$43 million request could help pull downtown Merriam out of a floodplain

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MERRIAM, Kan. — Federal funding could help the City of Merriam prevent future flooding downtown. 

Representative Sharice Davids (D-KS 3rd District) has requested approximately $43 million from the  House Committee on Appropriations for the Upper Turkey Creek Flood Risk Management Project. 

Davids sent FOX4 this statement: 

“My job is to be the voice of the Third District in Washington, and removing Merriam from the FEMA-designated floodplain would allow for new development and new economic opportunity in the area, creating sustainable growth for years to come.”

Merriam City Administrator Chris Engel said the city has partnered with Johnson County and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to fund a study to address flooding and take downtown out of the local floodplain.

“There is currently nothing down there other than the banks of the creek.There is nothing that really prevents the flooding,” Engel said. “The final study indicated that some flood walls and berming down there would eliminate the floodplain from downtown.Which would allow for some development and address some life safety issues that occur down there when flooding occurs.” 

Engel said eliminating the risk of flooding could help bring new business to downtown Merriam. 

Turkey Creek is part of a larger system that stretches into Kansas City, Kansas and flows into the Kansas River. 

The Upper Turkey Creek Flood Risk Management project includes recommendations to build levees and floodwalls to protect downtown Merriam. The plan outlines goals to build roughly 3,380 feet of levee approximately 6 feet in height and 6,820 feet of floodwall up to approximately 6.5 feet in height along the banks of the creek. 

“There are over 80 businesses and residential structures that end up getting flooded in large flood events along the creek,” Tom Kimes, President of the Missouri and Associated Rivers Coalition (MOARC), said.  

Kimes said while the creek has not experienced extreme flooding since the late 90s, the risk of flooding poses a safety risk for residents and visitors. 

“It take a foot of water traveling at less than 8 miles per hour to actually start moving cars and start floating cars,” Kimes said. “The velocity of water along the creek is also an issue. This [project] will help to contain it along the channel and keep it from spreading out.” 

If the project is approved the total cost would be split between the City of Merriam, Johnson County and the federal government. Engel said if approved the federal government would cover approximately 80 percent of the total cost of the project.

“The city has already encumbered over $5million to pay for this project should federal funding come in and we have a commitment from the county to address the additional funding that would be needed at the local level,” Engel said. 

Engel said if funding is granted for the program, the USACE will have a two year period to plan and design the proposed levees with construction starting in approximately three years.  

The House Appropriations Committee will review Davids’ request prior to the start of the 2022 fiscal year, which starts on October 1, 2021. 

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