City to complete hydraulic study for flood prevention

Wednesday, August 30, 2017
The city continues to work on solving the puzzle of its flooding issues, piece by piece. One such piece contributing to the problem is the buildup of gravel in Flat Creek after storms. The city hired Barry County Ready Mix earlier this year to start removing it, which did keep some flooding at bay, but new rains just result in more buildup, impeding the flow of water again. If pending federal funding the city has applied for through the USDA comes through, the city will be able to move forward with its plan to create catch basins to collect the gravel and help improve the flow of water, and will borrow approximately $4 million to get started on its water and sewer infrastructure repairs. The city is also completing a hydraulic study of its water ways to help prevent flooding, and will have data on that soon. Julia Kilmer/reporter@cassville-democrat.com

Cassville applies for $4 million USDA loan for infrastructure

The city of Cassville and its residents may finally start seeing some light at the end of the tunnel with its flooding issues, now that a hydraulic study of the city's waterways is almost complete, which will provide data and a game plan on what steps to take next.

The city hired HDR, Inc., Engineering Company to conduct a hydraulic study to help solve its ongoing flooding problem.

Neglecting gravel buildup in Flat Creek over a period of decades, such as what is shown here, is one piece that has contributed to the city’s flooding problems, says Steve Walensky, Cassville city administrator. But he is moving the city forward with concrete plans to keep the gravel out with catch basins, improve water flow with a hydraulic study of the city’s water ways, clearing out clogged drainage ditches, and major infrastructure repairs to keep water flowing through town, versus flooding its banks, as it has for decades. Julia Kilmer/reporter@cassville-democrat.com

According to Steve Walensky, city administrator, the city is in the last stages of the study, and will be meeting with lead engineer Eric Dove, with HDR, to review drone data soon. Thereafter, they can start putting a dynamic hydraulic model to work to determine and facilitate the most efficient water flow through the city to help prevent flooding. Anderson Engineering completed surveyance work for the study.

"They can start modeling different ideas on the creek," said Walensky, adding that the data will also help the city determine what bridge design would be best for the 7th Street bridge, which was damaged beyond repair in the last major flooding. "We’re very pleased with the progress so far, and look forward to the conclusion when we have a working model to use for management of our creeks and streams in Cassville."

The study is just one of several puzzle pieces that must fit together to form the bigger picture of what needs to be done to finally eliminate or at least reduce, severe flooding. More updates will be reported as they become available.

Creek gravel is another piece of that puzzle. Buildup of gravel continues to be a problem in Flat Creek, and, even after efforts by Cassville contractor Barry County Ready Mix, which was hired by the city to remove it and did help keep some flooding at bay, new rains result in repeat build-up, clogging the creek bed again and impeding the flow of water.

"The April floods added even more gravel, but this is what got us in trouble in the first place, when we neglected to maintain our carrying capacity," Walensky said. "Think of it like a clogged artery — the more you don’t take care of it, the worse it gets. It makes it much more flood-prone if you don't keep it cleaned out. It is an ongoing maintenance project we will have and is part of the nature of the beast. We’re looking at putting some catch basins in place so that we can try to be very smart with what maintenance we have to perform."

For now, the city is at a standstill to do more work in the creek beds or move forward with planned infrastructure repairs until they get a green light from a federal agency they've applied to for assistance.

"We have spent the money allocated for creek cleaning," Walensky said. "We're hoping to hear something from the U.S. Department of Agriculture soon. Oct. 1 is when their fiscal budget begins, and we're going to be one of the first cities in line. The good news is, we’ve got a park and storm water tax that provides funding for us to maintain the storm water. It's like the roads — you’ve got to maintain them. It is the city’s job to maintain the parks, roads and streams."

Walensky said the city will be asking for $4 million for the first leg of its $11 million project to repair and rebuild the city's water and sewer infrastructure, problems with which are attributed to its collection system.

"We had made applications through the USDA, the Department of Natural Resources and the private side, and if we get the approval, I'll be recommending the USDA because I believe they’ll be cheaper," he said. "In the meantime, the city crew is still out making repairs. They work every day on the problem. But the bigger project is where we will be able to rebuild and repair the problems we’ve identified."

Walensky also shared that the city received an extension on a voluntary compliance agreement the DNR, to give them time to fix wastewater collection issues.

"We just got a five-year extension on that to fix the collection system, which we know is what’s causing the problem."

The recent clearing of a large drainage ditch along Fair and 11th Streets that has been clogged with trees and debris for years, which a local landlord believes has been contributing to flooding, is another piece that may help solve the puzzle.

Walensky reiterated that he and the city are committed to improve flooding problems, and hopes to see improvements that will, in the long run, benefit everyone.

"We will all rise with the tide," he said.

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