, Muskogee, OK

February 3, 2013

Officials: Stem the floods

Stewart: Funding basins would slow flow

By D.E. Smoot
Phoenix Staff Writer

— “It just rolls down the street when it rains, and it’s just awful — it’s scary, too.”

That’s the way Louella Arnold describes the scene on the street in front of her house after a heavy rainfall. Her Monta Place home has flooded three times during the past few years, causing thousands of dollars worth of damage.

“The last time we had to redo our den. ... My husband’s car was flooded, and it gets pretty expensive,” said Arnold, who has lived in the neighborhood about 42 years. “I wish something could be done — it gets expensive trying to replace all the stuff that gets ruined when it floods.”

Help may be coming for Arnold and other property owners who have experienced similar problems with flooding on the city’s east side. Public works officials plan to make another push for the construction of two detention basins that would slow the flow of stormwater during heavy rain events.

Public Works Director Mike Stewart said now is the time to implement the provisions of a comprehensive drainage plan that has been in the works for years. Stewart estimates the project, which would include the construction of two detention basins and concrete drainage channels, would cost about $5 million to complete.

That funding, Stewart said, could come from impervious surface and stormwater fees assessed to address drainage problems and similar issues. While the fund is insufficient to fund the flood control projects, Stewart said it is a dedicated revenue stream that could be used to repay a loan or issue a bond to fund construction of the proposed projects.

Stewart said he will present his proposals Tuesday to city councilors during the Public Works Committee meeting with the hope they will approve plans to move the project forward. Clay McAlpine, an engineer with Holloway Updike & Bellen who has been involved with the project design, said financing the project now “makes good economic sense under the circumstances.”

“Obviously, we are in a unique environment where interest rates are at historic lows,” McAlpine said. “Construction costs will go up, so it makes sense to borrow the money and do it right now instead of waiting until the money is available.”

Stewart said in addition to the potential savings of moving forward immediately, resolving the problems that create present flooding problems could open up land for future development.

“It creates the potential of taking some of these infill lots that cannot be developed now and creating property that can be used because it doesn’t flood anymore,” Stewart said. “Of course they (developers) would have to plan for some type of detention for whatever development is done.”

Flooding problems on the city’s east side began to crop up in the late 1980s and early ‘90s with the widening of York Street. Commercial and residential development in the area along both sides of Chandler Road exacerbated the problem of increased stormwater runoff.

Stewart said a fee was assessed on commercial developers in lieu of requiring on-site detention projects. Assessed fees were used to purchase property southwest of the York Street and Chandler Road intersection for the purpose of constructing a detention basin, but the project never was pursued primarily because of the lack of a funding source.

“The city spent a lot of years without any kind of drainage review,” Stewart said. “We’ve corrected that now, but we have to go back and address the issues.”

In order to do that, Stewart said, engineers have conducted hydrology studies and designed plans to accommodate the stormwater runoff in the area. Plans call for the construction of two detention basins — one where the original basin was planned and a second one north of Chandler Road between North Anthony Street and North David Lane near Elliot Street.

The detention basins, Stewart said, would catch and collect the stormwater runoff. The collected water would flow through smaller pipes from there, reducing the runoff volume and the risk of downstream flooding.

Gene Speck, who owns rental property on Monta Place, said he is holding out hope city councilors will approve plans to move forward with the detention basin plans. He said the threat of flooding reduces the rental value of the house, and he has incurred additional costs of helping tenants protect their property.

“The house has never flooded, but water has been up on the foundation wall and inside the garage,” Speck said, noting neighboring property owners have described the runoff as a tsunami. “There have been times when you looked out and could see nothing but water — no yard, no street, no anything.”

The water inundates the block so fast at times, a double box culvert below Monta Place that is 6 feet deep or deeper is unable to carry away the stormwater. Stewart said it is rainfall events like those that tie his stomach in knots.

“Whenever we get a couple of days of rain in a row, my belly starts knotting up and this is why,” Stewart said, pointing out an area in a neighborhood northwest of the intersection at York Street and Chandler Road where flooding has been a recurring problem. “The phone calls are going to be coming in, and I can’t give them an answer they want to hear.”

Stewart said the proposed detention basins would go a long way toward alleviating the periodic flooding problems experienced by property owners both south and north of Chandler Road east of York Street. If councilors approve plans to move forward, he predicted work could begin as early as next fall.

The Chandler Road project, Stewart said, could take about six months to complete. He estimated the Elliot Street project would take six to nine months to complete once it is started.

“We’re eager to move on this,” Stewart said. “I want it written in the history books, so we can move on to something else.”

City councilors will convene the Public Works Committee meeting at 4 p.m. Tuesday on the third floor of City Hall.

Reach D.E. Smoot at (918) 684-2901 or