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Fish and Game addressing Lemhi River flooding concerns

BAKER, Idaho (KIFI) - Homeowners in the small town of Baker, Idaho are still recovering from the intense flooding in the Lemhi River nearly three months ago.

Several residents in Baker questioned whether a recent Fish and Game project to restore the natural flow of the Lemhi and the fish habitat might have played a factor.

Regional Director Tom Curet tells us there have been "over 700 projects have been implemented in the last 20 years on the Land High River trying to improve fish habitat and to make things better for agriculture."

He says while it’s unclear if the project caused the flooding they are making changes to help in the future.

“The engineers geomorphologist are reviewing the project and they are going to make some alterations at the top to help make sure this doesn't happen in the future," Curet said. "However, that said, there will be icing events in the future."

Curet tells us while seasonal flooding can be predicted, flooding is almost impossible to predict case of an ice jam or snap freeze.

The parties in charge of the project have committed to financially compensate the people directly affected by the flooding. But Baker native Chad Stephenson says, "they’re not exactly moving at a ranchers pace."

“I was affected three months ago..." Stephenson said. "...I just had a guy out last week to initially look at the damage of my hay. So that took them three months just to get somebody here to look at the damages. They just need to be faster with responded to us.”

According to Director Curet, they can’t fully assess how much damage the flooding caused until the ice melts.

While many neighbors lost thousands of dollars in property and crop damage, Suzanne Nebeker says the damage you can’t see is just as important.

“On the day of the flood, I had a lot of water coming in on the house," Nebeker said. "Probably four feet of water coming all the way around the house. I was trying to dig a trench to get it out, get it away from the house. And it was 19 degrees. So the water was coming. It was icy and I slipped and fell and it completely tore my rotator cuff. And now I have to have shoulder replacement from that.”

Nebeker tells us while her neighbors and community were there for her, she received no help from the county.

“The county prosecuting attorney suggested that perhaps if they came on our property, a personal property, that we might sue them," Nebeker said. "And so that they were absent during the during the the event.”

While Fish and Game and their partners have addressed the community concerns, many still feel the county should have done more.

"Nobody knew who to call when this when this happened," Nebeker said. "Some people got sheriff some people called fishing game. Some people called the ex-mayor. So nobody knew nobody there was no point person."

Regardless of whether or not the habitat restoration project impacted the flooding, people are still concerned it could happen again and what will happen if it does.

“I am very concerned of what's going to happen in the future," Stephenson said. "You know, even when high water starts coming out this spring there's going to be an issue."

Nebeker adds, "the county needs to get together and make an emergency preparedness plan. They need to be able to have roles identified and then they need to be able to carry those out in these emergencies and disasters.”

Article Topic Follows: Idaho

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Seth Ratliff

Seth is a reporter for Local News 8.


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