The last major storm took the city a week to clean up. This storm is expected to have similar results. While the street sweepers will be out in full force clearing sandbars and debris, the Portneuf River will have to find its own way to filter through the record breaking rain storm.
It’s not advised for humans to drink directly from the Portneuf River, in fact it’s strongly discouraged but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t worry about the effects of storm runoff on this delicate ecosystem.
“That amount of disturbance, and that amount of water, and that amount of dirt that goes in the river is tough on the aquatic insects,” said Lynn Van Every, Regional Water Quality Manager for the State of Idaho Department of Environmental Quality. “It’s tough on the fish that live there. It’s tough on everything.”
The biggest issue with storms like the one we experienced Tuesday isn’t necessarily pollution or containments, it’s sand and silt.
“Landscape is made up of dirt and rocks and pavement and all those things,” said Van Every. “When water gathers on pavement, it hits places that aren’t paved and it picks up dirt and sediment. It moves that downstream and the river is the low point on both sides of town.”
While a lot of people are asking why the city doesn’t do more to prevent flooding, Lynn says there has been a lot of investments made in recent years and storms like this are still a rare occurrence in the city.
“Your facilities are going to get overwhelmed regardless when you see that magnitude of a storm,” continued Van Every. “And so the hope is that everything doesn’t fall apart. Sometimes things fall apart and when it happens, reoccurring like it did the last 10 days, it makes it tough on everybody, including the river.”
The city’s storm system is designed to handle strong storms that might occur once every two years. The last couple of storms have been larger than that. Lynn says that last time we had a weather pattern like this was in 1998.