With tears in his eyes, owner Brian Darby told workers at the bar last week that they would have to find other jobs, at least for now. Coach’s was inundated by Indian Creek floodwater in late July, threatening the life of Darby and a business partner.
Darby took over operation of the legendary saloon just three months ago when his father, Mike, a co-owner, was murdered along Indian Creek Trail.
It seems too much for one person to bear. Friends have offered to help, and there’s a chance the bar could be rebuilt. That will take time.
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But it is way past time for officials in Kansas and Missouri to address flooding problems along the branch of Indian Creek that roars through 103rd Street and Wornall Road when it rains.
Coach’s has been flooded six times. Darby and other business owners have grown accustomed to high water when it rains too much, too quickly in the wrong place.
It can be a terrifying sight. And it can be fixed.
In recent years, Kansas City and the federal government have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in improving flood control along other dangerous waterways in the area:
▪ Turkey Creek once flooded routinely, wrecking businesses along Southwest Boulevard. The channel has been cleared, deepened and made wider. A new tunnel was built where the creek empties into the Kansas River. Wyandotte County helped with the project.
▪ The Blue River flooded in Kansas City, threatening businesses in the industrial northeast. The city and Washington invested more than $300 million to widen the channel, dramatically reducing serious flood risks. It took 50 years.
▪ Brush Creek floods were notorious, taking lives in the 1970s and 1990s and damaging buildings. Builders remade the channel and created storage basins. Floods are far less of a threat today.
Yet Indian Creek remains a danger. While some work has been done, Kansas must be a larger part of the solution.
Indian Creek joins Tomahawk Creek in south Johnson County before it winds its way into Missouri. Both watersheds are surrounded by driveways, roads and parking lots that are impervious to rainwater. As a result, downpours quickly drain into both creek basins before the water heads into Missouri — and to Coach’s Bar & Grill.
Plans for storage lakes along the basin in south Johnson County are now ancient history. The problem will require other solutions.
Kansas City’s recent bond issue includes flood control funds, some of which may be used for a flood study along Indian Creek in Missouri. That study may conclude that some businesses along the water should be bought out and moved.
But Kansas officials should step up with their own commitment to deepen the channel on their side of State Line, reducing flows into Missouri.
Rep. Kevin Yoder can help here. Kansas congressmen and women lobbied for years for help along Turkey Creek, and eventually Washington responded. The same could be true for Indian Creek.
Kansas City history over the past 30 years proves flooding doesn’t have to be a permanent condition. Both states should work now to make sure the tragedy at Coach’s doesn’t happen again.