Grand Island streets flood, officials said it will take decades to fix problem

Analyzing flood issues
Published: Jul. 30, 2020 at 9:14 PM CDT
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GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (KSNB) - Last year’s flooding was a shock to the Tri-Cities, causing damage to homes and businesses. In Grand Island, streets tend to overflow often when intense rain hits. On Wednesday roads flooded again and the city had to get the roadways under control.

“Yesterday, late when we got that large rainfall, Sycamore Underpass was closed for a short amount of time, so the pumps’ could catch up with the amount of rain that was coming in,” said Shannon Callahan, Director of Grand Island Public Works Streets Division.

There are several factors that contribute to the roads flooding. Grand Island is flat so that doesn’t provide a lot of opportunity for drainage. Also if there’s a lot of pavement, the water can’t absorb like it does with grass. If heavy rains hit an area too fast, this causes the system to work on overdrive, making it harder for the water to get through quickly. Storm pipes can also get clogged. The city started cleaning them out every couple years.

“We have a large truck that goes out and flushes the storm sewer lines,” said Callahan. “We’ve been doing that program for about 5 years. It’s been really successful.”

“We try to be proactive, clean those areas out a few times a year so that way when we do get some large and intense rainfalls, they’re not a problem,” said Callahan.

Grand Island subdivisions were built with little to no drainage and from the early 1970′s until about ten years ago, nothing was being done to fix it.

“They didn’t do any flood projects for 50 years here,” said Director of Public Works John Collins. “They did not clean the drainage structure or reset the flow lines for 50 years, we’re catching up on that.”

They said they’re fixing the issue by working on several projects. The city is adding detention cells when needed. It has holes in the ground used to collect rain water. The cells stall the water to give the sewer system more time to filter the water out of flooded areas. They are also working on a drainage system called the Moore’s Creek Project.

“Moore’s Creek is the primary backbone for moving water out of the city, moving it through the city and on the out, so we can get rid of it,” said Collins.“ That’s what all the neighborhood drainage hooks to, we’re extending it every single year.”

The city is also working to get the Capitol Heights Drainage Project approved. It will put a collection pipe for neighborhood sunk pumps, a cheaper but effective option to drain water from homes. The project will roughly cost 300,000 dollars to complete. The city council will vote to allow the Public Works Department to move forward with the project in September.

As long as Grand Island keeps growing, Collins said more drainage solutions will need to be added. He says it will take decades to get the city flood free, especially since the journey started only ten years ago.

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