Swept up in flooding

Many of Clay County Park’s picnic tables were swept up in the flooding and rising levels of Milford Lake  and were among debris left behind as the water began to recede.                           (Ryan D. Wilson/Dispatch)

Yesterday the National Weather Service (NWS) reported those affected by flooding in the Missouri River will face an above-average risk for flooding this spring, which will impact decisions here.

The Republican River is part of tributary system that feeds into the Missouri River, so this affects Clay County. Last year the reason the US Army Corps held back releases from Milford and allowed the lake to rise and flood Clay County Park in Wakefield is because of flooding on the Missouri River. The high lake levels also contributed to the Republican River backing up and leaving its banks for an extended period last year.  The last time we saw that was in the Great Flood of ’93, and even then, the river wasn’t up for nearly as long was it was last year.

The NWS forecast says the flood risk will be elevated this spring because the soil remains wet and a significant amount of snow is on the ground in the Dakotas. The forecast heightened concerns in areas of Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas and Missouri with levees that still have extensive damage from massive flooding last year and where residents and officials already anticipate flooding.

Even if spring weather is mild, some places could still see flooding when the Corps increases releases from upstream dams on the river to prevent the reservoirs from overflowing, the Associated Press reported. The Corps estimates 2020 runoff will reach 36.3 million acre-feet (44.8 cubic kilometers) — the ninth highest out of 122 years — so there will likely be significant water releases from the upriver dams.

Fortunately, at least in our neck of the woods, officials here have taken proactive steps to be prepared for the next flood. In Clay County Park, for example, county commissioners decided not to rebuild public rest rooms located close to the lake and focused rebuilding efforts on parts of the park located furthest from the water. This was prudent, and not just because the county has limited resources, but also because it makes sense to rebuild the area that would most likely be occupied first and takes the least effort to get back into shape.

The county has also been careful not to put too much into flood-damaged roads, and has taken a wait-and-see minimal approach regarding Redwood Road, the road leading to the Broughton Bridge that was under water for most of the summer.  

Like everyone else, we had hoped Milford Lake could get back to normal this summer. But this report reinforces our opinion that the county is taking the right steps to be prepared for the next big flood.

-- Ryan D. Wilson