New Sharon Water Supply Threatened By Floodwaters

Flooding of the North Skunk River near New Sharon has caused concern that the city could once again lose it's water supply.

Flooding of the North Skunk River near New Sharon has caused concern that the city could once again lose it’s water supply.

New Sharon, Iowa – The call went out Monday afternoon in New Sharon to conserve water. The type of flooding that knocked out the towns water supply for days last year appeared to be returning again this year.

So much water fell in such as short period of time that ditches became raging rivers, and the normally tame North Skunk River once again filled its banks and overflowed onto fields and roadways.

“We’ve got some pretty significant flooding issues,” said New Sharon Mayor Dustin Hite.

With those concerns, the call went out for the residents to conserve water because of the threat to the pump house that feeds water to New Sharon. After last years unprecedented flooding, the city started working on its mitigation plan, which included raising the height of the well caps and raising the generator height within the facility.

Last year, water levels topped some wells, and the generator became submerged. Hite said that the flooding is untimely because they have not yet been able to complete all the upgrades to the pumping station.

The City of New Sharon has also been in contact with Mahaska Rural Water, since last year’s flooding, to have an emergency water connection installed. That connection is not yet completed, but should be yet this summer.

“Unfortunately, we’ve just not had time to get all the improvements completed,” said Hite.

The North Skunk River has a small drainage basin, so when torrential rains impact that basin, the river rises quickly. It also retreats back into its banks nearly as fast. Because the basin is so small, there are no water level monitoring stations installed by NOAA along the river.

Mahaska County Emergency Manager Jamey Robinson had been to the pump house just shortly after the flooding started, and said water levels were just feet away from the structure.

The New Sharon area was blasted by winds reported up to 80 miles-per-hour and rains that quickly overfilled many gauges, with estimates of 5 inches of rain in less than an hour falling in the area. Robinson said that the only wind damage appears to be straight line in nature.

With that in mind, the New Sharon Fire Department and Emergency Management worked to fill sand bangs to help protect the structure from any further issue. “Hopefully we can channel it and pump it to keep it from the pumps,” said Robinson.

This year’s flooding allowed Robinson and other emergency personnel to still make it to the pump house. Last year, sandbagging operations had to be conducted by boat. With that memory fresh from last year, “that’s why we’re doing it now,” said Robinson of the sandbagging and the taking of the precautionary steps.

Robinson reminded residents of the importance of “Turn around, don’t drown during floods.”

***Update*** as of 8am Tuesday morning, the water conservation order had been lifted.

 

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