded the request for support under Flood Control and Coastal Emergencies authority. The cost for technical assistance provided under an Advance Measures request is covered by federal funding.
Corps experts in hydrology, sedimentation, geology (as applied to landslides) and engineering are investigating the post-fire conditions and will provide risk assessments to county governments before winter conditions fully settle into the region.
With the Idaho Silver Jackets helping to facilitate coordination with other federal, state and local agencies -- including U.S. Geological Survey, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Idaho Department of Water Resources, U.S. Forest Service and county officials -- the Corps team will identify potential landslide or debris-flow areas; assess risk to life and improved property (including life safety); prepare documentation (maps and reports) to communicate this risk to the county and local governments; and identify potential mitigation options, up to and including potential sites for direct assistance under Advance Measures.
The Corps’ coordination with other agencies includes gathering geographic information systems (GIS) data and other documentation generated during the initial post-fire recovery phase that may be useful to the Advance Measures technical support team and non-federal emergency managers.
Following the technical team’s assessment, the state may decide to submit another Advance Measures request for direct assistance from the Corps to implement potential flood-risk mitigation actions. The cost for direct-assistance actions under an Advance Measures request may be shared, depending upon the type of proposed mitigation action.
The Corps has authority to perform Advance Measures prior to flooding or flood fighting activities to protect against loss of life and significant damages to urban areas and/or public facilities due to an imminent threat of unusual flooding. Advance Measures assistance may be taken prior to a flood, a hurricane or coastal storm, or a storm on an inland body of water, or a closed basin flood.
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. Individuals and business owners are encouraged to contact local emergency management agencies to ensure they understand flood risk in their areas, and how to prepare, respond to and recover from a flood.
For more information about the Corps’ Emergency Management Assistance programs, check out the Walla Walla District’s Web site at www.nww.usace.army.mil/Missions/FloodAssistance.aspx.