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Olathe expanding flood prevention program after successes

indian creek bridge olathe.jpg
Posted at 9:06 AM, Aug 30, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-30 10:06:47-04

OLATHE, Kan. — If more than 3.6 inches of rain fell on Olathe, Kansas, in one hour, the city predicts 33 buildings and several roads along Mill Creek would flood. To be clear, that is a lot of rain; there’s only about a one percent chance it happens every year.

To prevent that worst-case scenario the city is designing flood prevention measures for the creek this summer and will begin construction in 2021 after getting permits from a variety of agencies.

Work will mimic what the city has implemented along Indian Creek. Replacing box culverts with elevated bridges so roads are higher above the creek. Widening the creek channel and adding retaining walls are all options. The city will look at voluntarily buying homes to expand a flood plain.

City leaders said similar work over Indian Creek near South Brookwood Court and at 151st Street has worked well. Over the past eight years, Olathe has done about $30 million worth of flood prevention work, with three quarters of the money coming from Johnson County.

“It feels good to be proactive about these projects because we are protecting people as they drive through flooding events. It's a good feeling to know they’re going over bridges that are no longer flooding and we're no longer getting calls from homeowners with flooding basements in some of these neighborhoods, so it's very fulfilling,” said Rob Beilfuss, Olathe’s stormwater manager.

One woman said she would love to see improvements along Mill Creek. Diana Huggins lives next to the creek and said at least once a year the water jumps its banks.

“Our backyard is a lake. It's a lake,” Huggins said. “My granddaughter has a play house in the back and it does get water in it about a foot deep.”

So far designs for Mill Creek include building new bridges over Poplar, Spruce and Chestnut streets, improving sewers and widening the creek bed.