Flood protection study in early stage

 

Possible options for improved flood control were outlined for about 100 people who attended the Miles City Flood Protection public information meeting held at Miles Community College Thursday night. An assessment study is in the beginning phase and it is hoped that it will be complete in six to nine months.

  The meeting was attended by members of the city’s engineering staff including local Flood Plain Administrator Samantha Malenovsky and three members of KLJ Engineering, the firm that has been hired to do a feasibility study on how to deal with Miles City’s flooding issues.

Carl Jackson, KLJ project manager, Joel Paulsen, project engineer; and Molly Sullivan, government relations manager explained the process and answered questions. 

Paulsen opened by saying that he grew up in Moorhead, Minn., and knows from personal experience what flooding is.  He then explained what the feasibility study is designed to do.  When the study is complete later this summer, KLJ will have a report and a list of recommendations for the city to consider.

The first option is, as Paulsen explained, to do nothing and let the current situation remain.  A second option will be to continue encouraging property owners to obtain Letters of Map Amendment (LOMA), which permit some property owners to determine whether their property truly is in the flood plain.  If a survey shows it is above the base flood elevation (BSE) that property is out of the flood plain and will no longer require flood insurance.

While this is currently taking place, with Malenovsky reporting approximately 130 LOMA applications on file at her office, if a property is truly below the BSE, all the survey will do is confirm the need for flood insurance.

A third option is to create a more accurate model and get the Federal Emergency Management Agency to accept a revised Digital Flood Insurance Rate Map.  This would involve a process called 2-D modeling.  Which asked by an audience member why the 2-D modeling hadn’t been used in the first place, Paulsen explained that, compared to the method used, 2-D modeling is “very labor intensive, time-consuming and involves significant costs.”

See “Study,” page 5

 

Even if a more accurate map were created and accepted by FEMA, there would still be properties that were in the flood plain simply because the current levee is not certified by FEMA and cannot be certified because so little is known about the actual dike construction.

The fourth option, and the only one which would take Miles City out of the flood plain, would be to construct a new flood management structure.

The form that the structure will take is the primary focus of the study.  There are a number of alternatives including a earth-filled levee, concrete flood walls, and even complex flood gates.  The system that works best may vary along the length of the Tongue River, with different structures suiting different portions of the riverbank.

Paulsen also emphasized that even if a property owner has a LOMA or is out of the flood plain and does not have to pay flood insurance, that person would affected if a major flood event struck the town.  Businesses would close, roads would be impassable, public structures would be damaged that would have to be repaired.

The feasibility study will include possible locations for the new flood management structures, any property that would need to be acquired, what options for structures would be and cost estimates of any possible solutions.

The storm drainage within the city itself is also part of the feasibility study, to insure that a levee to keep the water out doesn’t trap too much water inside.

The study is concerned with the east or city side of the river, not the county side.  One concern with flood control structures is that they will affect upstream and downstream property as water is diverted. Paulsen said the ideal system would have no impact on land along the river but that is not possible in this case.

Since the study is being done for the city, it will be concerned with flood impact on the city.  The city water treatment plant will also be considered for protection but other properties on the west side of the Tongue River would not be considered and may face increased inundation if a new levee system is constructed.

Altering either the course of the Tongue River or dredging the Yellowstone River were not seen as viable alternatives because of the difficulty in dealing with the river bed and the many agencies that have interest in those rivers.

The economic development aspect of a new flood management system was also touched upon, although that is not part of the current scope of work of this study.  However, Paulsen said, in response to question from local attorney Butch Krutzfeldt, that he would bring the matter up to the city to ask if they would like to expand the scope of work.

KLJ’s Molly Sullivan discussed current legislation on the national level concerning flood insurance rates in addition to explaining that funding sources that existed for previous projects, such as Devil’s Lake, N.D., no longer exist.

Malenovsky thanked KLJ for attending the meeting and for coming down to Miles City several times even before the funding was in place to contract with the firm for the study.  She emphasized that this will be a community project and once the study is presented, it will be up to the community to decide which option to chose.

Malenovsky asked that any residents with questions or concerns to contact her office.  She also wants all information on LOMAs that have been applied for in the city.  She also thanked everyone for attending because “this will be a big, big project”  and will require considerable community involvement.

A website is being created for the study by KLJ and should be available with two weeks.  That website will contain all the current information on the study and will provide a method for submitting questions or information.  When the website is live, Malenovsky will make an announcement.

Comments may be mailed to Molly Sullivan, 4585 Coleman Street, P.O. Box 1157, Bismarck, N.D., 58502-1157 or emailed to molly.sullivan@kljeng.com.  Malenovsky can be reached at 874-8617.

When the study is complete, further meetings will be held to explain the options to the public and to assist the community in making its decision.