Ottawa County is in a vulnerable place, according to city and county leaders. The ground is saturated, local rivers are swollen out of their banks and more rain is predicted. Miami is flooding - the question is, will the water exceed the easements of the Grand River Dam Authority?
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers confirmed Monday that it is “watching closely” as water continues to rise and weather officials make their predictions for cresting of the Spring and Neosho rivers.
“This is the very reason we asked GRDA and the Corps of Engineers to pre-release, to avoid this scenario,” said Jack Dalrymple, a Miami resident who is pushing for changes in the way that the Grand River Dam Authority operates the Pensacola Dam.
Current conditions replicate those that brought severe flooding in and around Miami more than 20 years ago, according to Dalrymple. Those floods - 14 within a three-year period - led residents to a class-action lawsuit against GRDA. Most of those cases have since been settled after a court ruling declared that GRDA was responsible for damages.
Today, residents and governing officials are watching to see what happens as the area braces for more rain.
On Monday, flood gates were opened at the Pensacola Dam and water was released freely through the dam as opposed to being solely discharged through the generation of electricity.
Water is receding in some places, but Miamians are now waiting to see if GRDA and the Corps can confine water within its storage capacity as Kansas rain makes it way downstream and through Miami to Grand Lake.
Currently, the flood pool is 10 percent full and less than an inch of rainfall runoff across the drainage basin would fill the flood pool, according to the Corps.
Dalrymple said that previous flood events have proven that, as the Corps attempts to balance the 11-lake system, Grand Lake suffers because of its lack of adequate easements. “Balancing,” according to Dalrymple, throws Grand Lake out of balance and water encroaches on properties that he said should have been designated as flowage easements decades ago.
Miami City Manager Michael Spurgeon said Monday that he, too, is watching the flooding situation and, in the meantime, is still waiting for GRDA to respond to the city's critical review of the authority's proposed amendments to the water control manual.
In an April letter issued to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, GRDA indicated that it was preparing a response to the City of Miami.
“To date, we have not received that response,” Spurgeon said.
The city manager said it is also time for GRDA to meet again with the City of Miami, Ottawa County and the Corps to continue discussions regarding flood control.
“Like has been said before,” Spurgeon said, “we are not going away. The concerns of the potential of flooding in Miami have to be addressed.”