6,000 cubic yards of gravel removed from Flat Creek

Wednesday, September 28, 2016
Massive amounts of gravel, carried into the city from last year's severe flooding episodes, are being removed from Flat Creek by local contractor Barry County Ready Mix, hired by the city to complete the task, which is in the first phase of a comprehensive project to address the flooding issue in Cassville. Phase 1 includes addressing one of the areas of the creek with the worst buildup of gravel, the portion that runs behind the old motel on Main Street next to Commerce Bank, to the bridge at Highway 76/86 near Designs by Debbie. Julia Kilmer/reporter@cassville-democrat.com

Walensky: 'This is just the tip of the iceberg'

Barry County Ready Mix of Cassville has been busy in the creek lately, as Owner Corky Stehlik said about 6,000 cubic yards of gravel has now been removed from the Flat Creek basin in Cassville.

The local contractor was awarded a contract of up to $50,000 by the city earlier this year for the first phase of a comprehensive project to remove large amounts of gravel from areas of Flat Creek deposited from last year's severe 
flooding episodes.

After having about 6,000 cubic yards of gravel removed from creek basins in areas of Flat Creek, brought in by last year's floods, the deeper and wider creek beds should greatly help increase the capacity for water to flow through the city of Cassville much more efficiently. The city has started a comprehensive plan that will be carried out in phases, as funding allows, to address the flooding problem, one of which includes creating reservoirs or basins in certain areas along the creek to catch gravel and thereby prevent flooding. Julia Kilmer/reporter@cassville-democrat.com

Barry County Ready Mix began work the first week of September, after obtaining the required permits.

"We limited the work strictly to Phase 1 to concentrate on the permitted area," said Steve Walensky, interim public works director for the city who was hired last week as the new city administrator. "There'll be more to do, but right now that's the only area."

Phase 1, which is just wrapping up, includes the area of the creek that runs behind the old motel on Main Street next to Commerce Bank, to the bridge at Highway 76/86 near Designs by Debbie.

"With the money we had allocated, and not knowing what it was going to take, we chose to work in the area that had the biggest blockage," Stehlik said.

"There are so many businesses there, like Regal, and since we own [part of] the property they have, it made it easier from a permitting standpoint," Walensky said.

According to Stehlik, permission had to be granted from landowners, and permits obtained from three different state agencies before gravel could be removed, due to regulations governing water ways.

"We went through that process, and was permitted to mine gravel from the creek," Stehlik said. "We worked with the Army Corp of Engineers, the Department of Natural Resources in their land reclamation division, and had the Missouri Department of Conservation come down and explore the creek with us."

Obtaining the permits took three or four times as long as the actual work did, Walensky said, but they could not come soon enough, both he and Stehlik added, with the imminent threat of flooding each time rain was forecasted.

"We were quite anxious to get in there because we were afraid the floods would come," Stehlik said.

With Phase 1 now complete, Stehlik is pleased with the progress, and hopes funding can be obtained to start Phase 2.

"The weather, landowners and the state cooperated with us, and we got a lot of work done in a reasonably short amount of time."

But, they also went a step further.

The city has previously discussed creating basins or reservoirs in creek beds in strategic areas of the creek as a possible means to curtail flooding, by catching gravel carried in by floods.

"We've got more to talk about," Walensky said. "There are multiple phases and ongoing maintenance -- this is just the tip of iceberg."

The problem is, to work in the creeks, large machinery like dozers must have access to and be able into the creeks, which, due to stipulations and regulations limiting that, created some setbacks in getting started. However, Stehlik was able to get the permission needed to get in and get the job done.

"We asked for some variances to do more than was standard, so we could go deeper and take out some trees that they normally wouldn't allow taken out," Stehlik said. "They normally won't let you take out anything bigger than an inch-and-one-half, and there were a few trees that needed to come out so we could extract gravel.

"We've had a [good] record with the DNR, so by good communication and them understanding what we were trying to do, they were able to grant us these variances, and we were thankful for it."

"We were able to go all the way down to the hard pan, which is the hard rock," said Walensky.

The bedrock of the project, Walensky said, is to increase the creek's capacity to carry water, which he believes will help water flow through, versus flood, the city.

"The creek is not big enough to sustain a flood," Stehlik said. "And we've built buildings all over town that are in the flood water area. The problem is, this [issue] has not been dealt with for approximately 30 years, and government regulations got involved and didn't want anyone to get in the creek, but you have to get in [to address the issue], so when it finally reached a critical point [with last year's floods], we thought we better try to get more capacity in the creek."

The DNR will return to inspect the work Oct. 6, Stehlik said.

"Right now, our concentration was to get as much capacity in the creek as possible," Walensky said. "With the additional phases coming, we'll be looking at ways we can move the water through Cassville faster and make it easier to provide maintenance on the creek, too.

"My whole objective has always been to improve the carrying capacity, mitigate flooding and get the water out of Cassville as soon as possible, and I believe that for this portion of the project, it's clearly, 'mission accomplished.'"

The deeper and expanded creek beds speak for themselves visually.

"You can really see the difference," Walensky said. "The area most striking to me is right behind Fasco and the old motel. That whole area was full of rock."

Walensky thanked property owners, businesses and state agencies.

"We couldn't have done it without their cooperation," he said. "It makes our job easier."

The city will continue seeking funding sources to carry out the additional phases of the flooding project, including grants and donations from local businesses and property owners who want to see flood waters, which have caused significant financial and practical losses over the years, contained within creek banks for good.

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