Mayor of Cisco Addresses Concerns Regarding Historic June Flooding

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ABILENE, TX (KRBC)- After historic flooding caused extensive damage to the City of Cisco last month, residents living on North Shore Drive are not only dealing with their homes being destroyed but some are questioning why city officials made the decisions they did.

The biggest one, why the floodgates were abandoned 60 years ago?

For nearly 100 years, the Williamson Dam has stood quietly in the City of Cisco, but that was not the case on June 1st, 2016.

“I don’t think anybody really anticipated, except in their worse dreams, that you would get that much water,” says Cisco City Mayor, James King.

The torrential rain, which had not been seen in decades, was too much for the dam to handle, causing damage on a grand scale.

“About 75 percent of the homes on the north side have flooded,” says Cisco Resident, Kenny Miller.

After the water receded,  the evidence of the damage was made clear.

“It’s just not something we ever though we would have to face,” says King.

Highway 6 washed out, the city’s water treatment plant destroyed, dozens of homes destroyed and not to mention the financial repercussions that businesses now face.

“It’s going to impact the city’s budget, it’s going to impact all those businesses, restaurants depend on that. It’s just a tough situation we’re having to get through,” says King.

“It just has never been kept up to date,” says Miller.

Kenny Miller has owned property on Lake Cisco since 2007.

Miller is one of many concerned residents, who feel the Williamson Dam wasn’t properly maintained.

“I’ve seen parts of the dam that are gone, that need to be repaired since the 70’s and they’re still not repaired to this day,” says Miller.

I sat down with Mayor of Cisco, James King to ask him about the maintenance of the dam and other questions that have come to light since the June flash flooding disaster.

Reporter: I know TCEQ inspects the dam every 5 years, but do you guys do regular maintenance in between that time?”

“It is the city owned dam. We do regular inspections on it,” says King.

During the flooding, the city had TXDOT and dam inspectors along with TCEQ inspect the structure.

“All of them said them the Dam was operating exactly as it should be,” says King.

The city acknowledges, regular up-keep of the dam is a pretty expensive process.

“Just the engineering to tell us what can be done on that is nearly $100,000. So it’s not something that you do on a regular basis but it is something that we’re planning to address. Just to ensure the long term liability because it’s pretty old,” says King.

Reporter: “What plan was in place, if there was a flooding situation that occurred here?”

“The city of Cisco has always had an emergency action plan but it did not include opening those flood gates,” says King.

Mayor King explains the floodgates also called sluice gates, were initially used to divert water during the dams construction.

Then for a period thereafter, the floodgates were used to reduce the water levels and fill up the city pool, but once the water level permit was increased around 60 years ago:

 “Those sluice gates were abandoned because we no longer had to divert water to maintain the level that TCEQ or the state required,” says King.

However, the residents hit the hardest on North Shore Drive aren’t satisfied with the cities response.

“You know it’s been devastating, I never thought that mine would flood,” says Miller.

Signs placed near flooded homes saying please make the city pump water out to save homes.

“It’s pretty bad in here,” says Cisco Resident.

Others disagree saying they have no hard feelings towards the city.

“You live near the lake, that’s the chances you take,” says Cisco Resident.

Mayor King says the city just provides the land near Lake Cisco and there are no guaranties when building near water.

“So any property that’s flooded due to increased rain that’s the risk you take when you build around the lake,” says King.

While the City of Cisco wasn’t expecting the vast amount of rain, they’re preparing for the worst, including the re-building of Highway 6.

“We have talked to TXDOT just to make sure the road that they rebuild there, will accept the amount of water that can come over our dam,” says King.

The City of Cisco has started the process of applying for a sixteen million dollar loan that would enable them to begin construction on a new water treatment plant while they wait on federal and state disaster relief funds.

To ensure a water crisis never happens again, the plant will be built on a new location on property the city already owns at the top of College Hill.

The city currently has a portable water treatment plant that is costing $40,000 a month.

Speaking of dams, the City of Abilene says their Emergency Action Plans (EAP) for the Lake Fort Phantom Hill and Abilene Dams were updated a few years ago.

So, if a flooding situation should occur, officials know the exact spots that need to be evacuated.

The dams are inspected by TCEQ every 5 years and the city inspects them every year in between.

According to the city’s water utilities director, Rodney Taylor, aside from normal wear and tear, the dams are in good condition.

“We do have some erosion that’s noticeable in areas, that needs to be addressed and we also have quite a bit of vegetative growth that we need to get a handle on,” says Taylor.

Repairs to Lake Fort Phantom Hill will be made in the future, costing about a million dollars.

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