CHELAN COUNTY, Wash. - Chelan County sheriff's deputies posted warning notices on 50 homes near Icicle Creek on Thursday for potential evacuation because of a compromised irrigation dam in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.
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Emergency management officials say spring runoff is overtopping and eroding the earthen portion of the Eightmile Dam, an emergency drain is clogged, and logs are piling up behind the dam in Eightmile Lake.
While runoff happens every year, Eightmile Lake is now particularly vulnerable to flash floods because of 2017's Jack Creek Fire, which left a big burn scar.
"When you don't have the vegetation to keep the water in the ground, it's going to flow into the lake and it's going to bring debris with it," said Sgt. Kent Sisson with the Chelan County Sheriff's Office.
Of the 50 homes that received notices to be ready to evacuate, about a dozen on Icicle Island are considered most at risk.
Many Icicle Island homes appear not to be occupied full time.
Sisson said that the irrigation district that manages the dam planned to use a helicopter on Friday to bring in a small excavator to shore up the structure.
Because dry weather is predicted for the next week, Sisson is hopeful that there won't be a need for any evacuations.
"If they could get the work done this weekend, I think we could be looking at some positive news by Monday or Tuesday, we're hoping," Sisson said.
A meeting about the dam situation is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday at the offices of Fire District 3 in Leavenworth.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. Forest Service wrote, "Recreationists may want to choose different locations until the situation is resolved."
Here's a statement from the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest: "The Forest Service is currently evaluating public safety in light of the risks posed by the dam using hydrologic analysis in consultation with dam safety experts.
An Emergency Action Plan was developed with preset triggers that describe actions to be taken as the lake rises, currently we're in an awareness level two.
If the lake level continues to rise and an emergency level three appears eminent, the campgrounds and trailheads will close to protect public safety concurrent with downstream evacuation notices. The Forest Service continues to monitor this situation closely."
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