#WaterYouWaitingFor: KC Water

Posted on August 2, 2018

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We’re profiling the Final Four #WaterYouWaitingFor projects – the winners collected their trophies, goody bags, and All-In ELGL memberships at #ELGL18 but we wanted each project to also get some time to shine on ELGL.org.

View the nominated projects online at the Atlas. Like ELGL, the Atlas believes that local government is strengthened when we share big ideas about infrastructure. ELGL and the Atlas partner to highlight local government projects and programs.

Michael Grimaldi

Strategic Initiatives Coordinator, Kansas City, Missouri

Enhanced Flood Control Through Bistate, Multiagency Partnership

Explain your award-winning #WaterYouWaitingFor project in 100 words or less.

A unique multi-jurisdictional collaboration over many years enabled resolution of complex and long-term flooding challenge along Turkey Creek, a tributary of the Missouri River that runs through urbanized portions of the Kansas City area.

Small businesses previously shuttered for weeks or months to clean up after a heavy rain event gained new assurance that risk of business disruption would be significantly reduced. Property values stabilized and rose with increased protection from damaging floods.

Describe KCMO/KC Water to someone who has never visited Missouri/the region before.

On a map, the Kansas City area is located at the intersection of the varying river boundary of the western border of Missouri and the eastern border of Kansas changes to a straight, state-line boundary.

The area was a stop on the westward portion of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. The city’s geographic location made Kansas City a jumping-off point for westward expansion, a feature enhanced by construction of the Hannibal Bridge, the first railroad bridge over the Missouri River in the region.

This transportation nexus remains today in the form of intersections of interstate highways; railroad routes (Kansas City is the second-largest rail center in the nation); and passenger and cargo aviation via Kansas City International Airport. In addition – as has been the case since its first settlement – the intersection of the Kansas and Missouri rivers at Kansas City also has been the foundation of transportation of goods by river.

These river-based historical roots of Kansas City are the basis for its “crossroads” character in many realms, including economic (agriculture and manufacturing, as well as other goods); finance (home of the 10th Federal Reserve District as well as regional and national presence of the banking, investing, and insurance industries); and arts and entertainment (a nationally prominent art museum, symphony orchestra, opera, ballet, a vibrant professional theater community, and major professional sports franchises).

But more importantly, these river resources have made the Kansas City area one of the most hydrologically secure metropolitan areas in the nation. Flows of these rivers easily fill the needs of the area’s population of about 1.5 million. Several water utilities serve the metropolitan area. KC Water serves the City of Kansas City, Mo. and about 30 neighboring communities that purchase water from KC Water on a wholesale basis.

But the river and the state line also create geographic and governmental barriers. The Missouri River, turns easterly at Kansas City as it flows from its source in the Rockies to its intersection with the Mississippi River in St. Louis, dividing the Missouri side of the Kansas City area into north and south. The Kansas-Missouri state line divides the metropolitan area into east and west governmentally and politically. As a result, issues that by right are “areawide” – especially as related to area geography, and most especially as related to stormwater flows and periodic floods from the Missouri and Kansas rivers and their tributaries – become particularly challenging to solve.

In this community environment, innovative and flexible solutions are necessary to resolve some of the most challenging issues.

Where did this project idea come from?

Historically, the bistate, multicity Turkey Creek watershed has been a flooding challenge. Floods have permeated the area since the 19th century. Urbanization (urban development that diminished permeable surfaces, among other factors) exacerbated these problems in the 1990s and early 2000s to the point that civic and governmental forces were brought to bear to address the flooding issue.

Share some of the project highlights.

The Turkey Creek Flood Control Project was conducted in 13 phases over 17 years. The final phase was begun in 2017 and is slated for completion in 2021.

Each phase was different and required unique collaboration and coordination of multiple governmental agencies and businesses with regard to finance, responsible parties, construction logistics and scheduling, and more.

More than a dozen small businesses (restaurants and retail, primarily but also light industrial) now have a significantly reduced risk of flood damage, preserving continuity of jobs and economic activity.

Major transportation corridors (Southwest Boulevard and rail routes) are less likely to be closed due to flooding, preserving unfettered movement of people and goods through the area.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates that the $151 million total investment provided benefit to the region of $241.7 million.

Share some of the project challenges.

Since the area affected by Turkey Creek covers two states, two municipalities, multiple departments within those entities as well as multiple businesses and related organizations, each of the separate phases required extraordinary collaboration and coordination.

Stormwater, on the other hand, knows no political boundaries. It goes where it flows.

Only a unique and focused effort has created a flood control solution that benefits the citizens and the economy of a large metropolitan area.

What has been the community response to this project?

Citizens and businesses directly within the Turkey Creek watershed now have reason to believe that things are “normal.” Flooding is an extraordinary event in most people’s lives. People may be aware of a flood risk, but they rarely “expect” it and may not even plan for it.

Media coverage of flooding in the 1990s and 2000s usually included public cries for solutions. When there is extraordinary rainfall today, no one today calls a news conference. However, as noted, property values are up. Businesses enjoy reduced risk of disruption. Property and other development improvements now characterize an area that previously gave an appearance of disrepair and neglect.

If someone is reading about this project and wants to replicate it in their community, what would your top two pieces of project advice be?

It’s important to work closely with all the partners – fellow local jurisdictions, business owners, property owners, residents, and any other stakeholders. Open and frequent communications is a key to success.

It’s also important to be a good partner with federal agencies. As a local sponsor, it’s your responsibility to represent your interests, points-of-view, strengths, and limitations. If the local sponsors and the federal agencies learn to challenge one another in an environment of understanding, the project will be successful.

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