Kansas City Council members Scott Taylor and Kevin McManus have taken an important step in addressing chronic flooding along local creeks, including Indian Creek in south Kansas City.
This week, the two offered a resolution directing City Manager Troy Schulte to develop a “comprehensive strategy” for the Indian Creek basin. Their colleagues added Brush Creek, Line Creek and Town Fork Creek to the list.
Strategies may include buying properties damaged in this year’s floods and turning them into grass-covered parks, designed to absorb flood water.
But property acquisition, which would likely require federal money, is just one step. The city must expand its discussions to include a broad flood control effort in Kansas and Missouri, aimed at addressing flood problems along the creeks.
Two decades ago, some politicians said the city should buy up properties along Southwest Boulevard and toss grass seed on the lots. It would be cheaper, they said, than fixing routine flooding along Turkey Creek.
Today, though, after needed flood control projects have been completed in Kansas and Missouri, Turkey Creek floods less often. And Southwest Boulevard businesses are thriving.
Flood control works, but it is rarely popular. It’s expensive. It can be disruptive — homes and businesses inside a flood plain sometimes have to go.
And it can sometimes seem like wasteful pork. Homeowners on high ground wonder why their money must protect waterside properties. When it doesn’t rain, everyone scoffs at flood control.
But Hurricane Harvey demonstrates anew the importance of regular, sustained focus on watersheds and creeks trickling through neighborhoods and business districts.
Climate change, experts say, means more intense, freakish weather events. Showers are now downpours. Dry spells become droughts. Snowfalls turn into blizzards.
Our region must prepare for such extreme events. That means understanding the growing flood risk, even along creeks that seldom rise, and the impact of new construction on storm runoff.
This summer’s renewed flooding along Indian Creek should spur accelerated preparation. Answers may include deeper channels and better bridges or simply buying flood-prone properties and letting the water go where it wants.
Whatever the answers, inaction and ignorance could be calamitous. The age of extreme weather is here, and it will require an intensified focus to saves lives and property in the years ahead. The Taylor-McManus resolution is a promising first step.