YAKIMA, Wash. — Yakima County surface water staff is watching a levee along the Naches River at Rambler’s Park, northwest of Yakima, as melting snow from record high temperatures continues to surge downstream.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, responding to a county request, authorized the stockpiling of rock near the levee Friday should the high flows begin to erode the base of the levee, something that has happened twice in the past decade, said Don Gatchalian, assistant county public services director for environmental services.
The Naches River at Naches has been above flood stage since early Tuesday and is forecast to remain above flood stage for at least 10 more days.
Elsewhere, flooding was reported Friday in the Elk Meadows subdivision, northwest of Cle Elum in Kittitas County. The National Weather Service said water was over roadways Friday afternoon in the oft-flooded subdivision.
The recent wave of high temperatures that set one new record high and tied another for Yakima this week is expected to moderate by Sunday when a cooling trend enters the region.
But the cooler weather is bringing with it a chance for rain beginning Sunday that will keep rivers running high.
The high temperature on Thursday was 95 degrees, tying a record set in 1949, the National Weather Service reported.
Wednesday’s high temperature was a new record for Yakima at 94 degrees. The previous record of 92 degrees for a daytime high also was in 1949.
Normal high temperatures for the second week of May in Yakima are around 70 degrees.
The rain threat only added to the county’s concerns about the levee, officials said.
Travis Hightower, a construction supervisor in the Army Corps of Engineers emergency management branch, said the agency will store 1,000 tons of rock near the levee in case emergency repairs are needed.
“We aren’t actively flood fighting, but if it happens, we are placing rock behind the levee in case it starts to fail,” Hightower said while standing on the levee Friday afternoon.
Hightower called the chance of rain the wild card.
Gatchalian said the county made emergency repairs to a section of the levee last May and a similar repair job several years ago.
He said the county earlier this year purchased the property next to the levee in anticipation of establishing a new levee farther back from the river and closer to West Powerhouse Road.
He said the new levee will widen the floodplain and allow the channel to handle the kinds of high water now flowing down the river.
Hightower said the Corps of Engineers will erect the new setback levee beginning in July at a cost of about $250,000.
• David Lester can be reached at 509-577-7674 or firstname.lastname@example.org.