The preliminary results form the Amber Meadows ground water study are in and a report on that phase one was given to the Great Bend City Council Monday night. However, there was debate over whether the city should proceed with the second part of the $25,000 survey.
After hearing the initial results, concerns of the potential cost for a solution, and hearing concerns from residents and council members, Councilman Cory Urban moved to terminate the study. “I didn’t vote for it to start with and I didn’t support this, I think we’ve achieved what we aimed for” with phase one, gathering all the data the city needs.
There is water everywhere and the study is exclusive to Amber Meadows, and that is what he wanted to avoid.
Councilman Dana Dawson, who also opposed the study, seconded the motion. But, Urban and Dawson were the only yes votes and the motion failed.
It was a split council requiring a tie-breaking vote by Mayor Joe Andrasek that approved the study May 7 following pleadings of Amber Meadows residents suffering from basement flooding. The cost of the study will be assessed to future homeowners in the housing development.
The city’s on-call engineering firm Professional Engineering Consultants of Wichita brought in SCS Engineers, groundwater specialists out of Wichita, to perform the necessary analysis.
There were comments Monday from Amber Meadows homeowners concerned about their basements and about continually pumping water into Veterans Memorial Lake. It is already strained and the city doesn’t want to make things worse.
There were residents from other neighborhoods, such as Stone Ridge, worried about their areas and wanting equal treatment.
Then, there was the fact Great Bend is not alone and other cities are in same boat. Water from here could cause problems down stream.
But, Councilwoman Jolene Biggs summed it up this way: “Find out the cost and put it on the ballot.”
“To those affected by this ongoing thing, I feel sorry for you,” said Kevin Hopkins with SCS. He has dealt with flooding before and knows how much grief it can cause.
“We have completed phase one, which is essentially an evaluation of the regional groundwater in the Great Bend area,” he said. “What we did was cast a wide net.”
Hopkins said they looked at groundwater monitoring wells through Groundwater Management District 5, which takes in all or parts of several counties including Barton. “What we wanted to see was historically how have groundwater levels changed with time and precipitation.”
His team used information from the Kansas Geological Survey and GMWD 5 “to go back in history and create a map.”
“What we discovered was no surprise,” he said. It is very cyclical, with levels low during drought and rising when conditions are wet.
In some cases, records allowed them to peer back 50 years. They saw past floods and drought years
“So, in the big pictures, we know how the aquifer is behaving,” he said. “The next step was to refine the picture a little bit.”
The information from GWMD 5 looked at last five years, starting in 2014. It showed groundwater ebbs and flows.
“What we discovered was that groundwater levels have come up between three and seven feet. But, this was as of this January, not taking into account the recent rainfall.
“That is in line with some of the historical levels that were seeing in flooding years,” Hopkins said.
In summary, groundwater elevations have risen approximately two to six feet between mid-2016 and the end of 2018, said Josh Golka, an engineer with PEC. Groundwater elevation in December 2017 was approximately elevation 1,844 to 1,846 in Amber Meadows. Homes in Amber Meadows were constructed with top of foundation elevations ranging from 1,856-1,857.
Typical basement depth from top of foundation is eight feet resulting in basement elevations ranging from 1,848 to 1,849.
When asked about using the information in setting minimum depths for basements in Amber Meadows, Golka said he would hesitate. Levels may rise higher in the future, rendering these obsolete.
Instead, he suggested just disclosing the information and the potential risks to those buying lots.
After the recent rain events in May, PEC obtained the elevation of 1,851.78 for the water surface level at Veterans Memorial Lake on May 24.
“This gives us a good baseline,” Golka said.
“Our next step is to move forward with phase two of this study,” he said. This is the field work to determine just how much water they are dealing with and what is needed to alleviate the problem and manage the water, such as a system of pumps.
“Phase two is a combination of two things,” Hopkins said. “It is collecting data in the field and the reduction of that data so we can conceptualize and come up with feasibility level costs to construct a dewatering system.”
Specific to Amber Meadows, it will involve drilling wells to gage geological makeup of soil.
They will put all that data into a model and simulate rain and drought events. “We will calculate the volume of water they are dealing with and use that to come up with possible solutions and their costs,” Hopkins said.
Phase two is included in the original $25,000 approved for the study. Phase one ate up about half of that.
A costly proposition
Council members pressed the engineers for a cost estimate, not only for Amber Meadows, but for the city as a whole.
“You can lower the groundwater levels, it is expensive and permitting will be a challenge,” Hopkins said. A permit must be obtained from the Kansas Department of Agriculture.
And, believe it or not, he said the GWMD 5 has a groundwater conservation plan in place. This also has to be considered.
Hopkins said they have talked with state and groundwater district officials, who were open proposals. “They will work with us. But, there will be hoops to jump through.”
After the initial cost, there is the maintenance and operating costs.
“Then there is the big question – what do you do with the water?,” Hopkins said.
Veterans Memorial Lake is stretched and sending water to the Arkansas River would be costly and problematic due to the required permits.
“It’s very preliminary to start talking about cost,” he said. This, along with what size of a system would be needed, are all part of phase two.
As for the study, Hopkins was reluctant to extrapolate the data city wide since the geology varies so much. “It would be different in different parts of the city.
He has dewatered construction sites, but not for entire cities experiencing what Great Bend is going through.
And, their study deals with groundwater. It would not address the surface water drainage.