Flood may 201728.jpg

The city operations committee took the first step toward hiring an engineering firm to create a flood mitigation master plan that would help the city lessen the impact of future floods.

The committee met Aug. 7 to consider applications from firms that have created stormwater and flood mitigation plans for other cities.

Aldermen Mike Pigg, Carol Johnson and Greg Rahn make up the committee. Pigg was elected chairman for the next year at this meeting.

Any selection made by the committee would be recommended to the full board for approval.

City Administrator Steve Roth, who urged aldermen to turn to outside experts for flood mitigation assistance, received eight applications after seeking requests for qualifications (RFQ).

Roth, along with Flood Manger Dan Rahn and Public Works Commissioner Robert Brueggemann, selected the four applicants with qualifications and familiarity that best matched the city’s needs.

Roth said the result of two record level floods in the past two years revealed the city’s lack of preparedness. He believes a qualified flood mitigation expert could identify possible mitigation for future flooding, as well as funding sources for recommended improvements.

If the committee selects one firm and the full board approves the selection, Roth would negotiate a contract with the firm to create a flood master plan. The scope of work would not include making improvements but would identify and recommend future improvements.

He is not predicting what improvements might be recommended for Pacific, but Roth said the time is right for the city to begin a serious study. He said the Army Corps of Engineers is currently studying the Lower Meramec Watershed.

“There is a lot of money available for this work,” said Roth, who also noted that the city is under no obligation to hire one of the firms.

“You will get a lot of information about flood mitigation through the interview process,” Roth told committee members.

Applicants

Among the four firms that Roth and other staff members preferred were engineers who have been involved in flood control, land reclamation, levees, detention plans and FEMA flood map revisions.

Pigg said he’s particularly interested in exploring some sort of detention basins to divert floodwater.

One applicant, Klingner and Associates, Hannibal, recently completed a stormwater master plan for the city of Palmyra, Mo., which included regional detention as a recommended improvement.

Palmyra, located in Marion County, a city of 4,000, similar in several ways to Pacific, is an early railroad town with a Civil War history.

Localized flooding from several tributaries to the Mississippi River, seven miles east of the town, is the No. 1 concern of officials, according to Lynn Smith, Palmyra street commissioner.

Palmyra Mayor Loren Graham said the city board recently approved the Klingner plan and is now looking for ways to fund the $1.3 million in recommended improvements, including the possibility of putting a tax on the ballot.

A targeted sales tax has been used in other cities among those that contracted for new master plans.

The city of Coralville, Iowa, successfully passed a half-cent sales tax for parks and stormwater, which helped to fund a storm project that alleviated located flooding. HR Green, one of the applicants in the final consideration, crafted this plan. Josiah Holst, former Pacific city engineer, was in charge of the project.

HR Green has designed and constructed 17 stormwater projects. Its experience dates back to the Cedar Rapids River Wall of 1914 and is now spearheading a new 10-year $51 million plan for Coralville.

Identify Areas

Dan Rahn suggested that Pacific aldermen begin the study process not by identifying projects, but by identifying areas of the city that they most wanted to protect from floodwater.

“You could say we want to protect the old town or the industrial park,” Rahn said. “Or you could say you want to protect water and sewer systems.”

HDR, St. Louis, one of the firms under consideration, said if selected its mission would be to identify flood mitigation alternatives and align with federal funding opportunities. The firm designed a ring levee project around the wastewater treatment plants in Des Moines and Cedar Rapids, Iowa, which was funded through the FEMA HMGP (Hazard Mitigation Grant Program).

HDR also designed five detention cells in the Jordan Creek Regional Detention project to reduce flooding in downtown Springfield. Some of the detention cells were located on parks department property.

HDR included the cost of its stormwater plans, which ranged from $82,000 to $350,000.

Burns & McDonnell, Chesterfield, which was recently selected for the Pacific’s wastewater improvement project, was a favorite of Roth and the city staffers.

This firm says understanding flooding begins with stormwater services and stormwater management. Burns & McDonnell engineers focus on data collection and flood mapping as the basis for its plans but also prioritizes need, does cost analysis and evaluates funding sources.

This firm obtained FEMA accreditation for an industrial park levee in Council Bluffs, Iowa, in 2015.

Each of the four firms offered examples of flood mitigation and stormwater projects that involved a wide range of infrastructure improvements.

Although state and federal grants were identified for some projects, some cities had to look to their general revenue budgets and/or new taxes to fund the necessary improvements.

The operations committee will interview engineers from each of the applicants in September.

Pigg said in an ideal world an applicant would be selected and approved, and a plan would be completed and some mitigation efforts started before the next major flood. But the last two years have shown that the city is always under threat.

He said he was eager to begin interviewing the experts.

“I think the plan that makes sense will get funded,” Pigg said. “We can’t stop the water, we can’t slow it down. We need to look at what is possible for the whole perimeter of Pacific.”