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Wait 'Til You See It

A woman named Harriet Festing called out of the blue one day. And called back several more times inquiring about the repetitive flooding that she had learned occurs here. It was around the time of the new FEMA maps and people who had never had to have flood insurance were being notified it would now be required. This Harriet referred us to the American Geological Union's Thriving Earth Exchange who set about to help us develop a project that might be of service to this community.

After months of meeting to discuss our needs another few months passed as the call went out to find the volunteer scientist to assist us. And finally we were assigned a professor at the Loudonville, New York College of Siena, Kate Meierdiercks.

The decision had been made to develop a map that would clearly define the 100 and 500 year flood plains for the City of Miami so all citizens would see their personal risk and be able to more realistically plan for the future floods. If they were new to the area, this could show them the evacuation routes they might need to take to safety for themselves, their pets and their belongings.

Using GIS, Kate built this map, but she did more than we asked. She expanded the boundaries to include those we know also flood, she widened the scope. Kate mapped all of Ottawa County.

Thriving Earth Exchange, we came to abbreviate as "TEX" had set up bi-monthly meetings. The first time she revealed what she had done, we had the very same reaction that everyone who has since seen the map has done. We were shocked. With the map, Kate took us to the City of Miami, then added the flood layer. Through it we could see the homes that lie in wait for the next flood. So many residences are at risk. But that was not the only shock we experienced.

As I had said she had done more than we had asked. She had mapped the whole county. When she then revealed this by widening the image on the screen, we saw the visually captivating moon colored shapes at the northern part of the map, then saw the same with the FEMA flood layer added.

All these years, all these floods the county as experienced. With the roads flooded I and others had never seen what happens in the Tar Creek Superfund site. There laying in the floodplain along both Tar and Lytle Creeks, chap piles! IN THE FLOOD PLAIN. All these years we all knew Tar Creek loads us heavy metals EVERY DAY for the last 42 years, but we had and EPA had never measured how much loading these were adding to the load that flowed down Tar Creek, down Elm Creek to the Neosho, these waters that then lay and stagnate in Miami, OK, soaking those metals into your homes, yards, playgrounds, parks and our treasured Riverview Park and the century old NEO A&M College grounds.

What Kate had done was create a vision of what the future will continue to be unless you, the City and the County and Tribes find and tune up our voices to in unison say, NO MORE TOXIC FLOODS. They and you need to say it loud enough DALLAS EPA headquarters hears it, and turn those voices and SING it loud and clear to the gate-keepers at GRDA to manage the floods to be more protective of the residents and our environment, do not allow this tainted water to SIT and absorb for WEEKS before it is drained out of here.

We must require that EPA and GRDA talk to each other. They must acknowledge the toxic load ends up in the sink of a lake that provides fish we eat and water communities all around the lake DRINK.

Kate didn't stop. She added more to the map, she added the tribal boundaries, she added DEQ's layer of pink dots that indicate yards that either tested clean or had the contaminated soils dug up, removed and replaced with clean soil. Her map then can show how many lie under that flood plain layer and get dowsed each flood. She added the aquifers, the drinking water wells, and the layer Gina Manders shared with us of the homes red-tagged and those given permits to rebuild in the 2007 flood.

EPA, DEQ and the Quapaw Nation will be speaking at the Tar Creek Conference October 12 and 13 at NEO in the Student Union. Residents of Ottawa County are encouraged to attend and hear the plans, learn what has been done and question these officials about the future. This will be the 24th year we have held these, always FREE for county residents and those who work here.

It will be at the conference we will be sharing the map with the public for the first time.

Respectfully Submitted ~ Rebecca Jim

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