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Solutions to recent flooding: We need more than another plan and one park

Recent rain storms cause flooding throughout the metro area, including Swope Park. Photo by Bill Fessler.

Climate change and its effects are being felt more than ever this summer with record-breaking storms, flooding, fires and earthquakes around the globe. Here at home, we have experienced record-breaking flooding. These recent intense storm events in Greater Kansas City have shown us the importance of flood control.

As stated in an August 29 2017 Kansas City Star article, two Kansas City council members urged the city manager to address Indian Creek flooding, including possibly replacing a flooded retail center with a park.

“It’s evident that difficult choices need to be made here,” Councilman Scott Taylor said at a press conference at City Hall. “Certain structures and parcels along Indian Creek that were destroyed, that are solidly in the floodplain, should not be rebuilt. It does not make sense for a new structure to be rebuilt on property we know will flood again.”

As a follow up, the Kansas City Business Journal reported that City Manager Troy Schulte is now seeking to develop a comprehensive strategy to decrease the negative impact of flooding along the Indian Creek and Blue River corridor.

Since its inception, Heartland Conservation Alliance has promoted on behalf of its Alliance partners the need for protecting, restoring and conserving our forest, prairies, and wetlands for the benefit and safety of our communities.

“To combat the ever increasing threats and challenges from climate change in our area,” said Heartland Conservation Alliance co-founder and Board President Scott Schulte, “We must take the long view and we must develop smarter and build more naturally so that communities can thrive and grow while improving resiliency. We have to do change how we do business.”

Heartland Conservation Alliance advocates for conserving land in the headwaters of the Blue River and working to restore and repair areas not suitable for commercial and residential redevelopment.

“The land in the upper reaches of the Blue River is largely rural and undeveloped,” stated Caitlin Dix, Heartland Conservation Alliance Project Manager. “We rely heavily on the research and data from regional conservation planning efforts, like the MetroGreen Action Plan, Natural Resource Inventory, Upper Blue River Watershed Implementation Plan, and Blue River Conservation Opportunity Area Action Plan Previous strategic plans clearly show where we must start conserving land now for our future economic vitality, health and safety.”

As noted in a recent PBS NOVA program about Houston, when developers built Houston, they paved over all of the natural systems that were there, that were built for flooding. When the city received the sheer volume of water it did, like Kansas City, there was no place for the water to go.

“When development occurs, the hard surfaces, impervious area – roofs, driveways, streets, parking lots, buildings – that water, none of it’s going to be absorbed into the ground,” Director of Kansas City Water Services Terry Leeds said in an interview with KCUR on August 27, 2017.

"We regularly receive calls from concerned citizens who don't feel they are being heard by their elected officials,” said Jill Erickson, Heartland Conservation Alliance Program Director. “They turn to the conservation community for help when they feel planners and leaders turn a deaf ear to neighborhoods begging them not to cut down a 44-acre woods, or bury a gas tank next to the river, or install sewers next to creeks.”

By the time citizens are calling Heartland conservation Alliance, it is usually too late to save the places they love.

“At Heartland Conservation Alliance, we want to work with developers to build conservation-focused development,” Erickson stated. “We want the right buildings in the right place. We are not interested in trying to stop the development community when they are working within their legal rights. We want to work the entire community to protect the forests, prairies, and wetlands that protect our community and help developers see our natural resources as amenities that will make our community even more desirable to live, work and play.”

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