Fairgrounds footbridge remains floodplain culprit

By LeAnn R. Ralph

COLFAX — If the footbridge is taken out at the Colfax fairgrounds, more houses could possibly be taken out of the Eighteen Mile Creek floodplain.

Chris Goodwin, a water resources manager with Ayres Associates, spoke about the Eighteen Mile Creek floodplain study at the Colfax Village Board’s November 26 meeting.

Back in January, the Colfax Village Board received and adopted the new Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) floodplain map for Eighteen Mile Creek.

The new map identified more properties as being in the floodplain than the previous map generated by a 1980 floodplain study.

The new map also included the bridge across Eighteen Mile Creek at the fairgrounds, and the footbridge was identified as a structure that would hold water back and would cause more flooding in the area.

All properties that are included in the floodplain are required by lending institutions to have flood insurance if there is a mortgage on the property.

The Colfax Village Board contracted with Ayres Associates at a cost of around $13,000 to survey the Eighteen Mile Creek area to more accurately determine which houses were actually in the floodplain.

The village board agreed to pay 80 percent of the cost and that homeowners in the area should pay 20 percent.

A total of 18 structures were evaluated, Goodwin told the village board.

Out of the 18, ten houses are above the 100-year flood stage mark, and if a Letter of Map Amendment (LOMA) is filed, those houses would come out of the floodplain and would no longer be required to have flood insurance, he said.

An additional four properties are below the 100-year flood stage mark, but if the footbridge at the fairgrounds were removed, those houses could possibly come out of the floodplain, Goodwin said.

Footbridge

At a meeting about the floodplain last spring at the Colfax High School cafeteria, local residents were in agreement that even during heavy rain events, the water never comes anywhere close to going over the top of the footbridge at the fairgrounds or flooding houses along Eighteen Mile Creek.

A thunderstorm one evening in August of 2010 produced about eight inches of rain in two hours.

The following day, Eighteen Mile Creek held much more water than usual — enough so that kayaking was possible — but the water did not come close to going over the footbridge at the fairgrounds.

During the meeting last spring, Goodwin said a 100-year flood event is described as six inches of rain in 24 hours.

A number of residents pointed out that eight inches of rain in two hours did not flood the bridge or the houses along the creek.

According to the written report given to the Colfax Village Board at the November 26 meeting, “the study indicates that the pedestrian bridge will overtop between the 10-year and 50-year events.”

The same thunderstorm in August of 2010 that did not flood houses along Eighteen Mile creek and did not cause water to go over the top of the footbridge at the fairgrounds caused several substantial washouts downstream in the river bank next to the village’s wastewater treatment lagoons.

A footbridge has been over Eighteen Mile Creek at the fairgrounds for as long as anyone seems able to remember.

The existing bridge at the Colfax Fairgrounds was donated to the village several years ago.

LOMA

Goodwin said Letters of Map Amendment would cost each homeowner about $500 if they were done separately.

If, however, all of the LOMAs were done at once, the cost could be reduced from $5,000 to $2,000, he said.

Perhaps one homeowner could pay the $2,000 and the others could pay back the homeowner, or the village could pay the $2,000, and homeowners could reimburse the village, Goodwin said.

“With that (amount of) cost savings, it would be foolish not to do it,” said Mark Halpin, village trustee and acting village president in the absence of Gary Stene.

Meeting

Village Trustee Chris Olson suggested a special meeting with village board members and homeowners along Eighteen Mile Creek to discuss choices and options.

“I don’t see us removing the bridge,” he said.

Village Trustee Beverly Schauer agreed that it was unlikely the village board would agree to remove the fairgrounds footbridge.

Besides, Schauer said, “It was donated to the village.”

Chris Olson also noted that the footbridge “provides safe transport for kids.”

Flood insurance

Goodwin emphasized that even if houses are taken out of the floodplain, flood insurance would still be a good idea.

Just because houses are out of the floodplain, “we do not want people to think they would never be flooded,” he said.

On the other hand, after the houses are removed from the floodplain, then flood insurance becomes much more inexpensive, Goodwin said.

“The risk goes down if you are not in the floodplain … but that does not mean you should not have flood insurance,” he said.

January

The Colfax Village Board approved a motion to hold a special meeting in January with homeowners along Eighteen Mile Creek.

Goodwin said he would do a presentation about the floodplain and the recently-completed survey.

Other Business

In other business, the Colfax Village Board:

• Approved a request from the Colfax Sportsmen’s Club Inc. to use the Colfax Fairgrounds on April 27, 2013, for a swap meet that will include indoor and outdoor sports items.

• Accepted a quote from Karl’s Chevrolet for a 2013 Chevrolet Tahoe two-wheel-drive to use as a police squad in the amount of $36,364 with a trade-in for the 2010 Tahoe of $6,250.

• Approved a kennel license for Margaret Burcham, 809 High Street, from January 1, 2013, through December 31, 2013, for four dogs.

• Accepted the resignation of Rick Henrichs from the 30-hour-per-week EMT position at the Colfax Rescue Squad. Henrichs is planning to attend school to become a paramedic.

• Approved a motion instructing Don Knutson, director of the Colfax Rescue Squad, to work with Jackie Ponto, administrator clerk-treasurer, to advertise for applicants to fill the vacancy left by Henrichs’ resignation.