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Property owners maintain vigil

| June 14, 2006 12:00 AM

By GWEN ALBERS Western News Reporter

As soon as the flood gates opened at 5 p.m. Thursday at Libby Dam, Susan Yarger knew what to expect.

Within six hours, the higher water would reach her home along Kootenai River off Highway 37 three miles north of Libby. To avoid damage, Yarger called Thompson Construction.

"They built me a (dirt) dike about 3 feet tall and 6 feet wide, the whole length of my property. He had a whole bunch of people," Yarger said. "Without it, I would've had problems."

The last time the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had a spill at the dam 14 miles north of her home, Yarger protected her property with sandbags. She also had to pump water from her basement and lawn.

"It came within 2 to 3 inches of my bank," said Yarger, owner of Kelly Ann Travel Agency in Libby.

She's yet again pumping water from her basement and lawn.

From the deck of his river-front home 7 miles south of the dam, John Johanson spent the weekend keeping an eye on the rising water.

"It's been more or less a vigil, watching and seeing what's happening with the river and going to the (Army Corps of Engineers) Web site to see what's happening with water flows," he said.

Johanson also saw three dead fish; he believes one was a rainbow trout and the others were salmon.

"We haven't had any damage at this point," said Johanson, president of First National Bank in Libby. "Last time we had to sandbag to protect our landscaping."

Johanson along with Terry Andreesen, who lives in Yarger's neighborhood, in April asked Lincoln County Commissioners to sue the Corps to stop a spill at the dam to benefit the endangered white sturgeon. They were concerned about flooding.

Johanson, Andreessen and Yarger used sandbags to protect their properties when last time's spill occurred.

At this point, Andreessen did not want to comment on the status of a possible lawsuit. He however continues to experience some "slight erosion" from his property due to the current spill.

"I've been warning the Corps about this for a long time," Andreessen said. "They will not listen. We keep getting the same lies and rhetoric. I would expect if we get a significant thunderstorm or any higher temperatures, it could go higher."

His home lies 100 feet from the river, so he doesn't expect it to be damaged.