WashoutsJun 15, 2017 By Daniel Bendtsen, Staff Writer
As water levels begin receding in local rivers, Fremont County officials are now assessing the damage that was done by flooding last week and figuring out what financial assistance they'll be eligible for.
Kathi Metzler, the county's emergency management coordinator, said her report on local damage is due to the Department of Homeland Security by Wednesday, June 28.
Local damage valuations will be coupled those statewide, and Gov. Matt Mead could then ask for federal emergency declaration.
If granted, that which would provide for public assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, assuming public damage exceeds $1 million.
Ideally, local officials could be reimbursed for overtime costs, preventive work, and damage to roads and culverts.
However, Metzler said "we cannot guarantee that's we're going to get anything out of the work we're putting in."
It is unlikely that the state will be eligible for FEMA's individual assistance, which requires damage to at least 100 homes.
In Fremont County 8,500 acres served by the Riverton Valley Irrigation District are still without water after the company's ditch was breached to prevent water from flooding the city.
By early this week, a section of the ditch was washed out, and private parties are currently working to figure out how that damage will be repaired.
Preliminary estimates have mentioned a figure of at least $100,000 for the repairs. Farmers on the ditch are nearing what typically is heavy irrigation season.
Increased streamflow in the Wind River also has eroded a significant chunk of Burris-Lenore Road, a tribal road that runs parallel to the Wind River's south bank near Crowheart.
State Rep. Jim Allen, R-Lander, has been a part of discussion for repairs for that road.
He said a Thursday conference call involving the Wyoming Department of Homeland Security should provide some clarity on how repairs will be made.
The road could also be eligible for federal assistance.
"We don't really know whether that criteria will be met until we can assess the final damage," he said.
Allen said the washout of Burris-Lenore Road is especially concerning because it's preventing access for emergency management services.
"There are at least three families that are isolated right now," he said. "I'm worried about structure fires, because there's no way to get a fire truck in there."
Fremont County Commissioner Clarence Thomas said repairs for Burris-Lenore Road are expected to cost at least $300,000.
Cody Beers, spokesman for the Wyoming Department of Transportation, said there's a possibility his organization could be involved with repairs on Burris-Lenore, but said "no decisions have been made, and nothing's been committed."
"It's going to be expensive, and it's going to be a long process, because you're going to have to work with the Army Corps of Engineers," he said.
Erosion in that section of the Wind River originally had jeopardized Wilderness Road, which is county maintained and runs along the north bank.Crews from the county's transportation department were on scene last week, reinforcing the north bank with boulders along a 300-foot section to divert water away from Wilderness Road.
"By doing that, we saved the road from being washed out," said transportation superintendent Dave Pendleton.
Pendleton said there is still some work to be done to fortify that protection that will be completed once water levels further recede.
Undersized culverts under Bunker Road outside Lander led to water running over that roadway, washing away gravel and creating holes.
Pendleton said Bunker Road will also require repair.