Two words — government study — can be enough to instantly bring a vacant look to any face. Let’s face it, many government studies are usually seen as a collection of seemingly nonsensical and mind-numbing details put on a paper for no clear purpose.
But the federal study of the local Mill Creek Flood Control Project, now in its seventh month, is an exception. This effort is a critical first step in upgrading the deteriorating flood control channel that has for 70 years been protecting the city of Walla Walla from being engulfed with water from flooding.
The U.S. government last year authorized this three-year study to access the best way to rebuild the channel and to determine what changes need to be made.
While the Mill Creek channel is structurally sound today, it’s old bones are creaking. The signs of wear are evident. Components of the flood-control system have degraded over time, resulting in reliability concerns and decreased capacity to handle flooding. The integrity of the bridges is also of concern.
Last week, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials discussed progress on the study with the community.
“We have a good flood risk management project, but it has degraded over 70 years,” Alex Colter, project manager, told the audience attending the Thursday presentation. He said that along with looking at the decreased reliability of the infrastructure, the study will look at increasing costs for operations and maintenance and problems, In addition, fish passage and habitat, which were not part of the original design, will now be considered.
After three years, when the study is complete, the final plan will be used by Congress in deciding which projects will get funding to actually be completed.
And that’s why this is so important to this community. When it comes time to compete for funding, this study should help make a convincing case and show that the upgrades are not only necessary for repairs, but will enhance the channel and protect the environment.
This renovation project is essential to Walla Walla, particularly its downtown that has been protected from flooding since water engulfed the city in the 1930s.