By Katie Dahlstrom
---- — CLINTON — The offices at Ashford University Field are prone to flooding when the area receives significant amount of rain on top of already elevated river levels. It's learning how to live with that flooding that must be hashed out, city and LumberKings officials decided.
The offices at the stadium, which sit at a low spot, have flooded five times in the last five years during periods when the river level was slightly elevated and the area received intense rains.
After the latest flood at the stadium, City Council members have chosen to pay for $10,300 in damage at the facility, which is city owned and leased by the Clinton LumberKings Baseball Club. Although they agreed to pay the bills, city officials don't want similar expenses in the future, sending them back to re-examine plans that will reduce the amount of flood damage.
"The real issue is the water level in Joyce's slough, as it continues to rise, basically diminishes the capacity and forces water to build up higher to get the flow out," Dave Dechant with HDR Engineering told members of the City Services Committee last week.
Dechant went on to detail the circumstances surrounding the flooding events that have occurred. When the offices flooded in July 2011, the river level was at 12.5 feet and the area experienced heavy rain in a short amount of time.
"Even with the river stage down at 12.5 feet, that 3.4 inches of rain in two to three hours overwhelmed the system. In the other events we had levels around 14 feet, but we had an inch to an inch and a half of rain," Dechant said.
According to Water Quality Superintendent Dan Riney, when river levels reach 15.3 feet and there is a significant rain, there is a chance the stadium will flood. If the flood gates had been in at that level this year they would have gone in on May 28 and still been in place today. During 2011, the gates would have been in from March 22 to Aug. 18.
The flood gates currently go in when the river level reaches 16.5 feet. Keeping the flood gates closed to prevent stadium flooding would stymie river activity, which committee members were not in favor of.
This is not the first time the city has addressed the stadium flooding. In 2011, HDR explained to members of the City Services Committee that the city had several other options to deal with the flooding. Options included constructing a new storm sewer to the Third Avenue North pump station for $650,000, adding a new pump station on the existing storm sewer for $750,000, modifying Joyce's slough flood gate operations, do nothing, or work with the ball park to develop a flood mitigation plan.
At the time, committee members directed the public works director and LumberKings General Manager Ted Tornow to discuss a flood mitigation plan, but those meetings never happened.
"We're at the point right here, right now as I'm speaking that we were in in 2011 and somebody dropped the ball, whoever that was is irrelevant. We just need to get together now," Riney said.
Tornow said he has been waiting to get together with city officials to determine what can be done to offset the damage that repeated flooding has caused.
"It's your building. I have black mold in it and it's not a very nice place to be when it rains," Tornow said. "I appreciate the vote of confidence, but I still have an umpires room that's dug up, needing to be remedied. I have carpeting that's been washed and flooded and I have walls in my office that have seen water more times than I care to admit."
Committee members agreed meetings with Tornow, Riney, Clinton County Emergency Management Coordinator Chance Kness and other city staff will need to take place.
City officials and Tornow disagreed on what should be done for the restoration of the buildings that were recently damaged. While Tornow would like to place vinyl composition tile on the floor and cement boards in some areas where the walls were damaged, city officials said that should be discussed further as part of the flood mitigation plan before any action is taken.
The City Services Committee will be updated on the progress of the flood mitigation planning next month.