Published On: Thu, May 15th, 2014

Randolph City Council takes close look at floodplain designation

RANDOLPH — Alternatives from a feasibility study on the Randolph floodplain took up a large portion of the Randolph City Council meeting the evening of May 7.

The cost of the feasibility study, which is part of the effort being made by council members to make some changes or do away with the Floodplain in Randolph, was shared by the City of Randolph and the Lower Elkhorn Natural Resource District.

The feasibility study completed by the U.S Corps of Engineers included over a half-dozen alternatives, which were discussed at length during the meeting.

Mike Berney, with LENRD; Mike Placke, Olsson Associates, Lincoln; and Brian McDonald, JEO Consulting Group, helped answer some of the questions on the Floodplain.

Buck Harris, a write-in candidate for Mayor, also sat in on the meeting.

Floodplain area in Randolph has 174 structures.

The floodplain designation prohibits building or replacing buildings in locations designated in the floodway. In other areas of the floodplain, building is permitted but with restrictions that may exclude basements and require elevating the property to be built on.

The Floodplain has crippled the town’s advancement economically according to Mayor Dwayne Schutt.

“It has hurt the town,” Schutt said.

Completing steps to change or possibly eliminate the city’s floodplain could end up being a $10 million project, according to the feasibility study that has been done.

The Corps of Engineers would share 65 percent of the cost and the city’s share would be 35 percent.

The Corps of Engineers preferred alternative includes widening the existing channel, which would increase the water flow in the creek.

Randolph resident Tami Gosch, who lives on Douglas Street, expressed her opposition to the alternative.

“According to the diagram — it would take my whole property. I bought my Dad’s property and moved back here. I spent a lot of money fixing it up. When I was doing the work no one bothered to tell me they would do something like this,” Gosch said. “The house has been in my family for a lot of years and it would be taken away from me. This is very aggravating and scary for me.”

Gosch asked council members to consider all of the people that would lose their homes if this was done.

Economic Development Director Gary Van Meter said he thought a second opinion on the study was needed.

“We are looking at a $3.5 million expenditure on a $10 million project,” Van Meter said. “The information from the U.S. Corps of Engineers did not address some of the issues. One answer that channeled water through town would leave the north and south tributaries of the Middle Logan Creek to continue flooding. It does not answer the total need for present and future development of Randolph and property owners may have issues by being dislocated.”

Another alternative that could be considered would be less invasive and could eliminate the need to replace four bridges with structures that would cost from $500,000 to $1 million.

It would also avoid taking private property away from homeowners when the channel through the center of town would be deepened and widened.

The flood waters, which come from three directions, could be addressed before they reach the city.

To state that any one floodplain is less important than another was disproved in the 1980s when the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway was washed out in the city limits, according to Van Meter.

“Today, not only grain, but farming chemicals and ethanol are being transported through town — something not experienced before,” Van Meter said.

The concept of “off-line or peak shaving” could be approached by having a shallow basin excavated along-side the stream. Excess waters would temporarily be held in the offline storage until normal flow returns. The excess water is then released in a normal fashion into the creek channel.

Placke told board members a second opinion could provide them information that would help answer a lot of questions.

“Olsson and Associates has a good team that would be working on this,” he said. “Our proposal would include looking through the Corps of Engineers’ study and helping you get your money’s worth.”

Placke brought up another problem that will be coming up for residents in Randolph due to the floodplain.

“Flood insurance is going up — a lot. It will be going up incrementally, but the cost will be huge,” Placke said. “Houses that are in the flood plain will be hard to sell because of the cost. You will need to decide on this in the near future.”

Schutt asked for an estimate on the time that would be involved.

“We have spent about 10 years getting this study done,” Schutt said.

Placke estimated the work would take about three months.

The feasibility study is just the first part of the project involving changing the city’s floodplain.

A plan would have to be sent to Federal Emergency Management Agency who would have to approve a change in the floodplain.

Town meetings would have to be held before a decision is made.

The decision would eventually be made by the general public according to council member Scott Wattier.

“This would come to a vote—the residents would have to vote on a bond,” he said.

After a lengthy discussion board members agreed to ask the Corp of Engineers to finish the study.

Getting a second opinion, which would provide information on the most effective and affordable alternative, is also being considered by the board members.

Council members will look into having others help with the $13,000 cost.

Pick up this week’s issue of the Randolph Times to read more!