Thursday, April 20, 2017

Flood Emergency

This home near Parma has been flooded since February, Ritter photo

Idaho Faces Flood Emergency into the Summer months

Boise-Idaho Governor Butch Otter says the state faces a flooding emergency.

"We've got to get the word out that this is a disaster waiting to happen and we don't need people to add to it by getting on the river," Otter said.
This as city and county administrators work to get across the severity of the situation at hand.

Boise Mayor Dave Bieter echoed the governors comments saying the Boise River is running above flood stage.

"We've closed the Greenbelt in many, many areas. Far more areas are closed than are open because of the unpredictability of this situation,” said Bieter.

Canyon County Commissioner Tom Dale says all the runoff from Boise runs through Canyon County. Its so wet that farmers cannot irrigate to ease flooding and areas along the Boise and Snake Rivers are treacherous.

"I had a report from a rancher just last week of a bull being washed away. It got too close to the bank and if a bull can get washed away, a kid can get washed away, you can get washed away as an adult. So if that bank is not stable that river is powerful,” Dale said.

Snowpack in the mountains should be melting, but most snotel sites report gains around the state. According to NRCS snow depth is more than double the average in many areas. That means that counties, cities and homeowners need emergency plans in place now, because three warm days in a row could be disastrous.

Water managers said on most days water is coming into the Boise reservoir system faster than what the Army Corp of Engineers is letting out. Over time it's eaten into the remaining capacity, which the Corp says is at 32 percent; only half of what they have normally at this time.

"We have made a very calculated decision to this point to keep the flows at where they're at, we absolutely could have released enough water to match up with those record run-offs, but the result would have been absolutely flooding Boise," LTC Damon Delarosa with the Army Corp of Engineers said.

The Bureau of Reclamation, Board of Control and the  U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will run the river at high flows over a longer period of time and into the summer to avoid even larger releases that could flood residential areas.

In Eastern Idaho snowpacks are 120 to 150 percent of normal, they’re still waiting for the big runoff, and managers say they can’t keep up. At Palisades and other reservoirs above the Snake River they've been releasing water for months. The flood emergency could stretch into the June and July, according to the Corp of Engineers.

The Idaho Office of Emergency Management says the initial damage estimates from flooding, avalanches, and mudslides from all across the state are in the excess of $62 million. The state has applied for federal aid, but was denied.

Otter announced an appeal to that decision is in the envelope and plans to be sent off Wednesday.

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