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McCook Lake flood: Did the mitigation plan make things worse?

todayJuly 2, 2024 4

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NORTH SIOUX CITY, S.D. (KELO) – Residents of the McCook Lake neighborhood in North Sioux City are still processing the damage that was left behind by last week’s flooding and some are wondering whether or not the damage could’ve been prevented.

“Obviously, this was a catastrophe in that McCook Lake was devastated,” Andrew Nilges, interim administrator for the City of North Sioux City, said. “It’s a tragedy and we all feel for our neighbors and friends and family who are on McCook Lake. But in terms of mitigation effort, it did work in the sense that it protected the rest of North Sioux City and neighboring communities.”

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That mitigation plan was the creation of a levy at exit 4 on Interstate 29 to the east of McCook Lake. Residents KELOLAND News spoke to following the flooding say water was rushing in within minutes of the levy being created.

Officials say McCook Lake would’ve taken in water with or without the levy.

“We saw, obviously, devastation at McCook Lake,” Gov. Kristi Noem said. “There would’ve been water and flooding at McCook Lake anyways. If we hadn’t built the levy there still would’ve been flooding there. They had taken some mitigation efforts in the past to prepare for flooding but I don’t believe anybody could’ve ever prepared for the amount of water that came down in that 24 hour period.”

Julie Burhoop with the McCook Lake Association doesn’t entirely disagree.

“It was coming in from both sides,” Burhoop said. “In my opinion, that probably made the flooding at McCook Lake worse because it did flow in faster, there was more water but in my heart I really believe that water would’ve come up at McCook Lake anyway. It was way faster and more furious than any one single lot or drainage ditch or spillway could’ve handled, regardless if water was diverted at exit 4 or not.”

Some officials do recognize the plan had some failures, though.

“What the plan was out here is earlier, a couple years ago, they took some homes out in hopes that if this ever occurred, the water would follow that path,” Jason Westcott, Union County Emergency Manager, said. “When it started, it actually did do what it’s supposed to, it was following that path. But the deluge of water and the amount of water that came at us, it wouldn’t have mattered what you would’ve done. We couldn’t stop it.”

Lauren Soulek: Do you think, going forward, it might be something that you guys maybe re-look at because of the damage at McCook Lake?

Nilges: It’s possible, but we don’t know. Right now the effort is, we have to keep people safe, we have to keep people alive, we have to rebuild the critical infrastructure so people can have water and sewer and power. I’m sure some of those conversations, they could come up in the future.

Written by: Badlands Classic Rock

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