Some property owners along the Snake River, one of Wyoming's most exclusive residential areas, have begun preparing for expected high water by building dikes and other water-control projects.

Problem is, some of the projects were started without permission from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and many Teton County residents have complained that the work should not be allowed for homes knowingly built in a flood-prone area."In an extreme emergency, they more than likely would get authorization, so they went ahead with the work," Chandler Peter, project manager for the Corps of Engineers, said Friday. "Many people are concerned the process is being subverted for the sake or benefit of these individuals who live by the river. That isn't the case."

He said some of the work this year - and similar work last year - was covered under a nationwide permit issued several years ago. That permit allows dike-building and bank stabilization work without specific permits as long as the work meets certain terms and conditions.

"Technically, yes, there have been some unauthorized activities that have occurred. Some have been authorized (since), some we're still evaluating," Peter said. "We received a lot of comment from the public in regards to these proposals and most of it has been negative on what these individuals are trying to do to protect their property."

Peter said such work violates Corps of Engineers regulations, but some of the work done along the Snake River has been authorized with "after-the-fact" permits, one of several options available to the agency in cases like these. Much of the other work done was still under evaluation, he said.

This spring, news that several property owners had started construction on a total of about 1.5 miles of new levees costing a total of about $2 million prompted public opposition. The Corps of Engineers had said it would accept public comments on the work through Thursday but decided this week to extend the deadline to April 18.

"The levees are an environmental disaster on many fronts," said fishing guide Guy Turck. "They are ugly, block access to critical trout spawning habitat, are hindering regeneration of riparian cottonwood forests, and are dramatically altering the hydrology of the river for the worst by increasing water velocity and hemming in a river which has traditionally spread out over its flood plain."

Peter, meanwhile, said time is running short for landowners wishing to protect their homes, which in some cases are worth millions. Among the landowners is James Wolfensohn, president of the World Bank, who loaned the property to President Clinton for his summer 1996 vacation.

Peter said the Snake's peak runoff period is late May or early June, and area officials said all indications point to likely flooding this year.

The water content of the snowpack around Jackson was listed at 146 percent of the 30-year average this week. Upstream of Jackson, however, the snowpack's water content ran as high as 152 percent of normal, said John Kremer of the Teton County Natural Resources Conservation District.