Cassville exploring flood mitigation options
City wants complete hydraulic study, advice on funding project
After being hit twice by floods in 2015, first in July and again in December, the city of Cassville is searching for ways, and funding, to mitigate possible future disasters.
Counting both floods in 2015, David Compton, Barry County Emergency Management Office director, said the county is likely to see about $3.5 million in damages to public infrastructure. In July, that total was only about $500,000, but for flooding December, Compton is expecting final numbers to top $3 million.
"We are at $2.7 million right now and still have 8-10 road districts gathering numbers," he said.
The city of Cassville itself was harder-hit in July, when 30 businesses, much of the city park and Greenway Trail, and more than a dozen homes were damaged. Compton said the December flooding was more spread around the county, as some areas saw 12 inches of continuous rain over a 48-hour period.
Mayor Bill Shiveley said he would like the city to use some funds from the stormwater tax to commission a hydraulic study, which he hopes would look at all seven waterways into the city and show where retention ponds may be built to slow the flow of water, as well as prevent the city from doing anything that may create more problems than it solves. He also said he hopes whoever does the study will help the city locate funding for such a project, which has been an insurmountable roadblock in the past.
"Until we have a full study, we have no idea where the best places to put ponds would be," Shiveley said. "It would also help just to clean the creek out, starting past the lagoon and working our way toward the middle of the city. We also haven't taken any gravel out of the stream for a number of years because of regulations, and I wonder how much more water we could put through there if it was two feet wider and two feet deeper."
Cassville is no stranger to flood mitigation conversations, as in 2011, the city had a study done suggesting two retention ponds be built northwest of Walmart, slowing Town Branch, and another be built on the north side of Highway 37, slowing Hawk Branch. However, city finances did not allow for the $2 million project to be done.
Shiveley said the city will send out a request for qualifications to engineers encompassing a mitigation plan, funding sources and Flat Creek cleanup.
"The big thing is funding," he said. "We are hopeful there are some government grants that may help. I talked to Steve McIntosh, [with Sen. Roy Blunt's office], and he said they are willing to support us in whatever we need."
Alderman Jon Horner said he has also talked to Rep. Billy Long personally about possible help needed in the future.
"I talked directly to good ole Billy, and he said talk to him if we have any problems with the Corps," Horner said. "[Flood mitigation] has been discussed in prior decades, and other than the retention basin Jerry Watley built by the Barry County Museum and the basin built by the hospital, we haven't had a whole lot of movement. If we could clean the creek out, that would help some. But, that's not as significant a solution as retention basins along each of the corridors."
Lack of funding has led to the washing away of previous plans, but Shiveley, Horner and Compton are hopeful federal funding may be accessible this time around.
"[The Federal Emergency Management Agency] published a bulletin last year saying they are starting to fund flood mitigation, and there's two avenues for that," Horner said. "One is that there has to be a presidential disaster declaration, and second, you can go through the legislative appropriations process."
Horner said the study will be essential to obtaining any federal funding.
"Any time you go to an agency like FEMA, the first question they will ask is, 'Do you have data and a plan we can look at?'" he said. "The way I look at it is that I'd love to be able to get funding for all we need, but I'd be open to doing any project that would help. Start small. Doing anything is better than doing nothing."
Compton said post-disaster mitigation funding may pay up to 75 percent of the city's study and possible future projects, but nothing is certain.
"We spoke with the state flood mitigation folks in July , but we have to have the whole Cassville contingency go up to Jefferson City to present them with a plan," he said. "But, the opportunity to get a study done would give us a good body of evidence."
Compton said a variable in obtaining FEMA mitigation funding may hit a snag, as Cassville has been sanctioned within the National Flood Insurance Plan (NFIP).
"Once the city of Cassville became non-participatory in the [NFIP], it was sanctioned," he said. "So, that could impact the opportunity for grants, but I'll have to look into it."
Compton said there are other mitigation options to look at as well, including buying collapsable barricades that could be strategically-placed to slow the flow of water through the city.
"They are four feet tall, four feet wide and four feet deep, and you fill them with sand or dirt, typically sand," he said. "The nice thing is you could use them whenever and wherever you want, but it takes heavy equipment to put them in place, fill them and empty them. It's a viable option, but not a full solution."
Compton said with the barricades, care would also have to be taken to ensure putting a barricade in one place does not create a larger problem in another place.
"I'd certainly like to have the opportunity to work with Cassville to get something done," Compton said. "We have a great opportunity to impact the flooding situation."