Flood work costs near $1 million | RecordCourier.com

Flood work costs near $1 million

A camper shell in Pine Nut Creek.
Kurt Hildebrand |

With nearly 1,500 private culverts to clean out in just the Johnson Lane area, Douglas County commissioners are trying to figure out how to make the community safer within the county’s means.

“It’s useless to clean out our culverts and then have other peoples’ culverts not work and cause a problem,” Commission Chairman Doug Johnson said. “Funding resources should represent the areas they are being used in. We saw a lady with a stack of receipts here earlier. I don’t think we’re responsible for those receipts, but we should be really careful not to charge people who aren’t affected.”

County staff was seeking direction on a policy dealing with private culverts and finding a sustainable funding source to address flooding in the future.

County Public Works Director Carl Ruschmeyer said the county’s infrastructure is designed to deal with a 24-hour storm that creates a 25-year flood.

“The infrastructure in place should function under those storm intensities,” he said. “If we can’t clean them, then we’re not mitigating for any storm event.”

Stewart Avenue resident Valerie Wharton told county commissioners that the bills for work from last summer’s flooding are adding up as she showed them a handful of receipts. She said she wanted a solution that didn’t include increasing her taxes.

Ruschmeyer told commissioners the county has its vacuum truck in the field cleaning out culverts.

On Thursday, he said he was told that the road crew was cleaning out a 40-foot-long, 16-inch culvert that has taken more than two hours. He said that one crew found pieces of a toilet in one of the culverts.

The county’s tally for working on flood recovery is about $1 million so far, Ruschmeyer estimated.

Fish Springs resident Gretchen Walsh, who has been watching the county’s response to the Aug. 6 flood there, said some gravel had been put down around the clusterbox next to the Fish Springs Volunteer Fire Department, but there has been little other movement.

“They can’t even get the county property cleaned up out here,” she said.

Fish Springs received 1.35 inches of rain in 30 minutes during the July 20 flood.

Walsh said that storm filled Fish Springs Creek but didn’t do much damage.

No rain fell in the community for the Aug. 6 flood that jumped the banks of Pine Nut Creek, but roughly an inch fell at the top of the drainage in less than an hour sending a torrent of water into Fish Springs.

County Engineer Eric Nillsen said he didn’t recommend preparation of an area drainage master plan for Fish Springs.

“If you drop 2 inches of rain on Fish Springs, I can tell you where it’s going to go,” he said. “If you drop 2 inches in Johnson Lane I can’t tell you where it is going to go, and it’s not the same place.”

Nillsen said he was approaching the Army Corps of Engineers to find out if they will prepare a plan for the Johnson Lane area, which would cost $300,000-$500,000.

He said the basics of flood control are to identify flood dangers and then get rid of them.

However, as Commissioner Greg Lynn pointed out there’s no money in the county for flood prevention.

“There’s simply no funding to implement any of that,” he said.

Commissioner Nancy McDermid pointed out that paying for the plan was just the first expense.

“Getting the plan is not the most expensive part,” she said. “Once you have the plan, then you have to build it. Then you have operating and maintenance.”

Ruschmeyer said maintaining the county’s infrastructure can be done.

“We maintain the infrastructure we have for the design we have to. I think it’s very achievable,” he said. “Doing it and funding it is achievable. We should maintain it and make sure it works for its intended design.”