City continues creek work to improve flood problems

Wednesday, April 26, 2017
After heavy rains hit off and on over a two-day period last week, Flat Creek had not flooded, thanks in part to ongoing efforts by the city, and local contractor, Barry County Ready-Mix, to address the city’s flooding problem. In a year’s time, the contractor has removed thousands of cubic yards of gravel, and debris, from the creek bed, and widened the creek channel, to increase water flow capacity. Julia Kilmer/reporter@cassville-democrat.com

Recent test of heavy rains proves progress to business owner

Before the spring rains hit, the city of Cassville hired local contractor Barry County Ready-Mix for a second phase of maintenance of Flat Creek in hopes of increasing water flow and capacity, part of an initiative started last year to address the flooding problems in the city.

The only bidder, Barry County Ready-Mix landed the job in March at a cost to the city of about $110,000.

This photo was taken of the same bridge on Sale Barn Road in March of last year, showing the massive amount of gravel that had accumulated in Flat Creek, which local contractor Barry County Ready-Mix has removed, as part of an ongoing city project to improve flooding problems. Julia Kilmer/reporter@cassville-democrat.com

In a year’s time, thousands of cubic yards of gravel and debris removed in and along the creek and width of the creek channel has been increased.

Steve Walensky, city administrator, said after heavy rains last week, portions of Flat Creek where maintenance has been completed did not flood its banks. While those rains did produce a large amount of water, they were still not as heavy as in 2015. When parts of Highway 112, Main Street, 13th Street and Fair Street in Cassville flooded in July 2015, Flat Creek in Jenkins had crested at 19.84 feet. Last week, it crested at about 14.5 feet.

The flooding problem came to a head in Cassville after two serious flooding episodes within six months of each other, in July and December 2015, resulting in millions in damage to homes and businesses.

After heavy rainfall off and on over a two-day period, as of last Friday, Flat Creek, between the Highway 248 bridge and Sale Barn Road bridge, had not breached its banks, in part due to ongoing maintenance local contractor Barry County Ready-Mix, in partnership with the city to address its flooding problem, has done to remove gravel, debris and widen the creek bed. Julia Kilmer/reporter@cassville-democrat.com

“The city has recognized we have a problem and is trying to find ways of lessening the effects of flooding,” said Corky Stehlik, Barry County Ready Mix owner. “We won’t ever fix it completely, but if we can have smaller floods, they are not as big as the 100-year floods we had in 2015.”

It has taken time to navigate the comprehensive scope of the project, and some red tape as everyone has experienced the learning curve involved in working with mandatory government processes to complete the work, but progress has been made, Stehlik said.

“We’ve navigated issues that are allowing us to be here and allowing us to do what we need to get more widening and water storage,” he said. “We trying to do some things that will help water flow.”

Shown is what a portion of Flat Creek on the west side of the Sale Barn Road bridge in March of last year looked like prior to the removal of thousands of cubic yards of gravel, and debris, by local contractor Barry County Ready-Mix. A year later, areas of the creek are visibly improved and now much wider and free of debris. Julia Kilmer/reporter@cassville-democrat.com

“It’s not the government agencies [impeding progress],” Walensky said. “I’ve never talked to a government agency yet that’s told us, ‘No.’ It’s not been understanding how to navigate the government agencies, and the process, steps, rules and education in order to get things done.”

Stehlik said everyone understands what the city and his company are trying to do, and knows there’s a terrible flooding problem in Cassville

“We’re picking up where we left off,” he said. “Last year, we took gravel out, and this year, we are trying to do some widening where we can get more flow on the creek. We’re also going to do some bank work and channelization.”

One business, the Dollar General, is moving its entire operations to a different location after dealing with repeat floods at its current location on Main Street.

However, any passersby now can visually attest how much wider areas of the creek bed are, including under the Highway 248 bridge, Sale Barn Road bridge and behind Regal and Price Cutter, where Barry County Ready Mix is currently working.

Designs by Debbie, located at the junction of Sale Barn Road and Highways 112/76, sits on the banks of Flat Creek and has endured repeat floods over the years. Therefore, heavy rainfall gets owner Kristin Houston’s attention.

“The first time, water was above our ankles, and the last time, much higher,” Houston said about the water that has come into her basement.

After last week’s rains, no water came into the basement, as the creek stayed within its banks.

“If the city wouldn’t have done the work, the water would have been in our basement [again],” Houston said. “The last time it flooded the basement, the water was almost waist-deep.”

Houston said she also noticed a difference further down Sale Barn Road where she has property, which typically floods after heavy rains.

“I have a rental house by Regal, so the creek work has helped that, too,” she said. “It was a project well worth the [city’s] money.”

“BCRM has done a fantastic job of clearing out the creek from Regal to Sale Barn Road bridge,” said Cassville Public Works Director Robert Forrest.

While the creek maintenance is not a quick or permanent fix, over the long haul, it will change the city’s flooding problem for the better, said Stehlik, adding that he is just starting to get going on the project.

“There’s a lot of work to be done,” he said. “I think there will be [more] phases for years to come. We can only do so much [at a time]. The city staff and city council have realized we’ve got to start an annual maintenance program, so we’re just [helping] chip away at it.”

In what Walensky called the “tip of the iceberg” last year, multiple phases and ongoing maintenance are designed to steadily chip away at the berg the flooding problem has become, in the hopes of preventing further Titanic-size disasters.

Several bouts of recent rainfall have slowed up crews, but their work continues, and is collaborative.

“All this is designed to help our community,” Stehlik said. “I feel privileged to have the job, and we’re all working together collectively with ideas on things that might help, and the city has hired an engineer to help with an overall big plan. The city wants to educate people and make wise decisions together. I’ve taken an interest in trying to work with the government agencies and get us some variances, and my son Brian has worked with the Department of Natural Resources. I’m happy with what we’ve been able to do.”

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