Arrow-right Camera


High Water Brings On A Gulf Of Concerns As Rivers And Lakes Rise, One Man’s Levee Is Another Man’s Ruined View

Thu., May 15, 1997

Flood troubles started to multiply in North Idaho on Wednesday as streams and rivers backed up and spilled over roads and property.

The rising Coeur d’Alene River near Rose Lake fueled a dispute between one family and its neighbors who are trapped up the impassable Bull Run Road.

In Mullan, residents were sandbagging in the middle of the night to keep Mill Creek out of their basements.

Super Foods customers in St. Maries watched a growing flow of water from a nearby leaking levee creep toward their cars.

But St. Maries did receive some welcome news in the middle of its flood-fighting effort Wednesday. Idaho Republican Sens. Larry Craig and Dirk Kempthorne announced that the Economic Development Administration has awarded Benewah County a $2.1 million grant to reconstruct and improve the Meadowhurst and Riverdale levees.

Orofino received a $1 million grant for levee and stream bank work.

“The flood grants for these Northern Idaho communities are long overdue,” Craig said. “Not only are these people trying to recover from last year’s floods, but they’re also facing additional flooding right now.”

The EDA grant to St. Maries was held up because of controversy over the cutting of cottonwoods along the dikes. The trees provide perches for bald eagles.

Because the improvements weren’t done in time for the spring flood season, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers sent a flood-fighting team to make emergency improvements to the weakening levees.

On Wednesday, they continued to widen and strengthen a weak spot in the Cottonwood levee. The leaky levee near Super Foods was one that got a facelift last summer by the state highway department.

In Kootenai County, the Eastside Highway District is raising Bull Run Road, to the delight of some residents and the dismay of at least one family.

Mail carriers haven’t been delivering mail for weeks because of water on the road. Recently, it got so deep that families have had to paddle boats to get their children to the school bus.

Dori Rice’s family is staying at a motel while she watches their house at the end of Bull Run Road near Rose Lake.

“If there were an emergency, you’re pretty well stuck,” Rice said.

But neighbors Curt and Barbara Dehart are aghast at the truckloads of rock that are being dumped on the road that crosses between their house and Bull Run Lake.

Their yard is part of the lake now, but they’d rather have that than what’s coming.

“I just feel sick over this. It’s going to ruin us,” said Barbara Dehart. “We want to have a view of the lake. We’ll have a view of the dike.”

Bull Run Road isn’t the only one covered in water. About two dozen residents are isolated because of water over roads in Kootenai County.

Another 50 to 75 families will be stranded once the rising Coeur d’Alene River makes Latour Creek Road near Cataldo impassable. The river now is about 2 feet over flood stage in Cataldo.

Other affected roads are CCC Road, Dudley Road, Kilarney Lake Road, Rainy Hill Road, Medimont Road and Rose Creek Road.

The Old River Road along the North Fork of the Coeur d’Alene River is impassable also, isolating about 25 to 30 homes, said Bill Scott of Shoshone County Disaster Services. Only residents with highclearance vehicles have been making the drive, he said.

Water from the rising St. Joe River cut off access from the St. Joe River Road to Calder, forcing residents there to take a 20-mile detour to go to St. Maries.

Scott’s biggest problem Wednesday, however, was Mullan, where Mill Creek jumped its banks and surged down streets and into four basements.

Old bulwarks, mining ties and tires are eroding out of the banks of the creek and plugging up culverts, Scott said.

“About the time you get one fixed, it pops loose somewhere else,” Scott said. “We still have a culvert plugged there, and we have sandbags around the houses, but water’s still running into the basements.”

The flood threat isn’t over yet. According to the Natural Resource Conservation Service, the snowpack is still 176 percent of normal at the headwaters of the St. Joe River.

“It’s really just getting started at the high elevations,” said Phil Morrisey, NRCS hydrologist.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 color photos

Click here to comment on this story »