On Aug. 31, it’s time to defend our river, our recreation, our wildlife, and our property-
Don’t forget the public meeting the City is holding tonight, August 31 at 5:30 PM to 7:30 PM in the City Council Chambers.
Here is a letter from Dr. Chuck Trost. If you are interested in birds and live in Pocatello, you know who he is.
Back in the 1960s, Pocatello suffered two extraordinary floods on the Portneuf River, which runs through the middle of town. Before long Pocatello interests had cooked up a scheme with the ever willing Army Corps of Engineers. The mentality of that era was to put the river in concrete box through the most developed part of town and build a levee for several miles to the north and south of the box.
I wasn’t around in the 1960s, but when I moved to town, the Portneuf was an ugly, creepy channel, with poor public access (but who wanted it anyway?) with trash, a little brush, and noxious weeds growing on the levee, which ran through semi-agricultural areas.
Nature heals. As time went by the levee brush grew into trees of many species. The water became shaded and many kinds of birds returned (maybe someone could provide a list?).
Embarrassed by the condition of the river through town, city leaders looked with envy at places like Boise and Idaho Falls that had not ruined their local river, but had made a parkway along it. Little could be done about the concrete box (it was useful for drowning feral cats!), but the city tried. Parks were built along part of it. The Portneuf Greenway Foundation, however, did much more for the levee with an ambitious trail plan with now includes side trails leading up into the mountains. Many hundreds of of people use it daily.
The levee itself is neglected and certainly needs some work if it is to provide flood control, but the Corps, in a fashion so typical of their history, apparently wants to cut all “trees” with a circumference greater than 2 1/2 inches! To me that means pretty much all the woody vegetation. So it will be back to the 1970s or 60s if they get their way.
Of course, the word is out that we need the flood control. If the levee is not recertified maybe 500 people will have to buy flood insurance. Flood insurance is going to be the big argument.
Regarding flood insurance, consider this.
1. The floods of the 1960s are very unlikely to happen again. Acts of God they were not. They were what is to be expected when the upstream watershed is cultivated on very steep erodible slopes, left bare soil, or planted in winter wheat during the winter there is a big rainstorm on top of deep melting snow. Since that time, most of these fields have been taken out of production by the Conservation Reserve Project (CRP). The slopes no longer bleed thousands of tons of mud with every storm.
2. The levees have never provided much protection. The levees were not built to withstand floods like the 1960s. They only provide minor flood control now and in the past. Although they were certified so that houses could be built next to the river and people don’t have to buy flo0d insurance to get a mortgage, the levees do not really protect these houses from much. If the residents knew this, they would probably be buying flood insurance now.
Someone might say, “fine, you live somewhere that you don’t have to worry about the river!” Not so! We bought an existing house right on the river. We own right to the Portneuf’s water line.
The Portneuf River at waterline between the levees. The river is full (irrigation water diverted is returned in autumn).
The top of the levees, not in sight, are about ten feet above the waterline. Photo Ralph Maughan
We also bought flood insurance. We didn’t worry much about the levee, but after two years it was pretty clear there was a significant flood danger, but not from the Portneuf. The City had allowed development on the deltas of all the small tributaries of the Portneuf that run off of Kinport Peak just to the west. It became obvious to us after several hard rain storms and one winter when a tributary froze over that we didn’t live on a five hundred year flood plain or even a fifty year flood plain. We lived on one that flooded almost every year. We shelled out $300 for flood insurance. Now we don’t worry when the street in front of our house turns into a river nearly every cloudburst. I’m sorry for our neighbors, maybe they have purchased flood insurance too.
So, reject the Army Corps plans meant for decades ago. They have never provided much flood control with their levees, and it will be the same after they are done turning them back into a muddy, alternatively dusty and weedy messes. You are going to lose more property value if they cut the trees than any flood insurance will cost you.
Oh, and think about the increased railroad noise with no buffering vegetation!
The City is holding a meeting August 31 at 5:30 PM to 7:30 PM in the City Council Chambers. There will be a presentation as to what the City has learned about the Corps plans, and the public will be able to speak.
Story. Rule surprises Greenway Board. Idaho State Journal.