Donate HERE to help with my webhosting expenses

Bitterroot Bugle post categories

Bitterroot Bugle archives

Painted Rocks is full

I remember hearing that “We don’t let it get more than half full because of the safety hazard presented by this type of earth-fill dam.” Interestingly, yesterday it was running over the top at 2+ acre-feet per minute with no room for more. Every drop that comes in from spring runoff MUST come down the West Fork. Let us all fervently hope that is all that comes down.

Painted Rocks Dam. We need to act now.

by Dallas Erickson To whom it may concern: I am not writing this as a representative of the Red Cross but as the Disaster Chair for Ravalli County I have some concerns about the county’s readiness for disasters here in the valley in several respects. To mitigate of the seriousness of potential disasters it will take the cooperation of the community as a whole. One of my major concerns is that this county has more “high hazard” dams than any other county in the state. High hazard does not speak to the condition of the dams but refers to property damage and lives that could be lost in case of a failure. Two dams that would likely have significant property […]

Darby Adult Ed calendar is up

I have contributed numerous classes to the community, most through the Darby Adult Education program in southwestern Montana. An interesting array of people share their skills and passions with others in this nice little community. This Spring Semester is no exception. We have many nice choices in front of us for new experiences, knowledge, training, friendships and fun. I am bringing my first-level Amateur Radio class back by popular demand. I must be nearing 50 people I have helped earn their FCC Technician or General Class licenses. My guarantee: If you attend every class and study a few hours a week, you will pass the FCC Technician Exam at the end regardless of your technical background or lack thereof. I […]

Cascadia subduction

Risk management utilizes a probability/severity assessment guiding rational response. If the probability of something happening is high, but the severity of it very low, not a lot of preparing is rational. A low probability, high severity event is worth a bunch more attention. Such is a Painted Rocks dam failure, Yellowstone Caldera blowup or, today’s example, a Cascadia subduction movement. Wassat, you ask? Ah, let’s have Katherine Schultz writing for The New Yorker magazine tell you about it. I encourage you to click the headline links and read these articles. I merely tease with excerpts. The picture she paints is hugely impressive, to say the least.   ……………………………….. The Really Big One An earthquake will destroy a sizable portion of […]

more local dam news

Painted Rocks dam – with no overflow systemIn honor of California’s dam problems, the local Ravalli Republic newspaper just published an article on The Painted Rocks dam. Probably more thanks to the agitation of Dallas Erickson than the threatening disaster of Oroville. If you have been watching the unfolding drama as the crumbling dam gets pushed to, and perhaps beyond its limit, you know that the main spillway damage first observed 4 years ago has now rendered that spillway hazardous to use. The emergency overflow was deemed inadequate and unusable 12 years ago. Surprise, surprise, surprise, turns out that it is indeed unusable without catastrophic erosion. Several years ago, California politicians pushed through a “water bond” to fix aging and […]

dam threatens Bitterroot

I have published 6 articles in the last 3 years about the risk posed downstream from the Painted Rocks dam reservoir. A couple of them were from when I was attempting to work with the Ravalli County Office of Emergency Services. Bitterroot Bugle previous articles on Painted Rocks I cannot forget how my meeting with the head and his assistant went. The assistant, by the way, is now the agency chief. “ According to your data, a Painted Rocks Dam failure would put a 20-40 foot wall of water through The West Fork, Conner and Darby, and 20 feet through Hamilton. Do you believe that assesment? Well, we aren’t engineers, but yes, we believe their analysis. That would mean perhaps […]

silly whack jobs

One response to my Community Preparedness meeting announcements goes something like this: Are you people working with Ravalli County emergency planning, or are you another wacky militia group? … I think I’ll take my chances with the county’s action plan. Have they even looked at “the county’s action plan”? I think not. But they are happy to trust their, and their family’s well-being to it. Don’t worry. Somebody will feed you. Somebody will shelter you. No need to plan ahead. Trust the experts. There are adults in charge. I looked at it. I met with the planners and the sheriff who is the director in case of most emergencies. I published a link to their plan here: Comprehensive Emergency Operations […]

What, Me Worry?

Painted Rocks Reservoir is full. Everything that comes in must go out. Spring snowmelt is about to begin. Snowpack is at 180% of normal. There is no warning system for failure. If an earth-filled dam flows over the top, it will be quickly dissolve and disappear downstream in a raging flood of epic proportions. About 10,000 Ravalli County residents die… but there is no warning system and no realistic plan. What could possibly go wrong? I’m sure there is nothing to be worried about. So I won’t worry. However, I will be alert. And I think I will finally pack that 72-hour bag that has been (obviously too low) on my ToDo list for a decade. Unfortunately, this could seriously […]

dam cavalier attitude

In late February, Dallas Erickson presented to the Bitterroot Amateur Radio Club a view of the risk behind the Painted Rocks Dam. Nature has a way of returning these canyons to their original state. The transformation is usually spectacular… particularly to those humans who live in the path or know someone who did. On February 23rd I wrote about the risk potential: Dam Threatens Darby, Conner, Hamilton. I also posted Dallas’ write up here: Painted Rocks Dam. We need to act now. A dam failure would likely begin with a change in shape of the dam face that can be measured by simple technology. Next would be an extraordinarily rapid rise in water levels that also can be measured by […]

dam threatens Darby, Conner, Hamilton

Good management decisions use a probability/severity matrix. If the probability and severity of an event are both low, it is not worth much time and money planning for it. High probability events deserve some consideration, but when severity is inconsequential, not much. Painted Rocks dam is earth-fill construction somewhat like the Teton Dam that spectacularly failed in the 1976 picture to the right. In risk assessment, a large dam has 4,000 acre feet of water or more. Painted Rocks reservoir typically contains 14,000 acre feet at normal annual peak. A High Hazard rating is not based on risk of failure, but if failure were to occur, the resulting consequences likely would be the direct loss of human life and extensive […]

Gold Pan fire public meeting

DARBY – Fire managers will meet with residents of the West Fork and Painted Rocks areas at 2 p.m. Saturday to talk about their strategy on the 16,959-acre Gold Pan fire. Open to all, the informational meeting will be held at the incident command post on the Scripps Yonder Ranch, on Nez Perce Road four miles west of the West Fork Ranger District. Late Wednesday night, firefighters successfully completed a burnout along about four miles of the Magruder Corridor Road, information officer Thomas Kempton reported Thursday. The plan was to remove all unburned fuel south of the road, to prevent the fire from spreading to the north. A helicopter ignited the burnout using 16,000 incendiary ping-pong balls. Firefighters remained on […]