Northern Wyoming News - Serving the Big Horn Basin for over 100 years

By Marcus Huff
Staff Writer 

Army Corps evaluates need for flood study in Worland


December 18, 2018

WORLAND – Members of the Army Corps of Engineers met with Washakie County officials on Dec. 12 to kick off a pilot study for a Section 205 request (Flood Damage Reduction), after multiple flooding events in 2017, including major damage due to an ice jam on the Big Horn River.

A project manager from the Army Corps has been assigned and once the study proceeds, the manager can authorized up to $100,000 for the flood mitigation pilot study to best determine infrastructure improvements to curb further flooding.

Any funding above the initial $100,000 is to be cost-shared by the Corps and a local sponsor, either the City of Worland or the county. Once the study is complete, the remaining project costs would be split in a cost share agreement, with the federal government responsible for 65 percent and the local sponsor responsible for the remaining 35 percent.

Worland’s pilot study was one of 10 in the nation with an emphasis on ice jam mitigation protocols in northern United States regions. At the moment, only Worland and Miles City, Mont., qualified for study areas on the Missouri River Watershed system.

Immediate problems to consider in the study include the replacement of a U.S. Geological Survey gauge on the river, which was removed in July of this year, and identifying sediment sources from tributaries that are contributing to sediment build up in the Big Horn River.

In October 2017, the river required 16,000 cubic yards of sediment removal, creating a need for a mechanical remedy to disperse sediment.

In February 2017, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), heard from Washakie County Commission Chairman Terry Wolf at a committee oversight hearing on “Flood Control

Infrastructure: Safety Questions Raised by Current Events” held in Washington, D.C.

Reading from a prepared statement, Wolf outlined recent flooding issues, due to a sedimentary island in the Big Horn River that causes frequent ice jams, stating in part that “We are still evaluating the total costs to our communities in damage and clean-up costs, but estimates of state and local costs will likely exceed $150,000.”

At that time Wolf asked the committee to consider using the Army Corp of Engineers to help Worland remove the island, referencing a section of the Water Infrastructure Improvements Act for the Nation, dealing specifically with flooding caused by ice jams.

In the end, the City of Worland and the county paid to have the sediment removed in the fall of 2017.

In July 2017, in conjunction with the City of Worland, Wolf authorized an emergency declaration for Washakie to enable the area to receive emergency funding from the state to repair and mitigate flood damage from April.

Also signed by Worland Mayor Jim Gill and Washakie County Homeland Security & Emergency Management Coordinator Jeff Schweighart, the declaration states that “extensive damage has been caused to public and private property, disruption of utility service, and endangerment of health and safety of the residents of Washakie County within the disaster area, all locally available public and private resources available to mitigate and alleviate the effects of this disaster have been insufficient to meet the needs of the situation, the current conditions around the County and the City may continue to produce significant flooding with the possibility of continued rain, late season snow melt, along with progressive runoff could potentially present flood conditions to include mudslides and landslides in the County.”

In August 2017, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced that federal disaster assistance has been made available to the state of Wyoming to supplement state, tribal, and local recovery efforts in the areas affected by the flooding from June 7-22, 2017.

According to the Washakie County Office of Emergency Management, “Washakie County is one of the smallest geographical and least populated jurisdictions in the state but hold the greatest stock inventory of flooding supplies available in preparation of any future flood events. Examples [include] 130,000 sand bags, sand machine, jersey and HESCO barriers and salt free sand supplies due to whole community engagement.  Most of this resulting from past impacts of ice jam and contributing flooding witnessed March 2014 and then again in Feb 2018. We are prepared for the snowmelt, runoff and should we experience any ice jams in the upcoming future.  Our supplies are strategically located between Ten Sleep and Worland.”


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