ONTARIO, ORE. - Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter on Saturday declared state disaster declarations for Cassia, Minidoka, Twin Falls and Washington counties as active flooding caused by rapid snow melt continued.
A news release from the Idaho Office of Emergency Management notes that agriculture infrastructure, homes and roads have all sustained significant damage, and that a state disaster declaration ensures that all necessary state resources are being made available for recovery efforts.
Gov. Otter and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown toured the devastation near the Idaho-Oregon state line on Friday. They got a firsthand look at some of the structure and agriculture building collapses brought on by heavy snow and ice. Officials estimate repairs will top $100 million.
Brown says that during her time in Oregon she has never seen anything like this. She likened the damage to something a tornado would have caused.
Brown acknowledged the community is hurting and says she will be pushing state agencies to get creative in ways to help to expedite recovery experts.
“It's getting the engineering folks out here to do an assessment, so folks have a clear picture of what the economic damage is, for their insurance, or if they don't have insurance, other federal programs that may be available,” Brown said.
They also took a helicopter flight to see the devastating effects of flooding on the region.
The governors said they will be working together to get as much state and federal assistance on the ground as possible.
Gov. Otter and Lt. Gov. Brad Little, along with other state officials, were in Payette Friday morning as the governor held his Capitol for a Day event. Residents are feeling the brunt of this unusual winter, and came out to voice their concerns.
Both governors acknowledged how the onion industry is suffering. Millions of pounds of onions have been lost. And for farmers in the area, it will be hard to recover from those losses.
Rebuilding and recovery was the main topic of conversation Friday.
“As we can see on the Oregon side and the Idaho side we've lost an awful lot of capital assets, and we had the SBA (Small Business Administration) here today. Already talked to the Department of Agriculture for how we can get reconstructed and back underway because we got the next year of agriculture coming at us," Otter said.
The governors plan to work closely together to get back capital assists lost, continue to clear snow off threatened structures, and how to dispose of thousands of perished onions.
State officials say the main goal is to get them ready for the harvest season next fall.
In Cassia County, in south-central Idaho, officials are working with the Oakley Canal Company and the Goose Creek Flood District to keep the water storage level in the Lower Goose Creek Reservoir - also known locally as the Oakley Reservoir - at a safe level. The Idaho Office of Emergency management said Saturday that the Oakley Canal Company has confirmed that the dam is structurally sound, but there are concerns over the record amounts of water going into the reservoir, and efforts are being made to minimize any threats of overflow. Also, canal and stream channels are being cleaned out so discharge water can flow to other locations to prevent flooding issues.
Many rural areas affected by the flooding have wells and septic tanks, requiring special care. Information on ensuring well and septic tank safety during a flood can be found here.
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