In the event of a breech at John Redmond Dam, the majority of Miami would be adversely impacted, according to the city's floodplain administrator.
Only a handful of residents and businesses fall outside of an area that Jack Dalrymple predicts would flood in the “unlikely event” that the Kansas dam were to break.
Dalrymple presented a self-drawn inundation map to Miami's city council Monday - his best guess of what Miami might face in terms of flooding - and suggested that the city organize a plan to evacuate the community in the event of widespread flooding.
Dalrymple, who also serves as the city engineer, created the map after reviewing a portion of an inundation map released to the city by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
“This is not Corps information that I am sharing,” Dalrymple said. “This is my interpretation of what the city of Miami would experience, based on the little bit of information I learned from the Corps.”
The engineer's predictions, if correct, indicate that it would take only hours for water at John Redmond Dam to reach Miami. Once here, parts of Miami would be under as much as 27 feet of water. Other areas could see 2 to 3 feet of water within structures, including the First National Bank in downtown Miami and Integris Baptist Regional Health Center.
Hardest hit would be areas near Tar Creek and the Neosho River.
Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College would be devastated and businesses on Main Street near the low water bridge could have as much as 10 feet of water inside the doors.
“We have to have a plan to evacuate our community,” Dalrymple said as he explained that most routes of travel in and out of the city would be impassible.
Dalrymple called the scenario “unlikely,” but said the city should have a plan in place for emergency evacuations.
If there were to be a dam failure, or the Corps were to intentionally release the water from John Redmond Lake in order to protect its earthen dam from failure, the water would hit Miami during an already vulnerable time, according to Dalrymple.
“It would happen while we are already flooding,” Dalrymple said. “The dam would only fail if the lake was at capacity … which would happen if all the reservoirs in the Corps' 11-lake system were full and Miami was already flooding.”
Though Dalrymple said a failure at John Redmond Dam is unlikely, he said in a post-meeting interview that the city may have been just one rain event away from the worst-case scenario in 2007.
At that time, all of the reservoirs in the Corps' 11-lake system were just inches from capacity, the river channels downstream from the Pensacola Dam were maximized, Miami was flooding and the ground within the Grand-Neosho River Basin was saturated with water.
The situation brought to light everything that is wrong with the Corps' system-balance approach, according to Dalrymple.
Miami experienced a record flood as the Corps pushed water beyond Miami's flowage easements and intentionally held water within the banks of rivers and streams downstream, exacerbating Miami's flooding problem.
Though the systems were balanced in terms of how much water was being held in the reservoirs, the use of flowage easements was far from balanced and, according to local officials, Miami paid the price for Grand Lake's lack of sufficient easements.
“The Corps has made it clear that they are not going to make any changes in how they do things until an intensive study is complete,” Dalrymple said.
The study, estimated to be a $4.2 million undertaking, will take four years to fund, five years to complete and two years to implement, according to Dalrymple who said he confirmed the timeline in a recent meeting with the Corps.
Mayor Brent Brassfield said the study, which would require a 25-percent match from the City of Miami, could prove to be a wasted effort. He noted that numerous studies have preceded it and have resulted in nothing.
“We may be better off as a community to have $4.2 million in buyout funds,” Brassfield said.
Dalrymple said the city must focus on holding the Corps, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Grand River Dam Authority to promises made last year.
All of the agencies came together after the July flood and promised to seek resolution and meet again in six months - but that has not happened.
U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe's office is now pushing for a second meeting.
The council made no decision regarding Dalrymple's proposals.