City officials took it seriously when a federal representative told them earlier this year that continued damage to the flood control dike system here could lead to significant losses for local property owners. They took the news seriously enough that city staff have formed three study committees and preparations are being made for a special study session when that information will be brought to elected officials, the Great Bend City Council was told Monday night.
City Administrator Howard Partington said there are three areas of study that city staff members have been assigned to.
• Operation and maintenance of the flood control project.
• Violations of city regulations to protect the system; how the project is being damaged; and the need to get emergency equipment into and out of the flood control project and into the river system that is being used for recreation.
• Recreational access, considering a legal way to get people into the river area for recreation.
Partington said he’s been pleased with the quality of the city reports and he’s also been encouraged by the information the city staff is developing, which indicates the city is in “a lot better shape in a lot of ways” that they first thought.
Partington is planning a team building work session to study the challenges and discuss possible options with the council.
A date will be determined later.
Army Corps of Engineers Levee Safety Program Manager Jim Martell, from the Tulsa, Okla. district office, met with the council previously, explaining recent inspections of the local flood control system has turned up significant damage cause by the recreational use of the area. However, it is against the law to ride all terrain vehicles and other vehicles on the levees, unless there is an established and paved area to cross the levee to get from one public area to another.
And that illegal use has also led to damage to the levees. Martell noted that there are areas where erosion is starting to cause damage, where water has taken up the damage that began with the vehicular traffic.
Continued damage to the levee system could lead to the community losing its current relationship with the federal system, and that could lead to anyone who has a federally-insured mortgage being forced to purchase expensive flood insurance on their property.