Solutions Eyed On Flood Issues

Marshall County residents in the Maxwell Acres and Middle Grave Creek areas are no strangers to flooding.

However, Joe Parriott believes damage caused by heavy rain earlier this month was compounded by development at the Williams Energy Oak Grove plant off Fork Ridge.

During a Marshall County Commission meeting Tuesday, Parriott said he has lived in the Middle Grave Creek watershed his entire life but has never seen flooding and water like he saw three weeks ago. He said large rocks had clogged a small stream, which overflowed and washed out property in the area.

Howard Coffield, supervisor of buildings and grounds for Marshall County, said it appeared the clogs were caused by debris and settlement transfer, which is typical following a storm of that nature. However, Parriott called that theory “unreasonable” and “inconceivable” and said he believes the deluge of water came down a ravine from the Williams site.

That site is the future home of the Oak Grove processing plant, which is part of a $4.5 billion investment in the county by Williams. Scott Carney, strategic outreach specialist for Williams, said the company has been looking into potential issues with flooding caused by the site. He, along with Williams Civil Engineer Allan Berenbrok, said temporary erosion and settlement control mechanisms are in place during construction, though the severity of the storm was too much for the system to handle.

“It’s sized to handle a lot of water, but not a 100-year storm event,” Berenbrok said of the storm that dumped nearly 3 inches of water in just a few hours.

Berenbrok said Williams has engineers and surveyors on site each day checking and recording any disturbance to the ground. He said those individuals have concluded there is no direct flow of water from the site to the area below. However, he and Carney said to ensure no negative impact has happened, Williams will conduct a hydrological survey over the coming months. Carney said the results of that study could very well show the construction at the site has a positive impact on flood control due to the ponds and other catch basins that will be put in place.

Additionally, Carney said the company has been working with residents affected by flooding, helping cover the cost of cleanup and even purchasing new appliances.

“It’s our philosophy to do the right thing,” he said. “Culpability isn’t important.”

In Parriot’s case, removing the rocks and other debris will require a permit. County Administrator Betsy Frohnapfel said with the county acting as a facilitator for the work through the state, the work could be completed in the next few months. Carney said Williams would be more than willing to help with the work.

In the meantime, the county will work with Williams on the hydrological study. Commissioner Brian Schambach said he would like to see the Marshall County Planning Commission be more involved in construction projects, particularly housing developments, that could disturb portions of the watershed.

He said he recently observed a development that originally installed a 400-foot ditch intended to hold and better drain water. However, homeowners in the area did not like it and filled it in with dirt, which potentially caused problems during the recent storms.

“We need to stay on top of what’s happening from front to back,” Schambach said, suggesting all involved parties participate in a workshop.