The city of Boise, Ada County and the state have all declared a state of emergency due to the excessively high water flows on the Boise River.
Boise Mayor Dave Bieter on Friday declared a local emergency in the city, citing “nearly unprecedented flows on the Boise River and the unpredictable impacts those flood waters could have on the city over an extended period of time.”
Boise River flows Friday exceeded 8,200 cubic feet per second, making conditions extremely dangerous to people and pets.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is releasing more water than usual from upstream reservoirs in an effort to minimize flooding later this spring, as extreme amounts of snow in the mountains melt.
Bieter asked that people stay away from the Boise River and Greenbelt altogether.
On Thursday, the Boise Fire Department posted a “dangerous river conditions” warning along the length of the river in the city.
“It is unprecedented to have river flows so high for so long, which makes our situation very unpredictable,” Bieter said in a news release. “We are already beginning to see significant bank erosion in many areas and we are concerned that unforeseen hazards may begin popping up. So please, stay away from the river and the Greenbelt altogether.”
Signs are posted all along the river corridor reminding Greenbelt users of the dangerous conditions and multiple Greenbelt closures. City public safety officials also reminded residents and others that they could be held responsible by the city for costs incurred during a rescue on the river.
“River rescues are very difficult and dangerous under current circumstances,” said Boise Fire Chief Dennis Doan said in the news release. “While no one ever intends to get in trouble on the river, people should remember that first responders put their own lives at risk during a rescue. And under these conditions those dangers are very high.”
Emergency declarations allow for immediate expenditure of public money to secure materials, equipment and services needed for disaster relief and public safety.
Recent rain only made the situation worse, as wind gusts in Ada County reached 52 mph on Thursday and the city saw a record 1.4 inches of rain for the day. The month, as of Thursday, had seen 2.86 inches of rain; the average amount at that point is only 1.35 inches of rain, according to the Idaho Office of Emergency Management.
The local emergency declaration is set to expire in seven days, but the Boise City Council on Tuesday will consider extending it indefinitely.
Ada County commissioners on Monday approved and adopted their own county emergency declaration on flooding.
Gov. Butch Otter also added Ada County to the list of counties in a state of emergency, along with Idaho, Lewis and Valley counties.
Seven other counties are also listed in the state declaration, including Benewah, Bonner, Boundary, Clearwater, Kootenai, Latah and Shoshone counties.
The National Weather Service does still have a flood warning in place for the Boise River at Glenwood Bridge, impacting both Ada and Canyon counties. The flood warning will stay in place until further notice. Any other weather warnings can be found on the NWS website.