Watertown City Council approves a $1.8 Million flood control feasibility study

In this March 2019 photo, sand-filled Hesco baskets form a barrier between the rising waters...
In this March 2019 photo, sand-filled Hesco baskets form a barrier between the rising waters of the Big Sioux River and U.S. Highway 212 in Watertown, S.D. Small towns like Watertown on some of the nation’s most flood-prone rivers are struggling to afford flood-protection systems. (Grace Ramey/The Public Opinion via AP) (KY3)
Published: Aug. 2, 2022 at 2:56 PM CDT
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WATERTOWN, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - City Engineer Heath VonEye says on average, every three to five years Watertown has to call on the Corps of Engineers to help protect the city from floodwaters.

“Over the last few decades, we’ve pursued conversations with the Corps about looking for long-term solutions. I think that everybody over time realized the inefficiencies and the some cases ineffectiveness of some of our temporary, short-term solution mitigation measures, where we’re installing HESCO baskets and things of that nature like I said on about a three to five-year cycle,” said VonEye.

According to Alpha Media USA- on Monday, the City Council approved an agreement with the Corps of Engineers to conduct a flood control feasibility study with federal, state, and city funding. The study will help provide long-term solutions to protect the city from any future flooding that comes mostly as a result of the town’s proximity to the Big Sioux River.

“I think this is long overdue, I think, and I do want to thank our congressional folks for trying to push this forward and maybe get this thing to fruition, whatever this thing may be. We’re talking about land owners here, and potential land owners, and I think that’s with the assumption that the project would be a dam, is my assumption,” said Councilman Bruce Buhler. “So I think we got to be clear on that that these are potential issues because I do know the Corps has to look at any other opportunities outside of possibly a dam, that’s a part of their study.”

Councilman Randy Tupper says it’s important to remember flood control measures will impact people upstream on the Big Sioux River as well.

“Hopefully we can come to a solution, but we also gotta be careful because we talk about an impact on our community to get this done, and if it’s not done in a proper way with the land owners, our neighbors to the north, that’s also a potential impact to our community. Because I remember when I don’t think it was addressed well 20-25 years ago,” said Tupper. “It had a huge impact on our community, and we do have to remember they are our neighbors. They may not live in the city of Watertown, but they are our neighbors, so we have to make sure we keep consideration for everyone involved.”

Hydraulic Engineer Greg Johnson told the council the earliest construction could begin on any flood control plan for Watertown would be 2027 or 2028 in a, “best case scenario.”

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