Photo by Diane Cox
An access point to a drainage tunnel showing the fast-moving waterfall that drains into Sixth Street Park pond.
WOOD RIVER — Mayor Fred Ufert and City Council members are taking a proactive approach to help floodplain residents stuck under an umbrella of rising flood insurance costs.
“Those who have lived there for a long period of time are grandfathered in for their flood insurance costs,” Ufert said. “But anyone who is considering buying in this subdivision is going to get hit hard with flood insurance costs of three to four times the current amounts — we’re talking (annual) payments of possibly $800 to $1,200 ... that’s why we asked for options for our residents.”
The overflow drainage basin at Sixth Street Park is in place to collect runoff and prevent flooding. According to FEMA, the basin does not fit the guidelines for a 100-year flood; therefore it puts homes in the surrounding areas in a floodplain zone, causing insurance rates to go up every couple of years.
Sheppard, Morgan and Schwaab Inc. is the civil engineering firm asked to look at the drainage basin and present options to the council.
“The current basin has approximately 1,265 acres of area draining into it,” said Justin Kleinschmidt, project engineer for SMS. “The basin’s capacity is 560 cubic yards, well below what would be needed.”
On Monday, Aug. 8, SMS presented four options that would help meet FEMA guidelines and could raise 180 homes just west of Sixth Street out of the danger zone and lift the demand of the higher-cost flood insurance.
Option 1: Build a second pump station with larger pumps to accelerate water flow to Wood River Creek. This option requires a new force main line through town. The project would cost about $6.5 million.
Option 2: Remove two ball diamonds from Sixth Street Park and relocate them to another site. Dig the drainage basin deeper and wider. Costs will include rebuilding the baseball diamonds and providing lights, fencing and a scoreboard at the new location. The project would cost about $4 million.
Option 3: Acquire farmland across the road on the Ninth Street side of the drainage basin and dig a secondary basin with a second pump station. The project would cost about $4 million.
Option 4: Remove one ball diamond at Sixth Street Park to expand the drainage basin. Build a secondary pump station that will help push the water to Wood River Creek more quickly. The project would cost about $4.3 million.
Ufert said he wants more of a guarantee from FEMA that if these changes are made, the homes would be released from the floodplain.
“This is our fourth attempt to get these homes out of the floodplain; we’ve made proposals and they were turned down in the past,” Ufert said. “This is the first time since I’ve been mayor, or even on the council, that they’ve agreed with a plan — but I want something concrete from FEMA and not just a nod of the head that it’ll work before the expense is made to make these changes.”
More information will be gathered from FEMA, such as a solid acceptance before the matter is addressed further. Costs and how the project will be paid for also will be considered by the council in the near future.