By Patrick MoesJune 5, 2019
Nestled amid rolling prairie grasses and trees in southern Kansas is a series of reservoirs built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
These reservoirs were designed to reduce flood risks to downstream communities along the Verdigris and Neosho rivers during severe flooding, much like the floods witnessed in the past few weeks following historic rains in Oklahoma and Kansas. Following the rains, the Corps' reservoirs, among others, were again put to the test to reduce flood impacts to downstream communities.
Jared Goins, a maintenance worker at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Tulsa District's Elk City, Big Hill, Fall River and Toronto Dam, said he has worked for the Corps since 2010 but had never seen such severe flooding. Goins has been working on flood watch for more than 2 weeks now as a result of the flooding. During that time, he has been a part of a team of teams that are tasked with monitoring all of the infrastructure at the dams to ensure everything is performing as designed. Speaking downstream of the Toronto Lake Dam, which is about 85 miles east of Wichita, Kansas, Goins said, "This dam is working as designed," he said. "Everything is looking great, and it's in excellent shape."
Goins said he has been doing daily inspections at the Toronto Lake Dam and taking piezometer readings to measure the pressure on the dam caused by the high water. He said he is also measuring water levels, making gate changes as requested by the Corps' Tulsa District water management engineers, and walking the dam to ensure it continues to perform as designed.
"We walk the upstream side of the dam, or the lake side, looking for any depressions, any movement of the rock," he said. "We walk the crest or top of the dam looking for cracks, misalignments or any shifting of the ground. We then walk the downstream side of the dam looking for anything out of the ordinary." To date, Goins said they have not found anything of concern but will continue monitoring the dam to protect the public.
Goins said he and his team are working hard to minimize flooding as much as they can and hold back as much water as possible to reduce the impacts to downstream communities. "I think it's a pretty awesome job, I mean, what the Corps of Engineers does as far as holding back flood waters," he said. "For us to be here and be a part of getting to help reduce flooding to people's homes and their property; it's pretty awesome to be a part of that."
Speaking about what he does for the Corps, Goins said it's a unique job that provides a lot of opportunities to see different things while helping the public. "I really enjoy working for the Corps," he said. "What we get to do out here, what they entrust you to be able to do. We're standing below a whole lot of water. It's pretty awesome to be a part of that and to help minimize the flood risk."
In the nine years he has worked for the Corps, Goins has seen a lot but is still surprised by the amount of water on the ground. Looking at the dam, he said he understands the need for 24-hour operations. Speaking about the long hours, Goins jokingly said that there is not a lot of time at home right now but he understands. "We are out here working," he said. "It is a part of the job and everybody knows that when we sign up for it."
Speaking about his job, Goins added that beyond supporting the flood fight, he enjoys educating people on what the Corps of Engineers does, how they do it, and how much stuff goes into the big picture of what they do. "A lot of people might have a misrepresentation about the Corps that it's always about flooding, but we do a lot of other things beyond flood risk management, he said. "There is the flood, the recreation, water supply, I mean, all the stuff that the Corps does and how we do it as far as holding back so much water and then letting it go in a controlled manner downstream to protect property and people. It's just pretty impressive how that works and all the people that it takes to make it happen."