Walnut Creek forms something of a boundary on the north and east of West Des Moines, and the south side of the city has the Racoon River running through it.
But thanks to some foresight and good planning in the past, the city is unlikely to experience a major disaster even in the current climate of severe rain events.
“Our old historic district, which is Valley Junction, and some of the Valgate area, which is First and Grand — that area is all protected by levees,” Brian Hemesath, city engineer, told the West Des Moines Guide in a telephone interview. “Since those levee systems have gone into effect, we haven’t had any major flood issues in those areas.
“We’re kind of past the big major flooding, where you have to sandbag houses and things like that,” he added. “That’s very, very rare in West Des Moines.”
So, he said, the city is focusing more on what it can do to mitigate more localized damage, such as by swollen small streams, on streets and in yards.
“We started on the east side, the oldest area of town, and moved west, [conducting] drainage studies to determine what types of infrastructure we should be looking at constructing and the priority level of each of these things,” Hemesath said. “How can be improve smaller, localized flooding issues and erosion issues and property damage and things like that?
“We have a lot of those areas under control, but we have a lot of smaller streams and capacity issues that we have to deal with on a daily basis.” For example, he said, a culvert built 50 or 60 years might not be functional in today’s environment, or development is occurring where detention areas aren’t up to modern standards.
Hemesath said that the city encourages, but doesn’t force, developers to donate greenways on their development for the city to maintain — it removes a headache for them and future property owners while giving the city the ability to better monitor and control stormwater flow and erosion.
In addition, he said, “creeks cross city boundaries,” and cooperation with neighboring towns — and what he hopes will eventually be standardization of design — is important to keeping everyone and their property safe.