Wichita man on street flooding: 'This is a joke!'

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) - A Wichita man has taken to social media to show what he believes are poor storm drainage areas in town.

"I tell you, this is a joke." That's what James Fleming can be heard saying in a video he posted to Facebook on Thursday.

The video shows street flooding in Wichita's downtown and Riverside areas.

"What caught my attention was two trash cans floating down the street and it was just surreal," Fleming told KSN. "That's what caused me to initially pull out my camera and start filming."

Fleming filmed as he drove on 10th and Wichita Street and then near Main and 13th Street.

"What was going through my mind was how much water volume there had to be for that to occur," he said. "It was a complete lake, completely submerged."

KSN took Fleming's videos to the City of Wichita on Friday. Officials said it's not uncommon for some downtown streets to experience flooding.

"Folks will notice in different areas of the city, we will have some minor nuisance street flooding where the water comes up for a period of time and then goes back down," said City of Wichita Public Works Assistant Director Don Henry.

Henry said much of the infrastructure downtown is aging.

"The core of town, that's some of the oldest infrastructure that we have," Henry explained.

He also said it's undersized compared to some of the newer developments around Wichita.

"The important thing to know is that it (water) will go down and to not drive through it until it does," Henry said.

Henry said the city is doing what it can to improve storm-water drainage, but nuisance street flooding is not at the top of the list. Instead, areas that pose life-safety issues take precedent.

"Where the water actually gets deep enough and fast enough that people have had to be rescued out of their cars, those are at the top of the list. Then, we have got another segment of projects where we have structures in the 100-year floodplain, those get the second level of priority," Henry said.

Henry pointed to a 2017 storm water rate increase which is providing about $950,000 a year to replace old and worn out infrastructure.

"We are also accumulating $1.4 million a year to put in place for drainage improvements. What we do there, is our highest risk projects will go first. We are working right now on sequencing the projects in the right order according to the funding levels we have," he said.

One of the first planned projects is on Bleckley Drive from 9th Street to Kellogg. Henry added crews inspect and clean as many as 500,000 linear-feet of pipe and as many as 68,000 inlet structures each year.

"The fact that we may not have the funds to go out and replace every segment of storm, sewer system that has these street flooding issues doesn't mean we are not concerned and don't care about it. That's why we have the crews out on the streets when it rains to make sure that what we do have in place is functioning at the best it possibly can," he said.

Fleming said he understands the issue, but he would like to see change.

"I empathize with the city. I understand that it's a matter of tax revenue," Fleming said.

However, Fleming said he would like to see improvements done to particular areas of town just as they have been to other areas.

"Particularly knowing the amount of developments going on out east and out west and the big project downtown and yet there's these areas in lower income areas, lower household values that are just completely getting ignored and neglected," he said.

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