Harold Deckerd, assistant state conservationist for water resources with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), had directed the study promoting a structural solution to Monett's flooding problems. Deckerd was accompanied by Joe Steuber, a planning engineer with NRCS.
Deckerd recalled that when he originally made water surface profiles and land surveys, his assessment of Monett's benchmarks showed much higher flood potential than the flood plain map from the early 1970s showed. The more recent revision of the city's flood plain map by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers largely confirmed Deckerd's findings.
"I don't know what I can tell you as possible options," Deckerd said. "I don't see the structural approach ever taking place."
Utilities Superintendent Pete Rauch, who led the city's efforts in the 1990s to develop a flooding solution, said the option of building dams has been compromised by the construction of houses. Once the city failed to buy the Schaller farm, where the main dam would have been constructed, the opportunity to build disappeared. The 200-acre farm was subsequently subdivided into five-acre tracts. Around 10 houses have since been built to the east on land needed to make the water retention strategy work.
Houses built on the Heim property north of the Heim trailer park have taken away the option for the second dam at Chapell Drive and Business Highway 60. Rauch said that while the valley to the northeast of that intersection is small, a significant portion of rain contributing to the Sept. 19 flood came from there. It was the first time he had seen Chapell Drive swamped by flood water since the road was rebuilt in the early 1990s.
Deckerd contended that less water from Kings Prairie contributes to Monett flooding than is commonly thought. He felt much of the rain that seriously impacts Broadway falls between Business Highway 60 and Highway 60.
The computer model the NRCS used to calculate how Monett flooding works does not have to be reproduced, Deckerd said. The Corps of Engineers used an even superior program to calculate its flood plain maps. Deckerd said the city should be able to get access to the Corps' program and run various scenarios to see how the current situation could improve.
Committee members focused on the suggestion made by Drury University students to turn Front Street into a second channel for flood water. Deckerd concurred with Rauch that the Drury plan does not address getting water from the west end of Front Street to the west side of Highway 37. Addressing the various bottlenecks between those two points appeared to be a more formidable obstacle on closer review.
A real solution, Rauch said, would require resolving all the bottlenecks along Kelly Creek. These would include the bridge and buildings at the now abandoned Olympia Foundry and all four bridges over the creek at Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Seventh streets.
The next obstacles are two railroad bridges, one on the main line and a spur going into the milk processing plant.
"The railroad will just tell you that you have to pay for [replacement]," said engineer Kevin Sprenkle.
Standard bridge cost is $10,000 per linear foot. Each bridge runs close to 50 feet.
The last major obstacle is the Highway 37 bridge. While deemed bigger than its predecessor, Rauch recalled seeing debris bouncing off the bridge in the Sept. 25, 1993, flood, only months after the new bridge was finished.
Deckerd said a real solution would involve making the channel deeper. Digging would present infrastructure issues. Rauch said the city's main 36-inch sewer interceptor line runs along the creek. Built in 1974, relocating the pipe would cost around $400 per foot. Sprenkle suggested a realignment of the sewer piping could require the addition of another lift station, representing another perpetual expense to the city.
Even with all these steps, Deckerd pointed out the water still flows into a narrow channel west of Highway 37. Widening the creek would be a job for the Corps of Engineers.
"It would cost millions and millions to widen the channel," Deckerd said. "I've got to think a buyout would be less."
In Neosho, 150 properties were bought out in its flood mitigation effort. Another 100 properties were bought out in Piedmont. All the purchases were voluntary.
Funding worked off a formula where 75 percent was provided in federal money and 25 percent came locally. Steuber said a combination of funding through the State Emergency Management Agency, the Missouri Department of Economic Development and block grants paid for the final portion in Neosho.
Committee members discussed relocating businesses out of the flood plain but keeping them downtown. City Administrator Dennis Pyle said some business operators could take a buyout and retire. The number of businesses that would actually relocate may not be that many, he suggested.
If a buyout took place, there would be no need to make the expensive changes along the flood plain.
How much land might be needed to stop flood damage would have to be studied. Monett Building Inspector George Rausch said a 100-year flood could go 24 to 36 inches higher than the Sept. 19 flood. He figured last Saturday's event might only classify as a 40-year flood, even though none higher had been seen in Monett in 90 years.
"I couldn't even guess when we could revise your plan," Deckerd said. "The quickest way to do it would be for Congressman [Roy] Blunt or Senator [Kit] Bond to earmark funds for the study. Bond made earmarks five years in row, but none for the last two years."
Building Inspector Rausch added that it was not likely that Monett could get a disaster declaration covering the Sept. 19 flood. There was very little structural damage that state officials require as a pre-requisite for disaster assistance.