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Virginia Overland interviewed by Nancy Renk, on 30 January 1996, in Sandpoint, Idaho.

 

Regarding town meetings about the proposed Albeni Falls dam

O: The first thing that I remember is when the dam came in that would flood our land down there and that's when meetings were held in the local school house and in Sandpoint. We went to a meeting in the high school in which the auditorium was just packed with people and most of them were just irate. They were just standing there, calling down to the people on the stage but they couldn't be heard very well. Nobody brought them a microphone. Nobody asked them to come up on stage. It was kind of a hopeless situation.


R: How did the Corps of Engineers explain this project to the community and how did they try to convince people that it was a good idea? Do you remember any of that?

O: Well, flood prevention seemed to be one of the things but of course I still was a teenager and probably had other things on my mind but we had had some floods. '48 we'd had a pretty good one so we were thinking "no more floods." Although, the damage that they did down my was negligible. Flood waters went off and your crop was a little dirty silt on it but everything was fine and it all … you just had a little later hay crop. Power generation, and I don't know whether they ever tried to sell irrigation, the idea of irrigation at that time but those of us on the second tier of land, on the terrace above the lake, of course, this put the water up during the summertime where we could irrigate so it was a benefit to us although very few people down Morton Valley took advantage of it.

R: When you talk about these meetings, do you remember any particular comments that were made or any particular arguments that people made?

O: I just remember that the people were just so mad. They would just stand up and yell at those people down on the stage [and] say you can't do this to us,  you just can't. It's  taking all of our land. You're just taking a huge chunk of our agricultural land. Then one comment Lewis Johnson told me – Lewis is a little older than I am and remembered this better – but he said they had a government lawyer telling them that, answering some of these criticism that they were only going to take the land half of the year. You know, they were only going to flood it during the summer. Actually said the farmers could use it the other half of the year which would be a mud flat in the winter time and under three feet of snow and they figured that they really didn't have ... all that much to complain about. But this, there was so much.  Well, the appraisal process was unfair because they originally just contacted real estate people around Sandpoint. Give each of them so many places to appraise and whatever they said, it was just a whim on the part of the appraiser. They didn't get any second or thirds unless you really objected and then they sent out a government appraiser. But if you happened to be on the outs with one of the real estate brokers and he was assigned to assess your place, you didn't do very well. So, there was all of this going on, all this undercurrent of this going -- everybody dissatisfied, so many were dissatisfied and large groups of people got together and refused and then they had trials set and then the land would be condemned.


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