City Works to Clear Wichita River, Prevent Massive Flooding

Wichita Falls city leaders could soon be a step closer to reducing flooding of the Wichita River.   
    As part of a pilot program, workers have been clearing a test area in the northern part of Lucy Park.
    Katie Crosbie joins us now with more.
    Gwyn, it started after the U.S. Geological Survey found that vegetation is causing the river to slow down and water levels to drive.
    So far, about 10 to 15 acres have been cleared by two separate contractors, along with city crews.

Raging water ... forced evacuations ... ruined homes.  It's the kind of stuff you never forget.

Jill King
Tanglewood Neighborhood Assoc. President

"We went to bed, & 2:30 in the morning, we were having the firemen at our door to say, 'leave.' and we were out five days. "

Pedro Pichardo
East Side Resident

"That's one thing that's always gonna be in my mind, because this is the first time in about 30 years that I've lived in this corner, that I leave my house because of floods."

"It was devastating. Because everything's lost that's on the ground. You have to take out your walls ... We had a neighbor that had actually just paid their house off, & they felt there was no need to retain their insurance. So they had no insurance."

Now, the scene has changed from flood to fire, as piles of brush cleared by city employees go up in smoke.  The goal is to eventually have all 720-acres cleared.  Public Works Director Russell Schreiber says that could greatly reduce the frequency & severity of flooding.

Russell Schreiber
W.F. Public Works Director

"It won't take anyone out of the floodplain. But based on our modeling of the river - if 90 percent of that vegetation had been removed in 2007, over half of the area that got flooded would not have flooded."

"If we can get this cleared up, it is also gonna help another significant part of our town. So that's the big thing -- we're not just looking at our neighborhood - we're looking at the whole city of Wichita Falls."

Pedro Pichardo says he hopes the improvements will breathe new life into the East Side:

"Right now this area do like desert. Ain't nobody live around here. And this block, the only people live is me - my family.  Because after that, everybody move out."

And most who live in the floodplain say any money spent on this will be well worth it:

"I'm glad I'm hearing they are gonna do something. It's about time, really."

    This spring and summer, Russell Schreiber hopes to start meeting with some owners of the large agricultural tracts of land in the floodway.
    Depending on direction from city council, the city will likely try to work out deals whereby property owners would remove brush themselves in exchange for payment from the city.

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