Friday, June 3, 2011

Sandbaggers, unite!

When all signs point to flooding, we should use foresight rather than hindsight.


As the Big Wood River and its tributaries swell, we should be more than aware that the banks of the river may not be able to hold the volume of water and erosion debris that it creates, carries and deposits on its trip south. What we see from this year's amount of snow, its fairly high water content and its later-than-normal melt is a very high possibility of larger-than-normal water surge on the Big Wood and its tributaries. My 8-Ball says, "All signs point to flooding."

As property owners and caretakers, we should be preparing for fast-rising water levels. Every property that is affected by rising waters has its own method to curb, control or reroute the flows that they will encounter. Now is the time for preparation.

I hope that our local government agencies are prepared to deal with the consequences of an unmerciful snowmelt. Rather than waiting until the flooding and deposition manifest their devastation, we should be doing what we can prior to the occurrence.

We should be clearing large trees that have been deposited in the rivers. These many trees that, in low-snow years create little but pastoral nuisances, offer in high-level snow years prime areas for deposition accumulation and water-holding logjams.

We should be filling sandbags by the thousands, keeping a supply on hand for emergencies and placing others where they will do the most good before the waters rise above the normal high-water levels.

We should be making sure culverts are clear and unclogged. We should make sure our irrigation gates and water control levees are ready for an onslaught.

I suggest that one way the local governments prepare to control flooding before it happens is to create a separate emergency funding device to hire a large temporary workforce to do the anti-flood preparation work that must be done. Where do we get these workers? That's a no-brainer. There are hundreds upon hundreds of unemployed able-bodied men and women in this valley who would jump at the chance to bring home some cash while helping out their neighbors, even if it is only for a few weeks.

We could wait until it's too late. We could apply for federal emergency monies after the fact. Or we could use the resources we have—hundreds of "needing-work" families and the tools and equipment housed in street-department, parks-department, fire-department and water-department garages and their respective supply yards. And if there are not enough shovels, sand, bags and other individual preparation tools, use the purchasing resources of those agencies to ship them in and have them ready for use.

When all signs point to flooding, we should use foresight rather than hindsight. As my grandmother used to say, "A stitch in time saves nine."

Curt Mays lives in Blaine County.

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