Instead of tending his backyard garden this spring, Bob Carver is kayaking through 3 to 4 feet of water lapping up against his Rose Lake home.
The standing water surrounding his four acres has delivered an early mosquito season and attracted a moose, which is feasting on his apple trees.
“It’s very disheartening. We haven’t had to deal with this before,” said Carver, who has lived at the end of King Street for 24 years. “All I can do is sit around and watch the water rise or fall.”
So far, the water hasn’t done serious damage, but Carver is concerned about his septic system and the drywall in his garage. The plastic covering topping the crawl space beneath his home is floating on a foot of water.
Carver traces his problems to the December blowout of a section of state Highway 3 near his home. When the Idaho Transportation Department repaired the road and replaced the culvert, an aging floodgate that used to hold back the Coeur d’Alene River was not reinstalled. Now the river is flowing through the culvert and overflowing Rose Lake, Carver said.
ITD Operations Manager John Perfect said in an email to Rose Lake residents that his crews did not reinstall the floodgate both because it was almost as decayed as the culvert and because the ITD cannot take responsibility for flood control. No one has owned or maintained the floodgate since the mid-1980s, when it was owned by Washington Water Power, now Avista, Perfect said.
Rose Lake residents operate the gate to control flooding. Perfect said it’s unfortunate the Rose Lake area never created a formal flood district because it would have been eligible for emergency funding from the Army Corps of Engineers to replace the gate when the culvert blew out.
“Our purpose was limited to the reopening of (Highway 3),” Perfect wrote. “We are not a flood control or flood response agency.”
When the state Department of Environmental Quality became aware of the situation, it decided to pay to install a new floodgate on the culvert in order to protect the Rose Lake Water District from heavy-metals contamination, said Terry Harwood, executive director of the Coeur d’Alene Basin Commission.
But, said Harwood, “I can’t put the thing on there until fall when the water is way down. So that’s the situation.”
So Rose Lake residents will have to endure through the rest of spring, which is likely to include more high water. Just 20 miles to the east, Silver Valley mountains still have so much snow that Silver Mountain is opening for skiing on Saturday and Sunday.
Carver said he hopes the flooding won’t ruin the $100,000 environmental remediation of his acreage completed by the state last year.
“It’s just a bummer,” Carver said. “We’re just trying to protect what we have.”