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South Callaway businesses bear brunt of flooding

South Callaway businesses bear brunt of flooding

June 26th, 2019 by Quinn Wilson in News

Turkey Creek Golf Course is seen post-flood in southern Callaway County. Owner Danny Baumgartner said the damage to his course was "far worse" than it had ever been.

Photo by Quinn Wilson

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The greens are more like browns at Turkey Creek Golf Course.

On Tuesday morning, 18 southern Callaway County business owners impacted by flooding gathered at the damaged golf course to seek answers and action from county leadership. They met with Western District Commissioner Roger Fischer.

Fischer said the estimated losses from the flood will be in the "hundreds of thousands" for affected businesses, and it will be "in the millions" if farms are included.

"There has never been a flood as devastating as this one before," said Danny Baumgartner, owner of Turkey Creek Golf Course. "The Flood of 1993 was bad, but it was not like this in terms of damages and losses."

Business owners sought to find out what was being done by the state and federal governments to ease their suffering and what can be done to prevent similar disasters in the future.

Michelle Kidwell, Callaway County emergency management director, attended the meeting to explain to business owners how their flooding damages would be assessed. Kidwell described the south Callaway County/north Jefferson City area as the "largest business district affected" by the flooding.

Many at the meeting thought more preventative measures could have been taken.

"(The state) had already said back in February, 'We had record snowfall, and we wanted them to release (the water built up by the levees),'" Baumgartner said. "This is what happens when you didn't release the water and now you get extra rain."

According to business owners, the levees themselves contributed to the flooding. Levees in the area top out at 30.5 feet, while the business owners all agreed they should be at least 34 feet high. The most recent major flood crest was 33.44 feet June 5, the fourth highest in recorded history.

Business owners also pointed to the height and condition of a Turkey Creek bridge next to the broken Capitol View levee. According to local farmer David Boessen, the problem bridge is nearly 80 years old and in need of serious repair. A 2016 bridge inspection report rated the bridge as "fair" but with "widespread minor damage."

Baumgartner denounced the lack of action by the government by likening much of the affected area to the Bermuda Triangle.

"The tornado got a lot of awareness. It wasn't a Joplin, and they want it to be a Joplin," Baumgartner said.

Gov. Mike Parson requested Tuesday that President Donald Trump issue a major disaster declaration for 41 Missouri counties, including Cole and Callaway counties. This would provide individual assistance for damages sustained through historical flooding and tornadoes.

With Missouri River levels at Jefferson City projected to reach near major flood stage again this week, the Western District commissioner feared the issues will only get worse.

"This will only drag out the process of recovery and will prevent the farmers from getting their last hope of getting their crops planted," Fischer said.

Those present emphasized change needs to occur before the next flood. Local farmer Jay Fischer pushed the idea that phone calls and letters need to made to not only local politicians, but those higher than the state government.

"The squeaky wheel gets the grease," Fischer said. "We're not going to be on the radar for any environmental groups. I've got to emphasize, now is the time."