Ozark County, Mo. still dealing with flooding problems from May

Published: Sep. 19, 2019 at 6:45 PM CDT
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On the scenic drive from Springfield to Theodosia, you'll notice along Highway 160 that places like the old park in Forsyth and the public use area at Kissee Mills are still under water and closed off almost five months after the May floods.

And once you get to Ozark County?

"This is our main road from Thornfield to Theodosia," said Ozark Co. Western Commissioner Greg Donley, pointing to a water-filled area with pavement running into it from each side.

You can't tell where the lake ends and the road begins when you look at what's known as Haskins Ford, but it will take about another 10-foot drop in Bull Shoals Lake before anyone can cross this road again which leaves quite a drive for folks like Greg Loftis, who owns a farm near the flooded area.

His 16-mile commute to Gainesville has now doubled.

"To go around the highway (that's now flooded) is 32 miles one-way," he said.

While that detour is an inconvenience to some, it's downright dangerous for others as emergency responders like fire, police, and ambulances also face delays.

"That increased response time, minutes, seconds, they count," said Winston Collins, Ozark Country's Chief Deputy. "If we're trying to intercept a vehicle and/or person who's committing a crime and we're unable to do that quickly, then it could jeopardize that investigation."

The flooding also affects those who depend on tourism like the Theodosia Marine and Resort that's been around since 1952. Picnic areas are underwater and debris is still scattered about from a summer business gone bad.

"Our parking lots were under water, our docks had to be moved and we've probably had a 30-40 percent loss in business over the summer," said Bret Cook, the owner of Theodosia Marina and Resort.

Ozark County is used to flooding issues.

"We've had five federal-declared flood disasters in the last 11 years," Donley said.

But Donley contends the problem now includes the lake level at Bull Shoals Lake, located at the bottom end of the White River Basin flood control system.

"We stay high for a long time because we have to wait for a lot of other places to drain down," Cook explained. "Beaver, Table Rock, Taneycomo come to us. We're the bottom of the barrel so when flooding happens this is where the water's held at."

Because of an act of Congress, in 2013 the lake level on Bull Shoals was allowed to be raised five-feet, a move designed to help trout fishing in the area.

But it also means the lake is five-feet closer to flooding even before the rains come.

"This five-foot rise was done for fishing in Arkansas," Donley said. "So we're stuck with it up here."

"The minimum flow adds lots of days to how long I have to drive around (the flooded highway)," Loftis said. "And it cost thousands of dollars just on us commuting around on account of minimum flow."

As to how to fix the flooding problem?

"We can't control mother nature but we can control the government," Donley said. "I know it would be pretty expensive to fix this road so the easiest fix is to have another act of Congress and lower the power pool back like it was."

Easier said than done.