City, USACE and Public Discuss Flood Risk

The City of Manhattan facilitated an open house discussion on flood plain safety Wednesday evening at the Manhattan Fire Department Headquarters.

The discussion centered around a large pilot project recently initiated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Kansas City District, to help communities in the Big Blue River flood plain stay safe and dry.

“The thrust of this pilot project is to look at specifically the risk of flooding, less so of what the lines in the flood maps will say or what flood insurance will cost. It’s all interrelated, but its more about the risk of getting wet during a flood event,” said Chad Bunger, flood plain manager for the City of Manhattan.

Senior Project Manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Kansas City District, Brian Rast echoed Bunger and added the entire project revolves around informing and engaging the public.

“Once they understand the risk, they can make their own individual decisions on their tolerable risk and what measures they need to take,” Rast said, “like elevating a home, flood-proofing around a building, or they may decide not to be in the flood plain.”

There are several key elements to the pilot project according the Bunger. The first is to create a National Weather Service model and website so that the public can see how much water the Corps of Engineers is releasing from Tuttle Creek Reservoir and how might affect flooding in the area. The second is to create a Future Conditions model, which is a predictive flood model that will allow the City to predict future flooding events and how they would affect the community. The final piece of the project is to put together a Flood Plain Management Plan, which Bunger described as a “playbook” of the steps that local officials and property owners can take to minimize flooding risks.

Both Bunger and Rast emphasized that the effectiveness of the pilot project depends on public input.

“This project’s only gonna be as good as what the public wants. They’re the ones being impacted by the flooding,” Bunger said.

“These tools are gonna just really help these folks, but it’s up to them to kind of share the responsibility and help work on the next steps,” said Rast.

The Corps of Engineers will hold another open house in June, and according to Bunger, the project will wrap-up sometime in 2015.

Several federal, state and local entities will contribute to the project including:

The Kansas Department of Emergency Management, Kansas Hazard Mitigation Team, Kansas Department of Agriculture, Division of Water Resources, City of Manhattan, Pottawatomie and Riley Counties, FEMA, NOAA National Weather Service and U.S. Geological Survey.