Residents sound off on flooding to Manhattan Commission

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Multiple residents spoke passionately about the flash flooding in Wildcat Creek during the public comment section of the Manhattan City Commission meeting Tuesday.

Resident Chuck Henderson pointed to development along the creek as the cause for repeated flooding in the area and called the inability to mitigate drainage into the creek a failure on the part of various local municipalities and agencies, including the City of Manhattan.

“What we have here is a failure to collaborate with a known problem that was created by people, not god, not the random weather patterns,” Henderson said.

Resident Charlie Pottorff said he harvests and sells wood for a living and sustained losses to his product during the flooding at his residence on Cumberland Road. He also expressed concerns about development along Wildcat Creek.

“We need to take a better look and have more respect for the environment, because I can tell you right now the environment’s going to win in the end,” said Pottorff. “Just ask them people on the Mississippi River or in New Orleans.”

Resident Samantha Rose also said the responsibility falls on the commission to work on fixing repeated floods and resultant damages.

Debonaires Haircuts owner Shannon Lewis said his property in Village Plaza was filled with many feet of water and thought the commission was too cavalier at meeting’s start.

“I’m saying this — I encourage y’all to consider the lives of other people as you’re representing the City of Manhattan,” Lewis said. “It’s very important to have some heart there.”

City Manager Ron Fehr spoke with KMAN after the meeting and addressed concerns regarding development. He said the severity of this flooding incident was more due to the amount and duration of the rainfall in the county. He referred to the event as a more than 500 year flood.
“I’m not going to say that development doesn’t impact things and change some of the flow characteristics, necessarily, but you’ve got to put a lot of obstacles down in the watershed to really have an effectual change,” said Fehr.
Fehr also said the city has regulations that have kept much of new development away from the watershed, but only 10 percent of the watershed feeding Wildcat Creek is under their jurisdiction and control. Programs to buy out properties have been in place for the area in their control, but as they are voluntary they cannot force all owners to comply.
He did say detention ponds were a possibility, but they also were reliant on property owner compliance and a significant amount of funding. They also run into the same problem regarding the 90 or so percent of the watershed that is out of their jurisdiction.
Commissioner Usha Reddi said they got the message and appreciated the members of the public who came to deliver it to them. She said they’ll be reviewing data and reflecting on everything they heard from the community over the coming months and years.

“This commission will continue to work for you,” Reddi said. “The flood is over and we might have more rain, [but]it’s a continuing process to see what we could do better, should we have development, what can we do better for the tenants that are moving into some of those places and for future tenants that want to live in Manhattan.”

Commissioner Jerred McKee said he was shocked by the number of people who were completely unaware they lived in an area in danger of flooding. He called for the commission to take action.
“If you’re a landlord and your home is in a floodplain, you should have to tell your tenant that they are in a floodplain and [that]they should have insurance to compensate that,” McKee said. “I think it’s something that we need to do a better job of making sure that those people are being informed of the risk that they’re taking living in that area.”

Mayor Pro Tempore Mike Dodson commended the community for stepping up to help those in need as well as the first responders for their work during the flooding and their work that will be continuing for days and possibly weeks to come.

“A lot of things to be thankful for, but [there’s] a lot of cleaning up to do and still people to help,” Dodson said.

Commissioner Wynn Butler also commented on the community response and said the outpouring of support for those evacuated from their homes was amazing.

“I found it interesting that there was an animal response team out there at Pottorf Hall taking care of dogs and cats, I didn’t even realize that,” Butler said. “I helped them put a cage or two together [because]I like the animals. I thought that was quite impressive”

Mayor Linda Morse said her heart goes out to those affected and that they will continue to reach out and do what they can to help those displaced by the flood and those living in shelters.

“We have high expectations of ourselves and the community has high expectations, and sounds like we need to push on and try harder,” Morse said.

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