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Rural dwellers deal with flooding from Tuttle Creek Lake

Justin and Lenay Marteney and their two-year-old daughter haven’t been able to sleep in their own home in about three weeks. And it doesn’t look as if that situation will be changing any time soon.

The Marteneys live near the north end of Tuttle Creek Lake about three miles south of Randolph at the end of a road that runs parallel to Baldwin Creek, which feeds into the reservoir. The main road that leads to their house has an estimated three feet of water over it, Justin said, which makes traveling by car impossible.

Some residents who live in rural areas in the northern end of the county have had to deal with water covering roads, pastures and farm land as the dam continues to hold about 41 more feet of water than its usual level with decreased outflow.

Officials with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at the lake have been keeping a close eye on conditions and water levels both north and south of the dam to determine whether to release more water and how much. Many northern areas of the Missouri River, which flows into the lake, are above its minimum flood stage level.

Last week, officials increased outflow at the dam to 4,000 cubic feet per second for a few days before reducing it once more when rains swept through the region.

As of Saturday, the lake sits at 1,116.47 feet. The inflow and outflow rate have remained steady since Wednesday at 1,100 and 200 cubic feet per second, respectively.

While citizens in the area have expressed concerns lately about the lake’s water levels, officials have been ensuring them that the risk of repeating the conditions that led to the 1993 flood that swept through Manhattan would still have a ways to go.

Authorities are not taking the decisions they have to make lightly, however.

“The only way to address (the flooding on roads and people’s land) is to bring the lake back down,” said Brian McNulty, project operations manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at the lake. “We’re going to push water out as quickly as we can to do that, but right now there’s just not space downstream to do that.”

McNulty said when the conditions are right to begin regularly letting out more water, it would still take several weeks before the lake elevation started returning to normal.

Lenay and Justin acknowledged it would be a while before they could live at their home once more but they have taken the situation in stride, describing the problem as an “inconvenience.” In the meantime, the family has been taken in by Justin’s brother, who lives in Riley.

Lenay said they tried to hold out from leaving for as long as they could, but the breaking point came when she was selling the last of their goats and trying to drive across the water-covered road with their daughter in the back. Lenay said the truck drifted too far from the middle of the road and she couldn’t get any traction, causing the truck to tip over and fill the cab with water. She was able to get both of them out safely with the help of the buyer.

“That’s the day we decided we had to evacuate,” she said.

Lenay said they looked at flood insurance to see if it would cover compensation for relocation, but found out the Federal Emergency Management Agency didn’t cover those costs.

They’ve sold all their livestock as their grazing pastures are covered, but have been able to check on the few chickens, cats and a dog that are still on their land at least once a week by canoeing over the road.

Luckily, the couple said, the house itself is virtually untouched as it’s situated on higher ground than the surrounding area. Justin said they knew that flooding could be a problem when they bought their 12 acres of land about nine years ago, but it had never been this high.

When water first washed over the road in March, Justin said Sherman Township hauled over rocks to build up the road higher.

“They went above and beyond,” Justin said. “We’re the only house on that road that is having this issue, everyone else is high enough. So the fact they were willing to go a long ways to get rock because of the rock shortage, and built (the road) up so we had time to sell our animals really helped.”

But when the water came back, it washed the rocks out, rendering the effort moot.

“I wish they would have known last year because they dumped a bunch of gravel at the end of our road and just made a huge stockpile and all that’s underwater now,” Justin said. “They could’ve used that on the section that’s underwater now, then we could still be going back and forth, but now it’s all washed away.”

Pat Collins, Riley County emergency management director, said he knew a few other people and families adversely affected by flooded roads and lands, especially those who lived near the Blue River Hills and White Canyon areas. A part of the former, he said, is covered by about 15 feet of water. Collins said he’s also seen flooding take a hit on farmers whose soil has also been overtaken by water.

While those are inconveniences in and of themselves, Collins said the situation also creates another problem if those people require emergency services.

“If for some reason they need a ambulance or a fire truck, we can’t get out to their house,” Collins said. “I hate to say it, but we don’t have good access. If people choose to live out in those areas, they need to be cognizant of what happens if things like this occur.”

Collins said he could only recall a couple of other times when he has seen similar flooding in his 40-year career in Riley County, some of which can be attributed to more residential development in those areas.

“I’d say 15 to 20 years ago, we didn’t have any houses up there, it was just a dead end road,” he said. “If water was up, it didn’t adversely affect people, but now that we have houses up there, it does cause problems.”

Collins said officials have also been watching for possible flooding on Wildcat Creek, looking into this week.

Recent rains have filled ponds in the Wildcat basin and some have run over. If the ground is wet, the ponds are full and the area sees more heavy rains, Collins said there could “very easily” be a flood there. Collins said people should always have a plan ready in case of flash flooding.

For now, the Martneys are also looking toward the future. They don’t plan on moving any time soon once they are able to return to their home and won’t raise livestock again for at least a year while they recoup.

Justin said dealing with their daughter being born prematurely and living in the hospital for three months “definitely puts things in perspective.”

“Having a miniature two-pound baby who may or may not live is definitely worse than some flooding,” Lenay said.

Star Wars-themed ‘Run with the Force’ 5K draws hundreds

Over 500 girls, family members and their supporters tore into the fog Saturday morning at the Run with the Force 5K at Manhattan Regional Airport.

Girls on the Run Flint Hills put on the event. The local chapter of a national nonprofit organization helps pre-teen girls build character through running and personal empowerment activities.

Through those activities, the girls develop social, emotional and physical health and find strength in each other, executive director Candice McIntosh said.

“We teach them goal setting, and that’s what we’ve done here today,” McIntosh said. “It’s the big culminating event that they’ve worked hard for all season. They work up to the 5K distance, so for the past 10 weeks, they’ve been working really hard to run different distances and just get up to their goal. Crossing that finish line is really just the beginning for them, so that they can see that whatever goal they set for themselves, they can really accomplish.”

Since the local Girls on the Run council was founded five years ago, the organization has hosted 10 races, executive director Candice McIntosh said.

“It has grown,” McIntosh said. “Our council has grown a lot, in terms of number of girls and sites served.”

This year, the race took place on May 4 — Star Wars Day.

“For this one, we decided to piggyback on top of May the Fourth, and just show girls that it doesn’t have to be all frills or anything,” McIntosh said. “They can like whatever they want find their ‘inner force’ and use that. It’s a really fun way to tie in the special date and Star Wars theme, and we had a really great time seeing all of the costumes today and all of the families who came to support.”

McIntosh said the event was the collaborative effort of several volunteers, parents and sponsors — with the airport playing a key part in providing a site and logistics for the event. Over 100 volunteers helped direct traffic and provide support for the runners, in addition to painting participants’ faces and hair before the race. Members of the K-State Star Wars Club also came out in costume to cheer on the runners.

Courtney Harrison, a student at Lee Elementary School, ran the race for the third straight year alongside her father. She said she was glad to have improved.

“It was very exhausting, but I’m really proud of how I did. I finished it, and I did a lot better than last time,” Harrison said.

Her father Herschel said that although he didn’t prepare for the race at all, he wanted to encourage her daughter to be involved in positive activities like Girls on the Run.

“We do anything we can do to keep them busy in everything positive,” Herschel said. “I just come, show up and do the best I can. Our kids keep us in shape.”

After the race, the airport hosted race participants at the hangars for its aviation exploration event, where community members had the chance to see several aircraft and emergency vehicles up close.

Dave Rogers, owner of Burnett Automotive, showcased two of his aircraft, including his AutoGyro Calidus. He emphasized that the Calidus is not a helicopter but a type of aircraft that uses the wind to spin its otherwise unpowered rotors to generate lift, in addition to a propeller for forward thrust.

Rogers said the aircraft typically turns heads wherever he goes, although he mostly just flies it around for fun and that he enjoys showing his planes to children.

“I enjoy aviation, and you never know where the spark starts but it’s typically with kids,” Rogers said. “Kids, youth, everybody looks up. It’s just cool.”

City to consider Blue Township annexation study request

A request to study the potential annexation of Blue Township will be on the table Tuesday for the Manhattan City Commission.

The meeting starts at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 1101 Poyntz Ave.

Blue Township is in Pottawatomie County between Manhattan and Wamego.

Pottawatomie County has worked on a study to investigate options for addressing the ongoing growth and services needs in the Green Valley portion of Blue Township along Green Valley, Excel and Lake Elbo roads. One option involves city annexation.

City administrators said they want to examine the issue further to gain perspective on the costs and benefits.

Commission approval would allow administrators to request proposals for companies to do the study.

The study would involve two phases. The first phase would be an annexation study of the entire Blue Township area, and the second phase would focus on developing an extension of municipal services plan for the area.

According to a proposed timeline in the agenda, the commission would authorize negotiation with a firm in July and approve the contract in August. Administrators anticipate the first phase would be completed in November with the second phase timeline established after that.

In addition to this, the commission will have three options to consider for the design of the proposed Douglass Park recreation center.

City administrators recommend proceeding with the newest option, which calls for a 23,500-square-foot with a regulation 84-foot basketball court, as well as two cross courts that could be used for basketball, pickleball or volleyball. It also includes an elevated three-lane walking track. This option would cost $3.73 million.

The administrators also recommend designing a 1,234-square-foot multipurpose space on both floors as alternatives. This would bring the project cost to an estimated $4.5 million.

The Manhattan City Commission tabled a design vote in April to get estimates for a three-lane track in the facility.

The original design calls for a 25,000-square-foot facility with an oversized 108-foot basketball court with cross court space for two basketball courts, two volleyball courts or four pickleball courts. It also has an on-grade three-lane walking track. The estimated cost is nearly $3.97 million.

Another option is a 21,000-square-foot building with a 84-foot basketball court with space for cross court space for two basketball courts, two volleyball courts or two pickleball courts. It also has an elevated two-lane walking track. The estimated cost is almost $3.43 million.

The commission’s vote would allow Bruce McMillan Architects to proceed with a final design.

In a related vote, the commission will also consider relocating a Westar Energy overhead electric line at Douglass Park. This would pave the way for construction of the new center.

It would cost $99,140 for Westar to remove the line and $61,300 for Larson Construction to reinstall the line.

The proposed Douglass Park center wouldn’t replace any of the current Douglass facilities.

In addition to those items, the commission is scheduled to consider a $1 million project to bury Westar lines along College Avenue from Dickens Avenue through the intersection of Kimball Avenue and along Kimball near the College/Kimball intersection.

The commission will also consider annexing the 10.6-acre Elijah Addition residential development, which is northwest of Colbert Hills Golf Course and Grand Mere Parkway, and receive a street maintenance report.