Thank you to all the Choteau city crew members and officials, the plumbers, the Choteau Volunteer Fire Department members and the Choteau High School students who filled sandbags on Monday for their response to the localized flooding along Spring Creek in Choteau last week and this week. While no one wants to see a situation like this occur, we are fortunate to live in a community where so many people willingly come together to try to make the best of a bad situation.
Spring Creek last had bad ice jams in 1996 — long enough for the pain to fade from most people’s memories, but a review of articles from the Acantha’s archives shows very similar events occurring regularly when two factors were present: sufficient winter-time water flowing in the creek and sub-zero temperatures. In most of the reports of past ice jams, the culvert crossings on Third Street Northeast, First Street Northeast (Secondary Highway 220) and First Street Southeast were the culprits. The culverts plugged with anchor ice and the creek went out of its banks swamping the City Park and nearby buildings.
Choteau Mayor Chris Hindoien and Public Works Director Mike Maples plan to use this most recent flooding occurrence to generate a discussion on possible options for reducing the potential for ice jams in future winters. They want to talk about replacing the round steel culverts with bridges or box culverts that are not so susceptible to ice jams. They also want to work with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks and the Department of Natural Resources to see whether the city could clean standing trees and brush out of the creek bed, remove fallen trees and other obstacles that form anchor ice when the temperatures dip below zero. We hope that they are able to move ahead with these plans and prevent future flooding.