ANO file photo of 2010 flooding on South Walnut Ave.
By Dave Adams
(March 14, 2011 – 10 a.m.) You could hold the key to minimizing flood damage your neighborhood.
Assistant city manager Bob Kindred told the Ames City Council recently that gathering information from the public is the key to short-term mitigation of localized flooding.
During the March 1 council meeting, Kindred presented a plan from the staff that identified short- and long-term strategies in lessening the impact of flooding in Ames.
The short-term goals rely upon information from residents to identify areas in the city prone to flooding.
Kindred said that anyone who witnessed water accumulation in their neighborhood during the August 2010 flooding should contact municipal engineer Tracy Warner through the Public Works Office at 239-5160.
City staff are looking for more than just flash flooding damage caused by overflowing creeks and rivers; they want to know about problems caused by water backing up from overfilled storm sewers and soaked low-lying areas.
“The rain was so intense, in some instances it never got to the storm sewers, it may have just fallen in the back yard," said Kindred. “In many cases, we learned the intensity of the rain overwhelmed the grading of home sites or the run-off areas.
“We would like to know to see if there is something we can do mitigate those problems for businesses and homeowners.”
The city is also undertaking a three-year study of the sanitary sewer system, the city’s collection network for waste from devices like toilets, and sinks . The $2.5 million inflow and infiltration study should identify gaps in the pipes and problems with manholes that allow clear water to get into the sanitary sewer system.
“Then we want to start a program to eliminate the gaps,” said Kindred. “Clean water breaches into sanitary pipes cause two problems.
“First, during the greatest rainfall times, the clear water fills the sanitary sewers, causing back up in homes and businesses. Second, we end up having to treat that water along with the waste water – its more effective and efficient when we can concentrate treatment on the water that should need to be treated.”
Meanwhile, increasing public awareness is the cornerstone of long-term mitigation efforts.
Kindred said that residents should be aware that flood insurance is available for those living outside of flood plains. They can contact city planner Charlie Kuester at 239-5445 for more information.
Also, residents need to be aware of how popular home features like walk-out basements can be easily flooded.
Other long-term mitigation goals would be facilitated by new city ordinances on storm water runoff, he said. But enactment of any ordinances is at least 18 months away, said Kindred. There is still much data to gather.
Kindred said that a new area river study is being considered.
Two weeks ago, Kindred, David Miller of Iowa State University’s Facilities Planning and Management Department and Leanne Harter, Story County’s director of planning and zoning, met with the Iowa Flood Center.
Kindred said statewide information and advice would be needed for any local planning to be successful. They also want to be certain they understand the broader picture, starting with rainfall and run-off patterns.
“We would like to make sure we understand the meteorological and climatic influences and the impact of rainfall patterns, especially the heaviest rainfalls, in our water shed before commissioning an engineering study,” said Kindred.
“We need to understand what may actually come out of the sky.”
The last major study took a year, he said. So any new rules on building won’t be considered for some time.
“It’s within the city council’s purview to require higher protections in flood ways,” said Kindred. “ We already have some. That is why we require 3 ft. elevation rather than 1 ft. over the 100-year flood level on South Duff.
“That will be ultimately what the city council will wrestle with - to study possible mitigation alternatives and to take into account the often conflicting needs and interests of varying stakeholders. When people have invested tens of millions of dollars in the area, we need to consider interests.
“Flood mitigation is not a quick fix. Almost anything will have an adverse impact somewhere else.”
City staff also continues to work the Federal Emergency Management Agency on disaster relief applications filed by Ames property owners.
The Cyclone Truck Stop property on Dayton Road sustained damage during severe windstorms in June 2010 and was further affected by the August flooding.
Originally, FEMA’s disaster declaration for Ames only covered the August 2010 floods. FEMA subsequently extended disaster relief to include the June windstorms. This extension allowed the site’s owners to apply for aid.
City officials said FEMA’s slow response time has delayed plans for tearing down the truck stop.
City engineer Warner said that there also are 10 property owners who could get money from FEMA to modify their sites to deter future flooding. These properties will need further evaluation as part of their applications, which are due Sept. 15.
The council will revisit the flood mitigation issue in their meeting on March 22 2011.