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Moyie mudslide caused by water line break

by EMILY BONSANT
Hagadone News Network | March 30, 2024 1:00 AM

MOYIE SPRINGS — When the city's main water line broke early Sunday morning, it caused a several hundred foot mudslide and led the city to declare a local state of emergency.

The 55-year-old pipe broke sometime early Sunday morning Moyie Springs Public Works Superintendent John Nelson estimates 700 to 800 gallons of water a minute gushed from the line for five to six hours, causing the mudslide that sent tons of earth into the canyon of the Moyie River. 

City officials said they learned of the line break and subsequent mudslide at about 7 a.m. Sunday by the Twin Rivers Sturgeon/Burbot Hatchery staff, who had a view of the slide across the river. Nelson was able to turn off the water about an hour later.

The water line travels approximately 1,786 feet up the canyon from the city wells and to the pump house. Nelson said the broken line scoured the sand off the rock face and created a trench which is estimated at 40 feet deep at some portions and runs down to the river. 

“We could put a 40 by 60 foot shop in the trench,” he said. 

Nelson has been worried about what could happen if the line broke since walking over the main line 20 years ago.

“[The fault] is, unfortunately, ours,” he told the Moyie Springs City Council on Tuesday at a special meeting, noting Idaho Forest Group’s Moyie Springs mill is not to blame for either the line break or the mudslide.

The “trench” holds not only Moyie’s water line but also a water line for the mill, Bonners Ferry city power line, and a Moyie communications wire.

Nelson estimates repairs will cost $150,000, but hopes that other entities that utilize the easement would be willing to invest in the project. 

Engineers with Century West were on site Tuesday, but construction repairs cannot be done until the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality approves engineering designs, Moyie officials said.

The water line supplies all of Moyie’s water, Nelson said, adding the city is at risk due to diminished fire suppression until the line can be fixed. 

City councilman and IFG employee Les Love said the mill is required to wash down all logs after three days of consecutive heat, which takes a large amount of water. 

Nelson said the city could complete the repairs in 10 days but the project must first be approved by the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality. Due to the immediacy of the project, IDEQ has guaranteed Moyie priority for engineer review. 

“They will look at the engineer plans the day they are received,” Nelson added.

City Clerk Donna Wilson-Funkhouser said since the damage was not caused by a natural disaster, the city is not eligible for funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. However, she said Moyie Spring might be eligible for Idaho Department of Water Quality funding.

The city will be reconstructing and repairing the waterline as fast as possible. Residents and businesses will be notified as soon as the waterline is restored, city officials said.

Although there was no disruption in service, Moyie Springs officials are asking residents and businesses to conserve water,  Wilson-Funkhouser said. Emergency notices are in the process of being sent out to city residents. 

“This is a mandatory request and we need your support to help recover from this devastating and debilitating incident,” the emergency notification said.   


    A portion of the "trench" created by Moyie Springs broken main water line.