New Wichita River Floodplain Approved

City leaders in Wichita Falls are thinking ahead when it comes to future flood events.  At Tuesday's city council meeting, a new Wichita River floodplain study was approved.

"It will make a huge difference," Wichita Falls Public Work Director Russell Schreiber said.

The rising waters in May 2015 threatened several homes and forced many residents to evacuate their homes.  Schreiber said the water levels reached a gauge height of 22.5 feet.  However, at one point the river was predicted to crest at 27 feet, a historic level.

"That's 27 feet, it would have been just devastating had we got to that point," he said.

During the flooding event, city leaders teamed up with Freese and Nichols, who is conducting the new study, to create maps showing what areas would be affected.  While those maps helped, Schreiber  explained they were only a rough estimate.

"This study today will allow us to develop some really accurate maps," he said.

What makes the new study different is time?  With that time they will be able to add the details incorporated within the maps.  Schreiber explained they would add obstructions that aren't currently in the model.  This includes roadways, bridges, railroad tracks, and more.

The study will also include part of Wichita County, specifically the Horseshoe Bend Estates, since that area floods fairly quickly.

"They've agreed to participate and pay for that extension, which is a $5,000 cost," he said.

The water levels that will be studied are from 19 feet through 27 feet.  This way city leaders can be prepared for the worst case scenario.

"Now we'll know in advance before the water gets that height where we need to focus our efforts," Schreiber said.

He explained they will be able to deploy the fire department and the emergency management division accordingly.  Plus, they won't have to go through the city to figure out the water levels.  They will already know what to expect ahead of time.

"We will know what areas of town will be impacted first," he said, "We will know where to possibly evacuate people, shut off power, that type of thing."

The total cost for the study is $70,000.  The city will pay for $65,000, while the county will contribute $5,000 since they requested the extension.  Officials said the study will begin in a few weeks.  Once it starts, they have 60 days to complete it.  The results should be back by December.

Alexandra McClung, Newschannel 6