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Residents worried about floods after fire

Layne Martino says he has removed pictures and mementos from his home because he expects floods to hit.
The high water mark of last Monday's flood is easily seen on the walls of the 100 North bridge of the Price River.

Sun Advocate associate editor

"Everyone else is praying for rain. I'm praying for it to stop," Layne Martino told the county commission Wednesday afternoon.

There's a reason for his appeal to Heaven: "I want my house to be there," he explained.

Martino lives near the confluence of Gordon Creek and the Price River. Last Monday, he saw that section of the river and creek rise up after the flood water from a distant cloudburst arrived.

The reason for the rapid rise of the water - and its almost black color - is that there is almost no vegetation left in the Gordon Creek drainage to hold the rain water back, he said.

The recent Seeley Fire wiped out the conifers and in some cases the fire burned away soil protection completely.

Martino and his neighbors are worried, and governments at local, state and federal levels are working on mitigation plans.

Jason Llewelyn, county emergency services director, said the county is working closely with the federal Burned Area Emergency Response team which is already deploying experts in hydrology and soil science to the fire scene to see what can be done quickly.

One alert system already in place is a series of rainfall monitoring stations that can be tied directly to dispatch. When heavy rainfall is deteced, emergency services and homeowners can be notified of the potential for flooding.

Commissioner Mike Milovich told Martino that the county is expecting federal assistance for some mitigation. The situation is complicated, though, because some of the areas needing mitigation are on private property and will have to be handled by the owners.

"The county can be a good neighbor," added Christian Bryner, the commission's attorney, "but there are limits to what can be done. People should not assume that the county can be involved in every situation."

Anything that has to do with altering a stream or river needs a federal 404 permit, and that includes the county or individual property owners.

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