Natural disasters and the destruction that follows in their wake have always been headline news items. Overlooked for lack of a sensational headline, however, were the herculean effort and personal sacrifices of the residents of two small communities who worked together to avoid a natural disaster—a flood that could have devastated a large farming area of south-central Idaho. Basing her work on meticulous grass-roots research, Kathleen Hedberg tells the story of these rural communities summoning all their resources to avert a tragedy.
In the spring of 1984, the Lower Goose Creek Reservoir threatened to overflow. A flood was inevitable. Thousands of acres of farmland and at least two towns, Oakley and Burley, Idaho, would be inundated. Local officials devised a plan to divert the water from the dam by widening and extending an existing canal nineteen miles and by digging twenty-four miles of new canal in three days through existing farmland to divert the floodwater to Murtaugh Lake and the Snake River. For nearly twenty days, a torrent of water several feet deep and up to seventy feet wide rushed through the Snake River canal, while volunteers sandbagged and patrolled the banks, sometimes twenty-four hours a day.