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Flooding engulfs most of Inkom ranch

By Sean Ellis

Idaho Farm Bureau Federation

INKOM – Sometimes the river gives, sometimes it takes away.

This year, an overflowing river has submerged most of the Guthrie Ranch in Inkom, causing major challenges for the owners, Jim Sr. and Carol Guthrie.

As of early May, more than 80 percent of the 160-acre ranch was under water. Jim Guthrie estimates the water is 8-foot deep in some parts.

The ranch, which is located at the confluence of the Portneuf River and Marsh Creek in southeast Idaho, has been no stranger to flooding over the years.

But with record snowpack in the Portneuf Basin this winter, this year’s flood is an all-timer.

“This is the worst it’s ever been,” said Jim Guthrie said May 5. “The river’s actually even with the fields right now, so you can’t even tell where the channel is.”

On May 5, much of the high-elevation snow in the basin hadn’t begun melting yet.

“They are getting flooded very bad and it’s just starting,” Downey farmer Stacy Burmester, a friend of the Guthries, said May 8. “It could get even worse.”

Peak snowpack in most basins in Idaho usually occurs around April 1, but this year that happened later in the month and into early May in some areas. That means a lot more water from high-elevation snow is still to come.

“We are hitting record levels” of snowpack in the Portneuf basin this year, said Sherrie Hebert, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Pocatello.

The Guthrie Ranch is located at the low point in the Portneuf and Marsh Creek system, said Jim Guthrie Jr., who ranches and farms in McCammon and helps his parents with their operation.

“It’s where everything kind of collects,” he said.

The flooding this year at the Inkom ranch is particularly severe. It has killed the operation’s hay and pasture crops and the Guthries will have to re-seed later this year.

“It killed the crop out,” said Jim Guthrie Jr. “They don’t have any pasture this year and won’t have any hay, or very little.”

The unlikeliness of the ranch even getting one cutting of hay this year, coupled with the fact there is no pasture left, is one of the factors that led the ranch to sell all its cattle after the flooding began, Jim Guthrie Sr. said. He’s not sure whether the operation will return to raising cattle.

The water has also just about covered the ranch’s wheel lines and the water is getting in the gear boxes on the pivot.

“It’s going to be a pretty expensive venture,” Jim Guthrie Sr. said.

Jim Guthrie Sr. and his wife, Carol, have both given back to the region’s farming and ranching community for many years.

They both served on the Idaho Farm Bureau Federation board of directors in the past. Jim served as president of Bannock County Farm Bureau for two decades and Carol was director of IFBF’s Women’s Committee for a similar period.

Burmester said she feels for what this year’s flooding has put the Guthries through.

“They’re good, good people … and they would do anything for anyone,” she said. “My heart goes out to them with the trials they are going through.”

The Guthries have spent a lot of effort and money over the years working with state water officials to strengthen the river’s banks. That includes putting in about 2,000 willow trees and spending about $100,000 of their own money on the bank-strengthening efforts.

They have also raised a road on the ranch to try to lessen the impact of flooding.

Outside of those type of efforts, “I don’t know what you can do to prepare for something like this year’s flooding,” Jim Guthrie Sr. said.

He said he and his wife are trying to keep a good attitude about the situation, knowing that this year’s tremendous snowpack will be good for a lot of farmers in the region after a couple years of drought conditions.

In years past, a little flooding has done some good for the ranch because it brings some great topsoil that has made it so the ranch doesn’t need to use fertilizer.

But this year, the river will take more than it gives.

“Sometimes, this type of thing happens,” Jim Guthrie Sr. said about this year’s flooding. “When you get into farming and ranching, you just take it as it comes each year.”

“You just have to try to keep a good attitude and go on knowing things will get better,” he added. “It’s a good life.”