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Arlee responds and prepares for flooding

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ARLEE — Kathy and Pat Clarkin knew all winter that flooding was going to be an issue in the spring. They had kept in contact with Tim Orr, supervisor of the Jocko division of the Flathead Indian Irrigation Project, who told them the area had seen record snowfall and moisture was extremely high.

The Clarkins' property is surrounded by water with the Jocko River flowing through their backyard and Finley Creek running in the front. They also have an unnamed spring and a pond on their land.

Last week, the Clarkins battled floodwaters in their yard with about 400 sandbags they filled beforehand. They also had help from several agencies that included Kicking Horse Job Corps and the Arlee Fire Department.

In March, the National Weather Service put the chance of flooding in Western Montana at 67 percent. The Upper Jocko River Basin now totals more than 10 feet of snow and recent precipitation across the state has raised the water level in local streams, rivers and ponds.

According to Dale Nelson, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes disaster and emergency services coordinator, water flooded the basement in one house on Gray Wolf Drive while Agency Road had waters that overpowered a culvert and spilled across the road, but the water was contained and traffic has continued.

“We have things pretty under control now,” Nelson.

"We had some water in our crawl space and still do," Shawn Andres, owner of Alpine Artistry, said.

Andres is using pumps to remove the water that spilled into his home from the nearby Valley Creek.

"We battled it (flooding) with a couple hundred hay bales and clay to divert the water from our house and garage into the field."

Andres said he has about 10 pallets of sandbags ready to use in case of more flooding.

Nelson’s crews are out checking culverts and stacking sandbags alongside homes and businesses in low-lying areas next to water, including the Jocko Hollow Campground. He commented that Finley Creek is high, but not to the point of spilling over its banks.

“Most of the water problems were caused by the rain, not by the rain melting the snow packs,” Nelson said. “Now if we get a warm day with warm rain then that is when we need to be concerned.”

“We had an army of people helping,” Nelson added, referring to the Arlee Rural Fire Department and nine Kicking Horse Job Corps students who helped out for seven hours.

“They (students) are ready to go again if they are needed,” Robert Matt, Kicking Horse maintenance supervisor and safety officer, said. “They felt good about helping out the community."

A workshop session on filling sandbags and creating sandbag walls was held in May at Kicking Horse. Matt said the Job Corps tries to incorporate sessions that not only educate students but also benefit the community.

“In the past flooding wasn’t such a concern but this year because of the chance for flooding we thought having a sandbag session would be needed,” Matt said.

Some 4,000 free sandbags on Kicking Horse campus are available for community members to pick up and use.

According to Nelson there are plenty of free sandbags at the Arlee Fire Department as well.

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