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Latah Creek expected to flood today; weather service issues flood warning for Spokane region

UPDATED: Thu., Feb. 16, 2017

By Kip Hill and Jonathan Glover The Spokesman-Review

The National Weather Service has issued a flood warning for the Latah Creek and Latah area south of Spokane.

The river is currently at 7.97 feet and flood stage is at 11 feet, said NWS forecaster Greg Koch. It is expected to rise up to 12.3 feet by late night before it begins to go back down.

Latah Creek also is known as Hangman Creek.

A city employee in Latah said at about noon Thursday there had been no reports of flooding in town. A large field in Tekoa was flooded but there were no reports of damage there.

Koch said it was unlikely residents of Latah would be affected, though the Hangman Valley Golf Course near U.S. Highway 195 is likely to experience some flooding.

Doug Chase, director of Spokane County Parks, Recreation and Golf, said at about noon the water was within 2 feet of cresting onto the golf course, meaning it likely will flood at night.

Chase said the pedestrian and vehicle bridges on the golf course are designed so that railings and panels can be easily removed, reducing the likelihood of damage.

And just days ago, workers completed the most recent phase of a long-running effort to stabilize the creek shoreline that abuts the golf course, Chase said. “This is exactly what we did that for – for this kind of event,” he said.

Days of rain and warm weather have resulted in rising water levels in rivers and creeks throughout Spokane County.

Koch said this is the first time Latah Creek has been in danger of flooding in more than two decades.

“It’ll be interesting for the residents who haven’t seen it before,” he said.

Smaller streams and creeks on the Palouse have been the most affected, Koch said. Larger rivers, such as the Spokane River and Coeur d’Alene River, were not at risk of flooding.

Some residents near Moscow, Idaho along Paradise Creek were experiencing flooding today, Koch said.

Rattler Run Creek flooded sections of First Street, which is also state Highway 27, in Fairfield in south Spokane County early this morning. City officials said it happened around 5 or 6 a.m. and lasted for a few hours before the water retreated. No property was damaged and nobody was injured.

A flood warning was also issued in Boundary County. The Road and Bridge Department at 73 Sunrise Road on Bonners Ferry is handing out free sandbags for residents. People are urged not to take more than they need and must find sand to fill the bags themselves.

Spokane’s stormwater tanks overflowing

Six of the 25 pipes leading into the Spokane River were spilling out a mixture of storm runoff on raw sewage as of Thursday morning, accordingt to monitoring by the City of Spokane.

Four pipes near the downtown core, what the city calls “combined stormwater overflow” points, were discharing into the river, along with one pipe near the Trent Avenue bridge and another along Pettet Drive near Doomsday Hill. Discharges began Wednesday evening and continued into the morning Thursday.

The city has been constructing massive underground tanks to capture stormwater runoff in an attempt to prevent sewage from reaching the river, with two major downtown projects beginning this year. When completed, the tanks will be capable of collecting 14.3 million gallons of water before sewage is discharged into the river before being diverted to the city’s wastewater treatment plant.

Marcia Davis, a principal engineer in the city’s Integrated Capital Management department, said the new tanks being constructed near City Hall and at First Avenue and Adams Street will address much of the current runoff near downtown.

“That’s mostly impervious area, where you get a lot of runoff,” Davis said. “That’s the one area that we always get a lot of overflows.”

Work on the tank at First and Adams recently closed portions of Sprague Avenue as workers prepare to bury the tank later this year.

Brook Beeler, a spokeswoman for the Washington Department of Ecology based in Spokane, said the primary concern during runoff events is health and safety.

“We want to advise folks, to avoid any contact with flooding water that may maintain material from the sewer,” Beeler said.

There are no provisions in the city’s current permit with the Ecology Department to limit overflow into the river, which has averaged at about 52 million gallons annually over the past five years, Beeler said. The agency is working to draft a new permit, under guidance from the Environmental Protection Agency, that is expected to limit the number of outflows to one event, per pipe, per year.

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