Helena Magazine

Mayor’s Corner: A weekly update from Brian Puckett

Published 11:56 pm Tuesday, June 21, 2022

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Happy Wednesday everyone! I hope that all of the fathers out there had a great Father’s Day weekend. This week, I am going to give you a quick update on projects including the bridge at Joe Tucker Park.

First, we can start off with all of the FEMA shenanigans that have been going on for over a year now. I am probably more persistent than they originally thought, and I am cool with that.  The storm that took out the bridge also did about a half million in damages to city property. I have been fighting tooth and nail with them, answering all of their requests, answering the same questions over and over, and getting on conference calls on a weekly basis. I assure you, we will get that money for the city.

Now on to some things we do have a little control over: the engineering of the new bridge. Our goal is to always do things the right way the first time, and sometimes that means taking dotting ever “I” and crossing every “T”. Our engineers have made sure to design the bridge so that it would be more resistant to flood damage. A lot of people know that a good bit of debris runoff and flooding takes place even after a small rain downstream of Joe Tucker Park.

About eight months ago, we began to determine what the root issue was not just the bridge, but for the surrounding area. We cannot continue putting band aids on issues around town and expect better results. In watching how the pond at Joe Tucker has expanded in places it should not be, along with the flow of water over the dam when a small rain came, the team started to dig in deeper. You will get that pun in just a moment.

The pond at Joe Tucker was originally built 30 some-odd years ago to be one of the main stormwater collection points for the city. Roughly one fifth of the city’s stormwater runs through that little pond and has for years. The root cause of the pond overfilling and flooding in the neighborhoods below is the capacity of the pond just isn’t enough to handle the volume coming at it.

When you look out at the pond on any given day you will notice limbs and debris sticking out in the middle. Yup, that’s not supposed to happen. Over the years of collecting the water and everything that flows with it, the sediment on the bottom of the pond has continued to grow. So much so, that most areas within the pond are less than three feet deep. We have had experts in the industry of pond/stormwater management out there reviewing everything.

The solution was to just drain the pond and dredge it out. Oh, if only the first solution was so easy, but you guessed it, it’s not. There isn’t an easy way to drain the pond in its current state. The little valve that controls the water flow is broken. Ok, cool this is going to be easy now, but nope not so fast. The valve is broken because of the amount of debris that has gone into the drain pipe over the many years.

Let us to now move on to how in the world do we unclog a drainpipe to be able to lower the pond level enough to get to the broken valve. Yup, there are companies out there that do this kind of fun task. I know this email letter goes out at 9 a.m. on Wednesday morning so if you run down fast enough to Joe Tucker, you can watch the work happening. A company is coming to use a camera to see where the major clogs are. While videoing the pipe, they will also blast the inside of it to knock it all loose.

After the pipe is clean, the water of the pond can be lowered to fix the valve. Once the valve is fixed, we can begin draining the whole pond. Plans are being created to make sure that when we do fully drain, all of the wildlife can be protected to the best extent possible and be relocated to areas best for them to succeed in their tiny little lives.

As the pond bed dries, our team can come in and properly build the new and safe bridge back. Based on experience, the now deeper pond bed with a cool bridge will fill up fairly quick. Water flow will be normal again, and we will restock the pond with wildlife that will be best suitable to the area.

Long story short, we will be building back the bridge, but we are going to do it right so it will last for the years to come. Have an awesome rest of the week, and as always, thank you for allowing me to serve you and everyone in the city each day.

Together As One,