Project Underway to Ease Flooding in Marion

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By Hilary LeHew

MARION -- Work is now underway to ease flooding in one part of Marion. Old Route 13 on the west side of town has seen problems with high water for years. Starting this week, The city and national wildlife refuge are joining forces to improve drainage.

It's been a controversial issue for some time now. While officials say this new project won't completely solve the problem, they all agree it's a step in the right direction.
 
To the migratory birds who feed on the Little Creek impoundment, the water is a great place to feed. But to those who live around it, it's more than just a wetland.
 
"All of that water from that 6,600 watershed comes right through these two structures," explained Crab Orchard Wildlife Refuge Deputy Manager Kevin Sloan.
 
Sloan explains, the spillway and flood gate are all that hold back the water flowing through the Crab Orchard Wildlife Refuge, and debris from the 2009 derecho doesn't help.
 
"It has clogged channels to the north of little creek impoundment here and caused water to back up quite a bit," he said.
 
Downed timber and beaver dams like this one slow water flow and cause panic for neighbors during heavy rain.
    
"The flooding along Old Route 13 has been ongoing for many years," said city commissioner Anthony Rinella.
 
Rinella says crews have started cutting trees and removing snags along the water channels. It's part one of many phases, in a more than $300,000 project the city and refuge will complete together.
 
The next, set to start in the summer of 2015, will include lengthening the spillway and replacing the undersized flood gate.
 
"That will give us the ability to manage water levels below the top of the spillway," said Sloan.
 
The move will require draining this area, which Sloan says will benefit these birds in the end, by giving them a steady water level. "If the water gets too deep over that food, that food is not accessible to ducks," he said.
 
At the same time, it will decrease the chance for overflow into the neighborhoods along Highway 13.
 
"Is it going to fix it? No," insisted Rinella. "Is it going to make to where people can be less nervous when a rain comes? Yes. That's what our hopes are," he added.
 
Replacing the spillway means the refuge will go a full winter without pooling the water for waterfowl. However, Sloan says he's spoken with local hunters who think it's well worth the sacrifice.
Marion Regional
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