Friday, December 10, 2010

Post from a Friend re Wichita River

I received an email from my friend, Paul Dowlearn, with Wichita Valley Nursery, about a news report concerning the Wichita River. The news report is currently available on I am not sure how long it will be posted. I am presenting Paul's email content as sent to me. I will look into this further and post information later.

"I have heard several news reports concerning the results of a survey on flood control of the Wichita River. The last news report state a sense of urgency..."We must act quickly." Really? Let's not lose sight of the fact that the recent flood event was comparable to the flood of 1941...70 years ago!! The law of averages and current long range forecast show no imminent danger. Instead we may be headed into another drought cycle....This sense of urgency then may signify that there is some funding available and for whatever reason local engineers and contractors could certainly benefit from a nice, fat, expensive project.

Question is...Have we (citizens) been given the opportunity to consider the impact of such a project? Do we really want our river to resemble a much larger version of Holiday Creek? This is a river...not a creek. I am among those who lament the Holiday Creek project regardless of the obvious relief of those living in low areas historically prone to flooding. I still recall summer picnics in Weeks Park, splashing up and down the creek trying to capture minnows and crawdads. Today, there is little is an aesthetic value of Holiday Creek save the Hike and Bike Trail. At normal flow, one has to negotiate a good 50 feet or more of ankle twisting stone (placed there for man made erosion control) to get to the water. IF you are brave enough to walk down you wil find the native marine life that once existed has all but disappeared. Algae, a few plants...maybe a golf ball?

So what about the aesthetic value of the Wichita River? Consider the history of our namesake. What about the River Walk, The Falls, Lucy Park, Williams Park, Bicycling and Equestrian Trail, Wee-chi-tah Park, Front Street Bridge and Berend's Landing. How will these be impacted? How about tourism, adjacent hotels, RV parks, fishing, canoeing, or kids just having fun? Will we be able to enjoy the river with no shallow rapids or deeper holes for fish? Well....judging from the news reports, that's exactly what the experts that submitted the report are proposing. I say let's leave the felling of trees to the beaver population.

I am not an expert at hydrology, but common sense and simple physics tell me that water actually backs up on itself regardless of the channel capacity. In other words, if enough rain falls on any given location, there will be flooding. Furthermore, if the goal is to relieve flooding in the downtown area, the removal of obstacles should occur downstream and not in the city itself. Finally, Nature controls erosion by slowing runoff with her trees, shrubs and grasses. While this does cause occasional flooding it also reduces current strength. An increase of unrestricted current could cause the river to change course. Historical evidence of this is easily seen in the occurrence of numerous oxbos along the length of the Wichita. True, there has not been major flooding in Holiday Creek since the channelization...yet. So chalk one p for the engineers at the loss of a few (?) picnickers, kids chasing crawdads, and golfers who would rather lose a ball than risk an ankle injury."

Paul Dowlearn, citizen, email:

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