John Feistner, area engineer with Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Springfield, addressed the county commission concerning two flood repair projects on CR 7550 on Mill Creek and CR 7360 on Little Piney River. Unfortunately for the residents that use those roads, getting the funding is not a slam-dunk.

John Feistner, area engineer with Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Springfield, addressed the county commission on Thursday morning at the courthouse concerning two flood repair projects on CR  7550 on Mill Creek and CR 7360 on Little Piney River. The problem is common to those living near and in floodplains—creeks and rivers that will not be tamed to stay within their channels during periods of heavy rain. Given some time (and continued flooding) a waterway will cut new paths and in this case, undercut the road (Mill Creek) and destroy chip-and-seal pavement or channel away from a bridge that was recently built over the Little Piney, making it eventually obsolete. The engineer said it was not unusual in these types of watersheds to lose 20 feet of bank per year.

Feistner presented drafts of Damage Survey Report proposals. These summarize road damage from the late-April to early-May flooding to create a cost-to-benefit ratio based on estimated repair costs, community use and environmental factors.

Funding would come from a NRCS Emergency Water Protection Program on a 75 to 25 percent split, with the county responsible for 25 percent of the road repair costs.
“These proposals ensure the Washington level that we have viable projects that are fundable,” said the engineer. “They have to have a positive benefit/cost ratio and they have to be environmentally sound.”

Unfortunately for the county, both projects have cost/benefit ratios that were slightly negative according to the survey reports; but Feistner thinks some repair alternatives and additional information, such as consideration for school bus routes can swing the cost/benefit ratios into positive territory.

Feistner said the funding for these types of state projects is uncertain, though he noted projects like these have been funded within a couple of months in the past. “These are two of fifteen projects we have looked at in this part of Missouri,” noted Feistner.

First, the county will need to procure the services of an engineer that will work closely with the Phelps County Road and Bridge workers that will be doing the repairs. The NRCS cost-share (through US Department of Agriculture) money will include an additional 7.5 percent reimbursement, based on the total cost of the project, for the county contracting the work—NRCS will not be involved.
Commissioner Hicks noted that the 7.5 percent figure would probably not cover the engineer’s cost.
“You’re going to have some skin in this game, as far as the engineering costs, before you’ll know what the final cost is going to be,” explained Feistner. “The project has to be completed to get the reimbursement.”

The higher the cost of the project, the more skewed the cost/benefit analysis towards the negative side. Individually, these projects should cost under $200,000, increasing the chances for funding, according to the engineer.

The majority of the cost will be for large rip-rap rock, installed  according to design called “longitudinal stone protection,” a big term for simply dumping large rock from the newly cut bank, out to the original channel bank, or close to the original channel.
“It’s just re-establishing a former stream channel,” explained Feistner. He added that once the bank is stabilized with rock, the original riparian corridor will come back, meaning sycamore and willow trees will naturally re-seed the banks and the roots will grow to hold the soil.

Engineer Feistner said he would re-visit the Damage Survey Report proposal drafts to see if the cost/benefit ratios could be improved by looking at less expensive repair alternatives and other community needs to better the chances of these projects being funded.