Answers sought for recurring flooding

WILLMAR -- The Public Works/Safety Committee will recommend the City Council find ways to deal with recurring flooding issues associated with heavy rain events in specific parts of town.

WILLMAR -- The Public Works/Safety Committee will recommend the City Council find ways to deal with recurring flooding issues associated with heavy rain events in specific parts of town.

A motion approved by the committee Tuesday evening recommends the council revisit the idea of developing some storm water retention areas in the neighborhood of the 10th Street and Kandiyohi Avenue Southwest intersection, where the Warren and Jan Lee Jorgenson home was damaged by floodwater.

The motion directs city staff to again discuss with school officials the possible use of a field behind Kennedy Elementary School and a field at Garfield School as sites for temporarily holding storm water, as well as consider the city-owned Miller Park as a pond site.

In addition, the committee recommended the city develop cost estimates for possibly buying some homes in the 10th and Kandiyohi Avenue area for the purpose of establishing a storm water holding pond.

"We'll develop some costs, and then we'll be able to make some comparisons about what is the best approach to dealing with this recurring flooding that we're seeing in specific neighborhoods,'' City Administrator Michael Schmit told the Tribune after the meeting.


The committee was reacting to localized flooding that occurred during a storm that dumped more than four inches of rain in some parts of town between 11:30 p.m. Aug. 20 and 12:15 a.m. Aug. 21, according to rainfall totals complied by the city engineering department.

The flooding occurs because the storm sewer cannot drain the water fast enough. Public Works Director Mel Odens said the sewer system is designed to handle 10-year events, but the heavier 100-year events seem to occur more frequently.

Committee Chairman Doug Reese said installing larger pipes was out of the question. He said there had been discussion on developing holding areas, which would drain the water out over a period of time. He asked if any further progress had been made on retention areas.

Schmit said a study by Barr Engineering looked at the Kennedy School site, but the school district and neighbors did not support the idea. He said city staff never received any direction from the council to proceed with a pond.

Committee member Ron Christianson said something was needed to divert or hold water or buy out homes for retention ponds. He said the issue had been left on the table too long.

Reese said the only way to know is to have the engineering staff look at options. "We want to key in on ways to help property owners,'' he said.

Christianson said he was disappointed with the city's response. He thought the Public Works Department should have provided some assistance.

Schmit said he sympathized with the Jorgensons, but said such assistance would have been inappropriate.


The intersection at 10th and Kandiyohi flooded two years ago, and homes near the intersection received some water at that time, but nothing like the damage that happened last week.

Jorgenson and 11 others attended the meeting. Reese said he was reluctant to open the discussion, but allowed Jorgenson to speak because his home has suffered the most damage.

Water from the flooded intersection caused part of his basement foundation to collapse. He and his wife were later ordered to vacate the house because it was deemed unsafe by the city building official.

Jorgenson said he would be willing to sell his house for a holding pond.

After the committee voted and the neighbors left the meeting room, Jorgenson told the Tribune he was disappointed with the council's response.

"It seems like this is a repeat of a couple of years ago,'' Jorgenson said. "It doesn't appear that at this stage of the game that nothing's going to happen very quick. If it wasn't for Mr. Christianson stepping up and trying to make things happen, I don't think anything would be happening.''

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