By Kevin McClintock
Globe Staff Writer
SENECA, Mo. —
By Kevin McClintock
SENECA, Mo. — If you think the nearest dam to Joplin is the one at Grand Lake o’ the Cherokees in Northeast Oklahoma, you would be wrong.
There are five earthen dams in western Newton County that have been constructed to ensure that Seneca and the surrounding area stay above water during periods of flooding.
And for the first time since 2002, one of those five dams, known as B-2, has received the necessary funding to help it meet state dam regulations.
“I guess you might say the Missouri Dam Safety Law is the root cause for us being here today (Tuesday),” said Bob Clay, an inspector with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources’ dam safety program.
The single goal of that program, he said, “is to prevent dams from failing and releasing their reservoirs and wreaking havoc downstream. And most people, especially people downstream of the dam, seem to think that’s a good goal.”
When B-2, located roughly two miles east of Racine, was constructed in 1980, it was considered a “low hazard” dam. If the dam failed, it would result in property damage only. During the intervening years, homes were built downstream. Because the dam safety law has higher standards for structures near residential areas, B-2 was suddenly out of compliance. It was designated a “high hazard dam” in 2002.
“There was nothing wrong with the dam itself,” said Lynn Jenkins, district conservationist with the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service in Missouri. “It just didn’t meet the type of standards the state was demanding.”
Meeting those state demands would cost the Lost Creek watershed group just under $200,000.
“We’d tried for several years to get the funding to bring this dam into compliance,” said Harold Deckerd, assistant conservationist for water resources with the NRCS. Because the population at risk around B-2 was considered low by the state, “We just could never get a high enough ranking nationwide to get the funding to rehabilitate B-2, which is how the NRCS prioritized funding,” he said.
But the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 changed that.
Upgrading B-2, Deckerd said, “is a significant achievement.”
“I’m pleased to say the dam now meets our highest design standards,” Clay said, adding with a smile that for Lost Creek watershed members, “We’ll stop pestering you about this dam.”
The B-2 dam is one of five such structures, along with three debris basins, located within the watershed. Combined, they protect the 2,220 people in Seneca and 3,507 surrounding county residents. The system also prevents flooding of nearby Missouri Highway 86, Route CC and Route K.
Improvements to B-2, which began May 29 and should be wrapped up by the first of September, include widening the auxiliary spillway, lowering the principal spillway and lowering the concrete intake tower.
Did you know?
The Missouri Dam Safety Law was enacted in 1979 after a series of dam failures: at Lawrenceton in 1968, in Washington County in 1975, at Fredericktown in 1977 and a near failure in Franklin County in 1978.