Rejected project was designed to limit flooding

Rossville defeated proposal in 1994 by 12 votes

? Residents of this flood-soaked town were thinking back this week to a rejected tax-increase measure that would have paid to straighten a creek and build a levee.

“I have to believe that the flood protection project certainly would have reduced flooding,” said John Grothaus, chief planner for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ office in Kansas City, Mo.

But just how much the flooding could have been reduced would require further analysis, he said.

In 1994, voters were asked to approve up to $950,000 in bonds to cover part of the city’s $1.2 million share of the flood-control project. The state and federal governments would have paid most of the cost for the $8.4 million project.

A backhoe dumps flood damaged property from the Dannefer home Monday in Rossville. Flash flooding caused parts of the town to be evacuated. A 1994 proposed flooding-control project was defeated by 12 votes, a plan which some say could have limited the recent flooding.

Former Rossville mayor Peggy Baird was among opponents of the plan, which was rejected by just 12 votes.

“It’s just hard to say whether the dike plan would have worked, because the thing with dikes is sometimes they can be breached,” Baird said.

She said cost was the main reason the measure failed. Opponents also argued that a series of smaller dams and retention ponds upstream had lessened the flood threat. Just one year before the vote, the city escaped the widespread flooding of 1993.

But after the weekend flooding, levee proponents said it might be a good time to resurrect the issue.

“As far as I’m concerned, it wasn’t a matter of if, but when,” said Jim Dodge, a retired sheet metal worker and supporter of the levee proposal. “People just got complacent about it.”

For now, Rossville mayor Shelly Buhler said the city was too busy dealing with the aftermath of the flooding to think about another levee proposal.

“Long term,” she said, “I don’t know.”

Grothaus said the community would need to ask for help before the Corps of Engineers would pursue another levee plan.

“It’s definitely possible that a flood protection plan might be feasible,” he said.