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Grant delays repair of eroding bank

Staff writer

Although the east bank of Luta Creek continues to fall away from Elm St., the city is waiting to repair it because the project would be ineligible for a federal grant if even emergency repairs are attempted.

Several feet of soil have visibly fallen away since the first collapse was noted in May and sand bags were placed around a source of the decay.

How long the street will remain open is as big a question as how long it will be until money to repair it will be available.

If erosion worsens because of ongoing heavy rains, the city could be forced to close the street.

Public works director Marty Fredrickson “keeps an eye on it, and if he’s got any concern about it washing out under the roadway, we’ll take that additional step of closing the road,” city administrator Roger Holter said last week. “We’re going to err on the side of caution.”

The city requested federal flood control assistance through the Natural Resources Conservation Service Emergency watershed protection program after heavy rain May 25, flowing through broken and missing sections of curb, washed out a large portion of Luta Creek’s bank.

The damage was inspected May 26 by a team of Kansas Department of Transportation experts.

Matt Meyerhoff, supervisory district conservationist, said the state NRCS office gave the project preliminary approval, but funding is prioritized and distributed federally.

Meyerhoff expected a restoration plan last week, but had not seen it by Friday. He speculated the reason was because flooding in other areas had consumed the time of the people who develop restoration plans and funding estimates.

“The same two people cover the whole state, and for lack of a better term, they are up to their necks in it,” Meyerhoff said.

The goal of the program is to restore the creek bank as closely as possible to its pre-damaged state and stabilize it, he said. However, Luta Creek’s bank next to Elm St. was not stable to begin with.

He expects the plan will involve rocking and reshaping the slope.

“Elm St. is kind of a historic area, and the reconstruction will take into account its historic nature,” Meyerhoff said.

The city can’t begin work before funding is approved.

“If the city touches it, they are ineligible for our program, so no work can begin until funding is approved,” he said.

Meyerhoff declined to speculate how long approval could take.

The federal office is also looking at flood damage in Nebraska, along the Missouri River, and other regions.

“The city is not letting it set because the city wants to let it set,” he said. “They’re letting it set because they are waiting and hoping for funding from us. Eligible projects are almost always funded, it’s just a matter of how long until they are funded.”

Last modified July 11, 2019

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