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Johnson County stormwater managers take new approach to flood prevention

Posted: 5:48 PM, Sep 13, 2019
Updated: 2019-09-13 18:48:41-04
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JOHNSON COUNTY, Kan. — Johnson County's Stormwater Management Program is taking a new approach to preventing flooding.

Nearly 42 years ago this week, devastating flooding on the Country Club Plaza claimed 25 lives.

Johnson County Stormwater Program Manager Lee Kellenberger said that event was a wake-up call to the county that things needed to be done differently.

He said the philosophy around stormwater has changed a lot since then.

"It used to be try to collect the water as fast as you can, get it in a pipe and get it to the stream," Kellenberger said. "We now know a lot better than that."

In the last 28 years or so, the mantra around stormwater has changed to 'keep the rain where it falls.'

That's what Johnson County plans to do with its new master plan. Up until now, it has been up to each city to come up with their own flooding solutions.

Kellenberger said solving the issues where they are isn't always the best approach.

"Water knows no jurisdictional boundaries," Kellenberger said.

The new approach would solve problems on a watershed basis rather than by city.

"We’ve divided the county up into six different watershed organizations and the new master plans that we are about to embark on are really going to look at stormwater management as a whole," Kellenberger said.

While the county works out the exact plan over the next year, it wants the public's input.

"It really is a public safety issue for everyone," Kellenberger said.

The county is asking people to fill out a survey and share their experiences with flooding. They can add their address to a database that will help stormwater managers figure out what needs to be done.

"In addition to flooding locations, they can also indicate areas of significant erosion, or of system maintenance issues or underground storm water infrastructure," Kellenberger said.

Stormwater managers will start incorporating the data that is collected immediately into their master plan.

"We will continue to collect that probably up until after the spring rains of 2020," Kellenberger said.

The survey will remain active until August 2020.

Kellenberger said stormwater managers would like residents to fill it out as soon as possible.