Let’s Start Over on Flood Control

By Bradley Harrington

Brad Harrington

“It takes less time to do a thing right than to explain why you did it wrong.” — Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “The Poetical Works of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow,” 1867 —

As most readers are aware, there’s been an awful lot of controversy lately about Cheyenne’s flooding problems, the best way to fix those issues and the methods by which payments for that work are to be made. Let’s just say that things are in an uproar.

And, in the midst of all of it, I’ve got three questions to ask:

(1) Just what is it, exactly, that our “floodplain” engineering plans currently consist of, and do those plans adequately deal with the nature of our flood threats?

(2) To what degree has West Edge “amenities” planning crept into the original flood control proposals, and should such “amenities” projects even be tied into those proposals?

(3) How does the City intend on paying for these projects, and have any grant applications been doctored with or lied on, as City Engineer Jim Voeller alleges?

Regarding (1): Ayres Associates Water Engineer Gene MacDonald stated in a recent City Council meeting that current flood-control plans were “virtually unrecognizable” from what his company originally submitted and that the new plans would leave “the Capitol complex unprotected after they’ve invested millions it.” (“Council OKs revised Civic Center Commons oversight ordinance,” WTE, April 11.)

Well, that got the attention of Gov. Matt Mead’s “special assistant attorney general” Mike O’Donnell, who consequently showed up to the City Council’s Finance Committee meeting Tuesday, where:

“His concerns were urgent enough that the Finance Committee voted 3-0 against recommending awarding the bid to Simon Contractors, deciding to allow the full City Council to consider the matter of how and whether the 26th Street interceptor can be extended.” (“Mayor says Cheyenne will fund project to protect Capitol from floods,” WTE, April 20.)

So, the answer to (1) is: “NO!” Otherwise, why revise the current plan?

Regarding (2): Unless you want to count the City’s attempt to “blend” a “detention pond” with a park, as current Civic Commons plans call for, the two issues of flood control and “amenities” need to be separated and dealt with separately — with the overriding engineering concern being given to the first of the two.

If I had to speculate, my guess would be that the “planners” somehow gained control of the whole West Edge show, and that’s when all the “amenities” twaddle started asserting itself. And that, in its turn, spawned the funding fun.

A few columns back, I quoted Thomas DiLorenzo, author of “How Capitalism Saved America,” as saying:

“With government-funded projects … the whims of politicians tend to replace the desires of consumers, and the result is always economic inefficiency and political corruption.”

This entire “West Edge”/”Civic Commons”/floodplain hoorah is a classic example of just the kind of nincompoopery DiLorenzo was speaking of, and the whole fiasco substantiates perfectly the reasons why government shouldn’t even be involved in this business.

Regarding (3): Who knows? It would take someone with the patience of an elephant, the eye of an eagle and the ferocity of a bear to wade through this mess at this point, so I understand completely why the city’s Governing Body shamelessly voted on April 10 to dump the whole stinking pile back into FEMA’s lap and let THEM figure it out. (How comical can you get? “We don’t KNOW if we lied! You tell us!”)

Given all of the above, Dear Reader, there’s only one intelligent course of action left to take: Scrap it ALL and start over.

Such moves, in a necessary operational order, would consist of:

■ Immediately halting all “West Edge”/flood control projects not already halted. This would include actual construction, bids proposals, the whole enchilada;

■ Hiring a firm, such as CH2M Hill (which ran Sandy Springs, Georgia, for years and still runs their call center) and tell them: (1) Figure out our flood threats; (2) Develop the cheapest functional solution that successfully manages those threats. Give them all our plans and let them decide whether or not any of it is useful or relevant;

■ Scrapping any current application cycles for grants. City Treasurer Lois Huff sent me a spreadsheet last week that says the “West Edge” flood control kitty currently sits at $16,734,362. Reapply for all of it, as current grant cycles are highly suspect. (The very idea of begging federal taxpayers to fix OUR problems itself stinks to high heaven — but for God’s sake, if you’re gonna do it, at least do it with class, honesty and integrity. And wash your hands afterwards.)

■ Finally, armed with actual knowledge regarding the floodplain problems and solutions, as well as a clear understanding of our funding sources, determine what it is that needs to happen to bring the plan to fruition.

So, to the Council’s new “Project Oversight Team”: What are you waiting for?

Bradley Harrington is a computer technician and a writer who lives in Cheyenne. Email:  bradhgt1776@gmail.com.

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