It’s dry half the year, but Pine Creek can turn aggressive after a heavy rain.
Pinehurst machinist Ray Dose saw the creek rip away 325 feet of levee on Presidents Day.
“When we first got here that morning, half the roadway was gone,” Dose said Wednesday, lurching along the top of the levee in his 1962 Jeep. “It just kept eating away.”
The near-failure of the levee above Dose’s home was a wake-up call for Shoshone County, says County Commission Chairwoman Sherry Krulitz. On Tuesday, the county held a meeting in Pinehurst to ask residents to help maintain the levee. If they don’t, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials say they won’t help repair the levees.
With the county facing a bill of roughly $25,000 just for the relatively small-scale flood fight at Pinehurst, commissioners say there’s no way the county could afford to repair damage after a catastrophic flood.
“Maybe it was a good thing that we had a near-miss a few weeks ago,” said Krulitz. “It makes us realize what could have happened.”
Of roughly five miles of levee around Pinehurst, more than two miles will lose Corps help unless residents cut down large trees, remove junk cars and knock down outbuildings on the levee, said corps official Doug Weber.
“We don’t want you to be out on your own,” he told the crowd of about 30. The problem levees include the main levee through downtown Pinehurst, he said.
“It’s a tough thing,” said Krulitz. “To most of those people, it’s their back yard. But to us, it’s an issue of having to get flood insurance or having them (the corps) come when we call.”
The junk cars and outbuildings impede workers rushing to fix a levee during a flood, Weber said.
Large trees fall into the stream, channeling water into the levee like a fire hose, ripping loose soil, grass and stones. That’s what happened on Feb. 20. County Public Works Director Randy Murray says the levee was about an hour from being breached when workers arrived.
It would have flooded Pinehurst’s nearby water treatment station, leaving the city without drinking water.
But many of the residents, including Dose, have bitter memories of the last time the county “trimmed” the brush on the levee. A county brush cutting machine ripped through trees, bushes and everything else with a whirling chain.
“None of us want to see the county come through and clearcut it,” said David Dose, Ray’s son and a former county commissioner himself.
He said it would leave “a big brown hump through the back of your property.”
In the end, the residents agreed to cut down the trees themselves - anything over four inches in diameter, on the top or river-side of the levee.
Ray Dose remains skeptical, saying the real problem is Pine Creek’s tendency to meander, swirling around into the levee.
Trees and outbuildings are minor problems, he said.
“We all need the dike. But you keep sending this football player to get his eyes fixed, and the problem is with his knees,” he said. “What we’re fixing to do here won’t help the dike one bit.”
Still, he said Wednesday, if the trees must be cut, he wants to be the one doing it.
“If you leave it to the county, they’ll just come in and skim it off clean,” he said.
His son agreed.
“I’m willing to take care of my own, for my own peace of mind,” said David Dose.
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