Lewiston's Levee Pond
by Sandra L. Lee
The pumps in the levee ponds that capture much of the storm water runoff in Lewiston were barely able to keep pace during a deluge two years ago this month when about an inch of rain fell in 15 minutes.
The pumps, which transfer the water into the Clearwater River, apparently were functioning well at the time, city storm water program coordinator Tom Dechert said.
If a pump had failed, or electricity had gone off and there had been no water removal from downtown for four or five hours, there would have been "significant issues," he said.
As it was, cars floated in the streets, basements flooded, and clogged and inadequate storm drains left water waist-deep in some parts of town.
City staff and councilors would be well advised to take notice and perhaps make recommendations to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that the 34-year-old pumps get some attention, Dechert told the Lewiston City Council Monday.
The pumps are supposed to have a 30- to 50-year lifespan, and they are well past the minimum, he said.
Lewiston would be threatened if pumps failed or if water topped the levees if there was a large flood, Dechert said. The corps is prevented from doing needed dredging by court orders that environmental impact statements have to be done first and by the lack of money to do the EIS, he said.
Meaningful work could be several years away, he said. "Nobody really knows at this point."
While dredging is a big-ticket item, maintenance of the pumps is possibly something that can be handled within the corps' present budgets if it gets the push to make it a priority, Dechert said. It comes down to this system being "conditionally safe," while elsewhere some systems aren't even that good.
He suggested a joint meeting with the city and Nez Perce County encouraging the corps to make some commitments to the valley.
Removal of the Snake River dams probably would accomplish the same thing as dredging would as far as encouraging sediment to continue downstream, Dechert said in response to a question from Councilor Dennis Ohrtman.
It's been a year since the city and corps met, City Manager John C. (Jay) Krauss said. He will attempt to set up a meeting, then confer again with the council, he said.
Many times, until elected officials put a call in, it's tough to get action, Krauss said.
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