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Reservoir plan spurs questions about warnings

Roads, trees still need work after floods

Staff writer

Discussion of a master plan being developed for Marion Reservoir Monday spurred a county commissioner’s blunt assessment of the county’s emergency planning.

The Army Corps of engineers is developing a guiding vision for recreation and use of the reservoir that will stand for at least 25 years, assistant lake manager Kevin McCoy told commissioners.

“The number one priority of the corps of engineers is to get the public involved,” he said, adding that questions were invited.

Commissioner Randy Dallke then asked McCoy and the council why there is still no plan in place for warning residents when the Corps of Engineers is releasing water from the dam, when this has clearly put lives in danger.

“Someone dropped the ball in Marion County,” he said. “It happened once and I want to make sure it will not happen again.”

Dallke has been troubled by decisions that left homeowners stranded on their rooftops and forced others to grab their belongings and run during 2019’s record flooding.

McCoy said staff at the reservoir notified dispatchers and emergency management of their decision to release water. However, people in the floodplain received no warning about the move other than a post on the county clerk’s social media page.

Dallke did not blame the corps of engineers, but said later the county has response plans for disasters like tornadoes and flooding of the kind experienced in 2019 is just as bad.

Loretta Looney, who lives near Florence in a home that still lacks a kitchen sink and cabinets because of flood damage, agrees.

She still has vivid memories of the morning she phoned her son, Dustin Looney, a Marion volunteer firefighter, to come rescue them from the roof of their house in the department’s five-ton brush truck.

The Looney’s house will take time — and money to put back together. She just wants to make sure no one else has an experience like hers.

“The reality is we are talking about so few homes, there is no reason they cannot let people know,” she said. “If they need to leave an up-to-date number at the dispatch system, there is no reason dispatch can’t call people.”

County commissioner Kent Becker suggested an automated phone system like the one the school system uses could reach a lot of people quickly in an emergency.

Randy Dallke said that may not go far enough to suit him in a county where there are many elderly people who live alone.

“I think if you can’t reach a person by phone, I think you need to dispatch some police departments or sheriff’s officers and I don’t care if you have send four or five out.”

He vowed later that he intends to get to the bottom of this and have cooperation between agencies before the next flood hits

“We will make sure that we have something within the county system, because I am not going to let that die,” he said.

Meanwhile, campgrounds at the reservoir mostly have been revived, but there is still a lot of work to do on roads at Cottonwood Point.

“Because of the water damage due to flooding the roads are still broken up until we get them fixed,” he said. “It just depends on federal funding.”

Staff at the reservoir already have taken out 100 or more trees killed or damaged by floodwater, but it will take several years to get all of them removed

“Even now, you see trees that survived the flood and 2020 and yet a lot of them don’t look as good as we would like,” he said.

The Tulsa District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will accept written public comments related to the management of Marion Reservoir April 9 through May 9.

To comment electronically, email CESWT-OD-KC@usace.army.mil, or mail comments to: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Marion Reservoir,
Marion Lake Manager
2105 Pawnee Rd,
Marion, KS 66861

Last modified April 22, 2021

 

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