Muskogee Officials: Study Shows Town not Responsible for Flooding

July 20, 2012

City officials did nothing to contribute to flooding that damaged homes and belongings of property owners who live in a southeast Muskogee, Okla., neighborhood, a study shows.

The city commissioned the $11,000 hydrological study as part of its defense against seven lawsuits seeking compensation for damages. Property owners say the flooding “constitutes a substantial interference with the use and enjoyment” of their property.

The owners of seven homes in The Meadows Addition claim the city is responsible for “changing, diverting and increasing” the flow of surface waters.

Those modifications, homeowners say, contributed to flooding that damaged their homes and personal property four or five times during the past 15 years. The most recent flooding, the plaintiffs claim, occurred in May 2011.

Bart Fite, who was hired to represent the city, said the study traces the cause of the flooding to poor planning by the developer. Particularly, Fite said neighborhood streets crossing Sam Creek impede the flow of water during heavy rains. The addition was developed in the early 1970s before the area was annexed by the city.

“Those crossings down there are not large enough to drain the water that flows from 7,000 acres during heavy rainfall,” Fite said. “The crossings amount to just three boxed culverts that just aren’t large enough to carry the water out of the addition.”

A summary of the study’s findings, prepared in May by Zephyr Environmental Corp., states the seven properties at issue and other parts of the addition lie within the 100-year floodplain. The study found peak discharges calculated for Sam Creek exceed the amount of water that can flow through two street crossings unimpeded.

Calculations performed by hydrologists show peak discharges along Sam Creek during heavy rain events exceed the capacity of the box culverts almost three times. The study concluded those conditions would contribute to “some level of flooding of the surrounding areas during both the 100-year and more frequent storm events.”

Fite said he intends to include the study’s findings in a motion he plans to file this week, asking the court to dismiss the plaintiffs’ claims.

The plaintiffs named in the seven lawsuits include Stanley and Linda Clark, Harold and LeAnne Cox, W.C. Cochran, Bobby L. and Linda K. Scoggins, Michael and Lori Carmen, Jerry and Marie Maxey, and Crystal Thompson.

Bob Rush, a lawyer with Logan & Lowery of Vinita, represents the homeowners. Rush, who said the firm does a lot of condemnation work across the state, has declined to discuss any evidence to support his client’s allegations.

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