Preventing future floods with a new Bear Creek plan

With help from a St. Louis-based company, Rees has created two concepts for the Bear Creek area

Since 2008, residents of Hannibal have experienced one flood after another.

Many say it's due to the nearby Bear Creek basin and its tributaries that back up into residential areas when more than a few inches of rain sets in.

"The Bear Creek Dam takes off 50 percent of the basin, which is wonderful during the peak floods, but there's still significant flooding happening in Bear Creek," said Mark Rees, city engineer.

The most recent swept through neighborhoods along Warren Barret Drive back in July of 2010, leaving residents to deal with feet of water and mud inside their homes. In hopes of preventing this from ever happening again, Rees has devised a plan. With help from a St. Louis-based company, Rees has created two concepts for the Bear Creek area.

"There might be a series of recreated wetlands to help clean the water and sedimentation ponds to get our grit out of our storm sewer," said Rees.

In other words, the city wants to dig down to give more room for the creek and build up for recreational areas like parks and bridges.

The city would use land already owned around the creek, including old city right of ways, railroad beds and older buyouts. When it comes to dredging the creek, Rees says there's been resistance from the Army Corps of Engineers.

"They've got us moving away from that. In fact, it's a pretty tight permitting process. Matter of fact, the cleanup projects we have going right now is one of the caveats, or rules is that we can't excavate below the normal flowing water," said Rees.

With the city's plan to redesign the Bear Creek basin, including its tributaries, a buyout could be offered to area homeowners, but that's year's away.

"This would only be voluntary. We're not interested in bulldozing any neighborhoods," said Rees.

Rees says he's taking down a list of names from residents who'd be interested in a potential buyout in this plan. A plan on paper but very much in the preliminary stages.

The city's plan for Bear Creek will be part of a feasibility study this coming spring. Rees says the Army Corps of Engineers has mentioned it might have some funds to begin this type of project in about five years.