Complete History of the Water Division Public Works - Home | Departments

Significant Historical Dates in Water Development
History of Public Water Supply
History of Storm and Stormwater Drainage
Kansas River Floods and Impacts
Observations

The author is a member of the Topeka-Shawnee County Flood Control and Conservation Association Inc. with a lifetime interest in the health and safety of the water environment. Mr. Krause volunteered to try to bring together a history of the water related infrastructure development that has enabled Topeka and its surrounding area to become a quality community. It is a first step in response to discussions within the Association about the need to keep the public informed concerning efforts required to meet local, state and national standards.

Keith Krause was the Executive Director and Chief Engineer of the Kansas Water Resources Board (the predecessor of the Kansas Water Office) from 1966 until his retirement in 1976. Prior to that he was Assistant Commissioner for Technical Services and Comprehensive Planning in the Federal Water Pollution Control Administration (now EPA). Mr. Krause has received many awards and honors for his work in his chosen field. He is a licensed Professional Engineer in Kansas; a member of the American Academy of Environmental Engineers; the Water Environment Federation and The American Public Health Association.

Acknowledgements
The Author wishes to acknowledge with thanks, the assistance of Dale Sandberg in obtaining photographs and other information included in the History and for reviewing the manuscript; Arthur Hutt for having draft copies of the manuscript printed for review purposes; Robert Mace and F.W. Funk for their review input; W.E. Steps and J.R. Stallings for very helpful input; the Water Department and Water Pollution Control Department employees who found so many valuable background reports and documents; the Topeka Public Library and the Kansas Historical Society for the helpful and courteous attention given my inquiries for historical information; the Division of Water Resources and the State Water office for their assistance; the North Topeka Drainage District for historical information; and to my daughter, Janet Neff, for her editorial review.

Significant Dates in Topeka's Water Development
PAPAN BROTHERS ARRIVED AT TOPEKA SITE AND BEGIN OPERATING A FERRY ACROSS THE KANSAS RIVER.
JUNE, 1844 GREATEST KNOWN FLOOD ON KANSAS RIVER OCCURRED?
DECEMBER 6, 1854 FOUNDERS INITIATED A CLAIM FOR TOPEKA TOWNSITE. FIRST WELL COMPLETED AT PUBLIC EXPENSE LOCATED AT 3RD & KANS.
MAY 8, 1858, FIRST BRIDGE COMPLETED ACROSS KANSAS RIVER.
JULY 17,1858, TOPEKA LOST ITS FIRST BRIDGE TO FLOOD WATERS.
APRIL 18,1861, LAST STEAMBOAT TO REACH TOPEKA.
A PONTOON BRIDGE WAS BUILT ACROSS THE KANSAS RIVER.
FEBRUARY 12, 1867, TOPEKA LOST ITS SECOND BRIDGE TO FLOOD WATERS.
APRIL 24, 1867, STRONG EARTHQUAKE HITS TOPEKA.
1870, FIRST IRON BRIDGE COMPLETED ACROSS KANSAS RIVER.
MARCH, 1870, FIRST TOPEKA FIRE DEPARTMENT ORGANIZED.
1870, TOPEKA'S FIRST CISTERN DUG TO STORE WATER FOR FIRE PROTECTION.
1878, FIRST SEWER BUILT IN TOPEKA, IN A COMBINED STORM AND SANITARY SYSTEM.
JULY 4, 1882, FIRST PUBLIC WATER SUPPLY COMPANY BEGINS OPERATIONS.
JUNE 4, 1888 VILLAGE OF POTWIN INCORPORATED.
MAY, 1891, A DAM ACROSS THE KANSAS RIVER AT AUBURNDALE WAS STARTED.
APRIL 3, 1899, POTWIN ANNEXED BY TOPEKA.
MAY 30, 1903, THE THIRD GREATEST FLOOD IN TOPEKA'S HISTORY.
MAY 30, 1903, FLOOD INUNDATES WATER PLANT.
1904, WEATHER SERVICE INSTALLS EARLY FLOOD WARNING SYSTEM IN KANS. RIVER BASIN.
TOPEKA PURCHASES WATER SYSTEM FROM DEFUNCT STREET & CO.
JUNE 1, 1906, NORTH TOPEKA DRAINAGE DISTRICT ORGANIZATION APPROVED.
JULY, 1906, SHUNGANUNGA DRAINAGE DISTRICT ORGANIZED.
JUNE 9, 1908, FIFTH GREATEST FLOOD IN TOPEKA'S HISTORY.
JUNE 10, 1908, SENATOR CURTIS PLEDGED A PROGRAM TO BUILD LARGE FLOOD CONTROL RESERVOIRS IN KANSAS RIVER BASIN.
JANUARY 4, 1909, CONSTRUCTION CONTRACT SIGNED FOR 1ST LEVEES IN TOPEKA BY N.TOPEKA DRAINAGE DISTRICT BOARD.
1910, TOPEKA ADOPTS COMMISSION FORM OF MUNICIPAL GOVERNMENT.
1912, CHLORINATION IS ADDED TO WATER TO REDUCE WATER-BORNE DISEASE.
1916, CONGRESS PASSES FIRST FLOOD CONTROL ACT ACCEPTING RESPONSIBILITY FOR FLOOD PROTECTION.
1922, FIRST JETTY BUILT INTO THE RIVER TO ENSURE A WATER SUPPLY.
1923, SOFTENING OF RIVER WATER WAS BEGUN AT WATER TREATMENT PLANT.
1924, STATE BOARD OF HEALTH ORDERS TOPEKA TO TREAT ITS SANITARY WASTE WATER.
1926, FIRST SEWAGE TREATMENT PLANT BUILT IN TOPEKA (NORTH TOPEKA).
1928, SEPARATION OF STORM AND SANITARY SEWERS BEGINS.
1928, LAWRENCE THREATENS LAWSUIT AGAINST TOPEKA UNLESS SANITARY WASTE WATER IS TREATED BEFORE ENTERING RIVER.
1928, EAST TOPEKA SEWAGE TREATMENT PLANT BUILT (OAKLAND).
1928, FIRST SEPARATE(SANITARY) SEWER BUILT (OAKLAND PARK).
1930, CRANE STREET INTERCEPTOR SEWER BUILT.
1931, SUIT FILED AGAINST CITY BY OAKLAND RESIDENTS ALLEGING BAD ODORS FROM SEWAGE TREATMENT PLANT
SEPTEMBER, 1931, 10,000,000 GALLON RESERVOIR COMPLETED AT 19TH & FILLMORE.
1933, TOPEKA ORDINANCE PROHIBITING ROOF DRAINS FROM BEING CONNECTED TO SANITARY SEWER SYSTEM.
JUNE 5, 1935, SIXTH GREATEST FLOOD IN TOPEKA'S HISTORY OCCURRED.
1936, LAKE SHAWNEE RESERVOIR COMPLETED BY SHAWNEE COUNTY.
1936, STATE BOARD OF HEALTH ORDERS TOPEKA TO FURTHER REDUCE SEWAGE POLLUTION OF KANSAS RIVER.
1936, STATE STATUTES AMENDED TO PROHIBIT MONEY FROM BEING REMOVED FROM WATER DEPARTMENT BY CITY COMMISSION TO REPLENISH CITY GENERAL FUND.
NOVEMBER, 1936, FIRST REVISION OF WATER RATES SINCE 1905.
DECEMBER 28, 1936, US ARMY ENGINEERS OFFERS 1ST FLOOD PROTECTION PLAN FOR TOPEKA.
MARCH 20, 1937, TOPEKA FIRST IN STATE TO USE SEWAGE GAS TO PRODUCE POWER TO OPERATE THE SEWAGE TREATMENT FACILITIES.
1937, FIRST CONTRACTS WERE SIGNED TO FURNISH WATER OUTSIDE TOPEKA.
DECEMBER 12, 1937, NO TYPHOID FEVER REPORTED IN TOPEKA FOR PAST YEAR.
FEBRUARY, 1938, STATE STATUTE ADOPTED PERMITTING TOWNSHIPS TO BUY WATER FROM TOPEKA WATER DEPARTMENT.
1938, FEDERAL WPA FUNDS HELP TOWNSHIPS BUILD WATER SYSTEMS.
1938, TUTTLE CREEK RESERVOIR AUTHORIZED BY US CONGRESS.
DECEMBER, 1938, FLOOD WALL AND DIKES COMPLETED AT WATER TREATMENT PLANT.
DECEMBER 12, 1939, FIRST WATER RATE REDUCTION ANNOUNCED BY WATER COMMISSIONER.
JUNE 12, 1941, NINTH GREATEST FLOOD IN TOPEKA'S HISTORY.
JUNE 18, 1941, LAND FOR ELEVATED STORAGE TANK AT 11TH AND QUINCY PURCHASED.
AUGUST 25, 1942, CONSTRUCTION BEGAN ON 2 MILLION GALLON RESERVOIR AT 11TH & QUINCY.
JANUARY, 1943, 11TH AND QUINCY RESERVOIR FINISHED AND PLACED ON LINE.
JUNE 17, 1943, EIGHTH GREATEST FLOOD IN TOPEKA'S HISTORY.
JUNE 28, 1945, TOPEKA OBTAINS VESTED WATER RIGHTS TO RIVER AND UNDERGROUND WATER SUPPLIES.
1948, KANAPOLIS RESERVOIR ON SMOKY HILL RIVER COMPLETED
1949, SHUNGANUNGA CREEK WIDENED FROM BUCHANAN TO 21ST STREET.
1951, CEDAR BLUFFS RESERVOIR COMPLETED ON SMOKY HILL RIVER.
1951, CITY BUYS 11 ACRES OF LAND AT EAST SEWAGE TREATMENT PLANT FOR EXPANSION OF TREATMENT FACILITIES.
30 JUNE, 1951, FOURTH GREATEST FLOOD IN TOPEKA'S HISTORY.
JULY 13, 1951, SECOND GREATEST FLOOD IN TOPEKA'S HISTORY.
JULY 13, 1951, FLOOD INUNDATES N.TOPEKA SEWAGE TREATMENT PLANT.
JULY 13, 1951, THOUSAND'S CARRY ON FIGHT TO SAVE WATERWORKS FROM FLOOD WATERS.
SEPTEMBER 5, 1951, WATER RATES RAISED TO PAY FOR REBUILDING FLOOD DAMAGED WATER TREATMENT PLANT.
JANUARY 31, 1952, PLANS TO FLUORIDATE TOPEKA WATER SUPPLY ANNOUNCED.
MAY 5, 1952, STATE BOARD ORDERS TOPEKA TO SEPARATE COMBINED SEWERS.
AUGUST 29, 1952, MO-ARK ORGANIZATION INCORPORATED IN KANSAS.
1952, TOPEKA DEVELOPED FIRST MASTER PLAN FOR SANITARY SEWER SYSTEM.
1953, STATE LEGISLATURE PERMITS CITIES TO COLLECT SEWER SERVICE CHARGES.
1953, "DRY" DAM BUILT ON S. BRANCH CREEK BY SHUNGA DRAINAGE DISTRICT.
OCTOBER 30, 1953, TOPEKA FLOOD CONTROL & CONSERVATION ASSOC. INCORPORATED
1953, BURNETT'S DAM BUILT BY SHUNGA DRAINAGE DISTRICT ON SHUNGANUNGA CREEK.
1954, KANSAS SUPREME COURT SAID LAND DEVELOPERS MUST PAY FOR WATER DISTRIBUTIONS SYSTEMS BUILT IN NEW ADDITIONS.
1954, APPROPRIATIONS FOR DAMS IN KANSAS RIVER BASIN APPROVED.
1954, CONGRESS PASSED FEDERAL SOIL CONSERVATION ACT PERMITTING SMALL WATERSHED RESERVOIRS TO BE BUILT.
JULY 4,1954, CITY COMMISSION ADOPTS ORDINANCE TO COLLECT SEWER SERVICE CHARGES.
MARCH, 1956, FLUORIDATION OF WATER SUPPLY BEGAN.
1956, KERWIN DAM ON N.FORK SOLOMON RIVER COMPLETED.
JANUARY 15, 1957, TEN YEAR WATERWORKS AND DISTRIBUTION IMPROVEMENT PLAN ANNOUNCED
1957, WEBSTER DAM ON S.FORK OF SOLOMON RIVER COMPLETED.
1957, HARLAN CO. (NEBRASKA) DAM COMPLETED ON REPUBLICAN RIVER.
1957, CONSTRUCTION OF TOPEKA FLOOD CONTROL PROTECTION WORKS BEGAN UNDER DIRECTION OF US ARMY ENGINEERS.
1957, SOUTH KANSAS RIVER INTERCEPTOR SEWER BUILT.
1961, FIRST BURNETT'S MOUND 5 MILLION GALLON WATER TANK COMPLETED.
1962, TUTTLE CREEK DAM ON BLUE RIVER COMPLETED.
1966, WILSON DAM ON SALINE RIVER COMPLETED.
JUNE 21,1967, TENTH GREATEST FLOOD IN TOPEKA'S HISTORY
SEPTEMBER 16, 1968, TOPEKA & N.TOPEKA DRAINAGE DISTRICT. AGREE TO JOINTLY OPERATE FLOOD PROTECTION SYSTEM.
1968, FLOOD INSURANCE ENACTED BY US CONGRESS (HOUSING ACT OF 1968).
1969, GLEN ELDER DAM ON SOLOMON RIVER COMPLETED.
1970, NORTH TOPEKA SEWAGE TREATMENT PLANT RELOCATED TO 1600 BUTTON ROAD.
JANUARY 8, 1971, STATE BOARD OF HEALTH ORDERS DISINFECTION OF CITY TREATED WASTE WATER BEFORE BEING DISCHARGED TO RIVER.
1971, PERRY DAM ON THE DELAWARE RIVER COMPLETED.
1972, MILFORD DAM ON REPUBLICAN RIVER COMPLETED.
1972, US ARMY ENGINEERS COMPLETE TOPEKA FLOOD PROTECTION WORKS.
1973, WARD-MARTIN CREEK IMPROVEMENTS BEGUN.
OCTOBER 12, 1973, SEVENTH GREATEST FLOOD IN TOPEKA'S HISTORY.
1975, A NEW FLOOD CONTROL MAINTENANCE SECTION ESTABLISHED UNDER CITY ENGINEER'S DIRECTION.
1976, CLINTON DAM ON WAKARUSA RIVER COMPLETED.
1980, SECOND BURNETT'S MOUND 5 MILLION GALLON TANK COMPLETED.
SEPTEMBER 9, 1981, MAYOR McCORMICK PROCLAIMS WATER DEPARTMENT 100 TH ANNIVERSARY.
1982, BIDDLE CREEK DETENTION DAM COMPLETED BY CITY.
1983, cross-town 42" PRESSURE MAIN GOES UNDER CONSTRUCTION. COMPLETED IN 1985.
SEPTEMBER 24, 1987, LOW WATER WEIR COMPLETED IN RIVER TO ENSURE WATER AT INTAKES.
1989, KANSAS RIVER WATER ASSURANCE DISTRICT ORGANIZED.
MAY 20, 1992, CITY COUNCIL APPROVES STORM WATER SERVICE CHARGES AGAINST HARD SURFACED PROPERTY IN CITY.
JULY 1, 1992, PRESENT WATER RATES GO INTO EFFECT.

History of the Public Water Supply in Topeka

1854-1872

The founders were mindful of Kansas droughts in selecting the Topeka site -"both for a water supply and a lavatory". The Kansas River would serve as both. The villagers experienced their first Kansas drought in 1855, when virtually no rain fell between January and August. Huge cracks appeared in the ground and wind blew clouds of dust everywhere.

The first well dug at the public's expense was located at the southeast corner of Third St. and Kansas Ave. It was finished in 1855. The water was of good quality and its water surface elevation was the same as that of the river. Other attempts to dig wells further south along Kansas Ave. were unsuccessful. The next successful well was located at 272 Topeka Ave. The inability to find water producing wells, other than along the river, created a development problem for the villagers and Topeka became known as the "town where you couldn't find water". In 1859, another successful well was dug at the site where the 1st Presbyterian Church now stands. Most of the city's residents obtained water by hauling it from the river in barrels. Several local entrepreneurs made their living hauling water from the river to residents and businesses and returning the household and business slops back to the river. (It is entirely possible that they used the same barrels for both purposes). Well water was readily available in the valley north of the river and most of the homes there had their own wells.

After the Civil War, Topeka began developing rapidly. It was now the Capital of Kansas. The population rose from 759 in 1860 to 5790 in 1870, 15,528 in 1880, and 21,562 in 1882. The need for a larger and more dependable water supply for fire protection became apparent when a strong earthquake occurred on April 24, 1867 which smashed windows, shook buildings and started several large fires. This ordeal prompted a community movement for an organized fire department and a system to pump and distribute water from the river throughout the business and residential area.

In March 1870, a fire department was organized and equipment purchased consisting of a Steamer and 2 hose reels. Seven large cisterns were dug in the Topeka business section which could be filled with rainwater or river water. The first was at the corner of 5th and Kansas Ave. Six more were added, including ones at Norris and North Kansas Ave, Second and Kansas Ave, 4th and Monroe, 6th and Kansas, 7th and Kansas and 10th and Kansas. Each cistern held between 1,000 and 1,500 barrels of water or between 40,000 and 60,000 gallons.

From 1870 to 1882, water for fighting fires was obtained from these cisterns. (The cisterns were used on emergency basis until the 1930's.).

Chapter II
1882-1905

The first pump station at the foot of Harrison St. 1882

PhotoTopeka chartered a privately managed water system in 1881 and $218,000 was raised, enough to build a pumping station, dig a well, lay 15 miles of wooden water mains and install 150 fire hydrants in an area bounded by the river on the north, 12th street on the south and by Clay on the west and Adams Street on the east.

A small number of mains were laid on the north side of the river but were not connected until one year later when a pipe was placed across the river. On July 4th, 1882 the new water system was placed in operation. The pumping station had steam powered pumps capable of pumping 2,500,000 gallons per day,- a very large capacity for the time. The station was located at the foot of Harrison St. The pumps were supplied from a dug well, 60 feet in diameter and 36 feet deep, located on the island in the river created by the 1844 flood. The water system was under the private management of the Topeka Water Supply Company with William B. Strong its first President. Strong was also President of the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe RR. and the power behind the move for a public water supply in Topeka. The Board of Managers included C.C. Wheeler, M.H. Case, P.I. Bonebrake, T.J. Anderson, D.W. Stormont, A.S. Johnson, Byron Roberts, J.W. Harizell, and S.S. McFadden.
(Source-My Aching Joints, by R.E. Pelton and Vi Sklenicka, 1981).

The newly incorporated village of Potwin would soon challenge Topeka in several ways. Charles Potwin, an eastern entrepreneur, bought 70 acres of land northwest of Topeka. He paid what most Topekans thought was an outlandish sum of $14,400 for it. He kept it as farm land until 1882 when the area was platted for residential development. He advertised the properties "for residents wanting superb advantages" and sold the properties for handsome sums. He built miles of sidewalks, streets were graded and paved, and parks established. Later, gas and water mains were laid and a complete system of combined sewers was installed. Potwin's investment earned him several hundred thousand dollars.
(Source-1/1/1889 TJ)

Potwin became a 115 acre incorporated city on June 4, 1888. The village government hired Col. Wm. Tweedale to design their sewer system. Col. Tweedale was also Topeka's public works director. Construction of water, gas and sewer lines was completed by the 1st of July, 1889. The sewers discharged into the Kansas River 1 3/4 miles above the Topeka's Harrison Street water supply well. The Topeka Water Co. and the City Council were outraged and immediately sought injunctions to prevent any hookups to the Potwin sewer system. Tweedale was in the middle of the court battle and the Topeka lawyers gave him a hard time on the witness stand. The injunctions were first upheld, then the judge reversed himself and let Potwin proceed with the hookups.

The court actions were largely ignored by the Potwin people, but they did not have an adequate water supply. Topeka next sought to annex the area but Potwin fought the annexation too. Finally the annexation battle was taken before the Kansas Supreme Court who found in favor of Potwin while the Topeka City fathers seethed. But Potwin had an Achilles heel:- it needed a better water supply source.

A Capt. James Anthony headed a group known as the Topeka Water, Power and Land Co. In July 1890, he proposed to build a dam in the Kansas River near Auburndale to supply water and power to Potwin. The Potwin residents pledged to buy at least 50 horsepower of electrical energy and water from Anthony's company. The dam was actually begun in 1891. It soon became apparent that the dam was poorly financed and ill conceived, forcing abandonment. Quite suddenly, on April 3rd, 1899 Potwin was annexed by the City of Topeka and Potwin had its water supply with no dissension in the ranks.
(Bulletin #45, Shawnee Co. Hist. Soc.)

The Topeka based water company was acquired by a group of New York investors in 1890. Seven years later the water works were purchased by Street & Co., a New Jersey Company, for $1,500,000 in an apparent bankruptcy sale. Street & Co. were also owners of 26 other city water systems across the country.
(Source-1st Annual Report, Dec.31, 1928 Water and Light Dept., City of Topeka)

The high cost and scarcity of cast iron pipe prompted the installation of the wooden water mains in 1882, most of which were 4 inches in diameter or smaller. Prior to the opening of the iron mines in Minnesota in 1892 (Source-Ency Britannica), all pipe casting foundries were located in eastern states. New foundries in the Chicago area were built almost immediately after the mines in Minnesota were opened and cast iron pipe became available in plentiful amount at relatively inexpensive costs and in many sizes. Larger sizes of cast iron pipe began replacing the original wooden mains in the 1890's to meet the need for greater quantities of water in the growing city. By 1899, there were more than 40 miles of water mains in Topeka, 25 more miles than in 1882.
(Source-Topeka History)

The Topeka Fire Department continued to use the cisterns because of concern about the dependability of the new water system to furnish enough water to fight a large fire. The Fire Chief described a 1907 fire that broke out in a small barn across the alley from Stamey's livery stable on West 10th Ave., between Topeka Blvd. and Tyler street. Firemen soon had the fire under control but suddenly a main failed and smoldering hay broke out in flames again. Before it was over the livery stable was destroyed, two residences were destroyed and an apartment house across Tyler St. caught on fire. In desperation, firemen laid a hose from the cistern at 10th and Kansas to the burning apartment before they finally got the fire under control. (TJ, 7/31/27).

The need for additional water was met by increasing the number of wells. In 1891 three dug wells and 48 driven wells and a new pumping plant were located on the south bank of the river about 2 1/2 miles northwest of the downtown area. Two of the wells were 60 feet in diameter and one was 48 feet. The 48 driven wells along the south bank were connected together and pumped as one unit. Sixty percent of the water came from the large wells and the remaining 40% from the driven wells. The Harrison Street pumping station continued to pump water from the driven wells until 1920. The flood of 1903 changed the course of the river, inundated the driven wells and the original dug well. The original large dug well on the island was abandoned following the 1903 flood.

First pumping station at present waterworks site, 1891

PhotoTwo cast iron mains, one-18 inches and the other-24 inches were laid from the new pumping station to the downtown vicinity as a part of the 1891 expansion program. In the meantime the Sante Fe Railroad also developed a water supply consisting of a 30 foot diameter dug well and 12 driven wells.

The two systems were interconnected for emergency use. Between the years 1882 and 1900 the first water system more than doubled in size. By 1904, there were 41 miles of water main and 322 fire hydrants in the system.

In 1904, a second water pumping unit, a river water intake structure, a filtration plant, a 2,000,000 gallon storage reservoir and a electric light plant were built by Street and Co. on the site of the present waterworks (1992) at a cost of $555,000. The presence of sewers discharging human wastes into the Kansas River upstream from the Harrison street site prompted the relocation of the new water treatment and pumping plant to the upstream site. (TJ, 11/17/23).

Chapter III
1905-1939

"Big Allis" Steam-Electric Pump circa 1905

PhotoIn 1905, after the new plant went into operation, the City of Topeka purchased both the new and the old plants for $620,000 from the creditors of Street & Co. and began to operate them as a municipal system. Until this time, water was pumped directly into the mains and pressure maintained by the pumps. No storage had been incorporated into the distribution system. The combined pumping, filtration plant and reservoir storage were now capable of producing 12,500,000 gallons of water in a 10 hour day if needed.

Water could now be supplied from the wells, the river, or both. The first water superintendent was H.P. "Pete" Miller. Until the Commission form of government was adopted in 1910, the operation of the Water Department was guided by three Commissioners. The name of the water department was changed in 1910 to the Department of Water Works and Street Lighting. Prior to 1910, each was a separate department.

Chlorination was added to the water treatment processes in 1912 to further reduce the incidence of water-borne diseases in Topeka. A dramatic decrease in typhoid cases resulted immediately.
(Source-History of the Water Dept., By R.E. Pelton)

In a report to the city on May 5, 1914, Franz Schnieder of the City Board of Health stated "in general the city will be wise to adopt a liberal policy regarding the extension of its present water supply. Pumping (untreated water into the mains) from the river, such as was resorted to in 1910, should never be found necessary- a fact that cannot be stated too emphatically". Mr. Schneider went on to report that in 1907 there were 4,738 service connections, serving an estimated 24,000 persons or about 55% of the city's population. He stated that the mains should be extended liberally, because of the role and importance that pure water played in the prevention of infectious diseases. ( It was apparent that the Board of Health was very concerned about using untreated river water as a source of supply). ( TJ, 5/11/14)

From 1919 until 1922 the water use in Topeka doubled. Larger mains replaced some of those laid in 1882 and 1891 from the pumping stations into the downtown area.

For example in 1922, a ten inch main replaced a four inch main on Jackson street from 6th St. to 8th. By 1923 the principal source of water was the Kansas River, processed through the filtration plant.

Topeka Water Treatment Plant circa 1923

PhotoThree more filter beds were added between 1923 and 1928. The year 1923 saw water softening added to the treatment process, a major step in upgrading water quality for Topeka customers. At the end of 1928, there were 140 miles of mains, 14,276 metered connections and 989 fire hydrants in the system.

The average water use per capita was 70.8 gallons based on a population of 62,800. (Source-First Annual Report Dec.31, 1928 and the Annual Report, Dept. of Waterworks and Street Lighting, Dec. 31, 1932).

Water treatment plant and large wells, 1928

PhotoThe Topeka Daily Capital reported on May 27, 1928 that the filtration plant had reached its capacity according to James Irons, City Water Dept. Supt. Mr.Irons stated that the capacity of the plant could be increased to 14,000,000 gallons per day by using more well water which would reduce the need for filtration capacity. The Topeka State Journal reported on Dec.1, 1928 that the old wells and pumps had been rejuvenated in the past 6 months and that 8,000,000 gallons of pure well water was now ready to be added to the system, bringing the supply and pumping capacity to 14,000,000 gallons per day. The Journal also reported that many water consumers were critical of the purity of Topeka's water supply saying that goldfish could not live in it. Mr. Irons retorted by inviting everyone to see the water plant and note the very large, healthy and frisky goldfish which had been kept in the plant's aquarium for many years.

A.C. Kieth, Chief Chemist for the Lattimore Laboratory which had responsibility for the chemicals added to the water, reported in an interview Jan.6th, 1929, that lime and alum were being added to the water to soften it and to remove the mud and much of the bacteria and that chlorine was added to kill any remaining bacteria just before the water entered the mains. He said that typhoid fever cases in a city reflect largely on the lack of purity in the water supply. "In Topeka last year there were 8 cases of Typhoid fever, in 1927 there were 12 and the year before that, 31". He said that "there was reason to be proud of that decrease, not that the city water alone was responsible for that decrease, but that it was a big factor".

It was reported in the Topeka State Journal on Dec 14,1929, that Henry Fictner, City Water Supt., began using the carbon dioxide gas from the steam pump boilers to improve the clarity and taste of the water by bleeding off the gas from the boiler flues, cleaning it and inducing it into the bottom of the clarifiers where it bubbled through 13 feet of water. The water was reported much better tasting and softer than before.

The Topeka Capital-Journal reported 12/29/29 that the water department would take bids on the drilling of six deep wells, each of which was expected to produce about 2,000,000 gallons per day. The cost of the six wells was expected to be about $25,000 and that they would be completed in 4 weeks. The well water mixed with river water would still pass through the filter plant but the mixture would require less chemicals. The savings in chemicals was expected to pay for the wells within two years. The mixed water would be cooler than the river water and therefore would be more satisfactory to the customers, would increase the efficiency of the electric power plant, and would be more suitable for making ice at the various ice plants throughout the city.

A 25 inch diameter test well, located on the bank of the river, finished in early February 1930, indicated that each well would furnish 1600 gallons a minute, or 2,400,000 gallons a day. The State Board of Health notified Topeka shortly after the well drilling program was announced that under State law the city's water system could not be changed without approval of the Board. A report on the test well results and other justification for drilling the wells would be made to the Board shortly according to Supt. Fictner. He said further that wells would save the city about $17,000 a year in chemicals and maintenance. (It is assumed that the Board of Health approved the well drilling program, since there are no reports to the contrary).

Ten million gallon underground storage reservoir at 19th and Fillmore, 1931

PhotoThe TOPEKA DAILY CAPITAL (10/5/30) reported that M.E.Linton, City Water Commissioner announced a new 10,000,000 gallon storage reservoir was under consideration for construction just west of the Free Fair Grounds at 19th and Fillmore Streets.

The location, across town from the plant, would ensure plenty of water during an emergency. He said that breakdowns at the water plants had left the city without water several times.

Fortunately these had only been for brief periods so far. He said that a new 18 inch water main had been laid to within a few blocks of the proposed site. This main would supply the reservoir and in turn would feed the other mains in an emergency. The pumps installed at the reservoir would be capable of maintaining the pressure in the system. One half the tank would be below ground level and would be constructed of reinforced concrete. The reservoir would be 18 feet deep and measure 350 feet by 250 feet. It would cost approximately $140,000, funded by water department earnings.

Some Topekans apparently questioned why the reservoir had not been located on Quinton Heights. Comm. Linton explained it would be impossible to boost the water that high with the present pumping equipment and if the pumps were modified to raise the water to that height, the resulting pressure would cause many of the present water mains to rupture.

The reservoir was completed in September 1931. The general contractor for the job was F.M. Spencer and Sons of Topeka. The construction gave 200 people much needed jobs for almost a year. The erection of the new storage reservoir and modernization of the water mains would result in reduction of fire insurance rates according to two Fire Underwriters Board engineers and reported in the TOPEKA DAILY CAPITAL 11/23/30. The engineers noted that 16.5 miles of distribution system had been added; the mains in the mercantile district had been upgraded in size from 4 inches to 10 inches; reliability of the pumping equipment had been improved; the number of hydrants had been increased by 138; and many dead end water lines supplying hydrants had been removed by connecting them in a grid fashion.

Metering of the water connections began in the mid 20's. Fifty-nine percent of the services were metered by 1930 and 64% by 1932. The 146 miles of water mains served the city and the average water use in Topeka was 8,000,000 gallons per day by 1932.

D.H. Rupp, Water production Engineer reported that " with the auxiliary connections made in 1934 from the intake line to deep water channel there isn't any doubt but that Topeka can always obtain an adequate supply from the river". "During 1934, the most extreme drought year known, there was never less than 50,000,000 to 100,000,000 gallons of water passing the intake daily". The 1903 flood washed out the old brickyard bridge and two spans lodged in the stream bed near the south bank creating "Kuckoo" island which turned the current of the river toward the north bank away from the intake structure. The first jetty was built into the river in 1922 to insure a water flow past the intake. The jetties were enlarged in 1925, 1927, and 1933 to redirect the flow around to the south side of the island.
(Topeka State Journal 10/30/35)

In 1936, with the population of Topeka approaching the 65,000 mark, the capacity of the water treatment plant was increased by the addition of a primary flocculator, two settling basins, and a secondary flocculator. The bonds sold to pay for these improvements were expected to be paid off in 1941 from water dept. earnings.

A new schedule of Topeka water rates went into effect in November, 1936. This schedule had 9 steps ranging from $0.42 per 1000 gallons for the 1st 1000 to $0.12 per 1000 for all consumption above 20,000 gallons on a monthly basis. Until the new rate schedule went into effect, the same water rates had prevailed for 30 years. The new rates were lower than those set in 1905. The new rates were also based on cubic feet of water used rather than on gallons. A cubic foot of water equals 7.5 gallons.

By early 1937, the city had 16,120 water connections and 185 miles of water mains. The largest users of water in the city were the Parks and Recreation Dept. and the Rock Island RR. The swimming pool at Gage Park accounted for a large part of the Parks and Recreation Dept. use.

During the early depression years of the 1930s the City's ad valorem taxes receipts dropped rapidly and delinquent taxes rose to an all time high. The City Commission began transferring Water Department funds to the General City Operating Fund to replace the loss of tax revenue. In 1936, an injunction was filed in behalf of the Water Dept. against the Topeka Commission in District Court to stop the transfer of funds for other city purposes. The State statute was amended in 1937 so that "all water revenue shall be used exclusively for the operation, maintenance and renewal, extension of waterworks, paying off principal and interest on bonds issued and pensions of former employees of the Water Department". Since that time the City Water Department has been operating as a municipal utility, paying for its construction, maintenance and operating costs from department revenue.

On Dec. 12, 1937 (Topeka Capital-Journal) the Kansas State Health Department and the United States Public Health Service announced that there had been no reports of typhoid in the city for several years. The high quality of the water supply was credited for this very good record. The average number of typhoid cases in the US was between 3 and 4 cases per 100,000 population for that time period.

Water Commissioner Smith reported on the same day that Topeka water was softer than Great Lakes or Denver water, being softened from 26 grains to 6 grains of hardness enroute through the treatment plant. Removal of bad tastes and smells in the water was accomplished by the use of chlorine, ammonia and carbon. He said that the chlorine and ammonia stopped the growth of iron bacteria in the water mains which were responsible for the rotten egg smell in the water. He said that no salt or iodine was added to the water because there was enough salt in the water, and in periods of dry weather it increased to the point where it could almost be tasted.

Few individuals or groups of individuals outside the city limits received city water prior to 1937. Contracts were signed in 1937 to furnish water to three subdivisions adjacent to the western city limits. The city agreed to furnish city water in the quantity and quality furnished within the city at the prevailing rate for a period of 20 years. The subdivisions agreed to furnish a distribution system including mains and services and to meet all city specifications.
(1940 Report of the Water and Light Department)

After state legislative action was taken in the 1937 session to grant permission to Townships to enter into contracts for water, the City of Topeka, in 1938, entered into water supply contracts with Soldier Township on the north, Mission Township on the west, and Topeka Township on the south and east. Tecumseh Township would be added in 1939. The contracts with the townships were the same as with the subdivisions except that each of the townships had to construct an elevated storage tank so that during periods of high water consumption, the city could cut flow to the townships for brief periods of time without depriving them of water.

The availability of Federal WPA funds helped the Townships finance the construction of the necessary distribution systems including the required elevated storage tanks. Topeka Township built a 250,000 gallon, 100 foot high tank near 29th and California and a 100,000 gallon, 110 foot high tank in Pauline. Soldier Township built a 50,000 gallon, 100 foot high tank three miles north of the City on Highway 75 and Central Ave.(old highway). Mission township built a 100,000 gallon tank, 150 feet high at 17th and Fairlawn. Approximately 118 miles of water mains were laid by the three townships between 1938 and 1940.
(Source-1940 Report of the Water and Light Department)

The TOPEKA DAILY CAPITAL 1/26/38, reported that before the Federal Government began building concrete and earthen dikes around the water plant, Comm. Smith expected to have the plant up to its full capacity of 12,000,000 gallons per day. The City Commission signed contracts that day (1/26/38) for the necessary pipe, fittings and other materials to build an 18 inch intake line from the river to the settling basins, turn the rough filters into final filters and to construct a concrete culvert under the Rock Island RR. tracks and dike.

The TOPEKA DAILY CAPITAL(12/11/38) reported that construction of the ring dikes around the water plant, begun in April,'38 was completed (pictures). The dikes cost $123,000, of which the Fed. Gov. paid 91% and the city paid 9% ($11,614). The dikes were designed to protect the plant from a flood as great as the 1844 flood was thought to have been. The dikes consisted of 1,662.17 feet of concrete wall, ranging from 10 to 14 feet above the surface of the ground and 1,000 feet of earthen levee. The concrete wall dike nearest the river rested on steel sheet-piling driven 24 feet into the earth to prevent flood water from seeping under the wall and erupting in "boils" inside the enclosure. Seven hundred feet of earthen levee with a maximum height of 12 feet and 80 feet thick at the base, extends from the eastern end of the concrete wall south to the hill. Three hundred feet of earthen dike was similarly located at the west end of the wall.

The successful bidders for the construction were the Aldrich Co. of Kansas City, Kansas, and George Rinner of Topeka. City Water Commissioner Smith supervised the project.

Chapter IV
1939-1950

Comm. Smith announced, April 7,'39, that construction of as many as four elevated storage tanks was being considered over the course of the next few years. A survey of potential sites and the measurement of water pressures was expected to take about a year to complete. He said he guessed the tanks to be constructed would be about the size of the recently completed Highland Park tank (250,000 gals). The proposed storage tank would equalize water pressure over the entire city. He said that pressure in the system is maintained now by two steam pumps and two electric pumps and is subject to large fluctuations.

On July 17, 1939 water consumption reached the all time high usage of 8,958,000 gallons per day. The peak use on July 17th occurred at 7:00 pm. at the rate of 17,000,000 gallons per day for one hour. It was reported that on July 25,'39 that the water consumption reached another new record of 9,200,000 gallons. The hourly rate reached 20,000,000 gallons between 7 and 9 PM.

A reduction in water rates was announced December 12, 1939 to be effective Jan.1st 1940. Since 1936, water usage had been computed on the basis of 100 cubic feet. The reduction was confined to those services using less than 10,000 cubic feet per month. The rate reduction saved residential and small businesses about $67,000 annually, dropping from $0.28 per 100 cf to $0.18.

The 1940 annual report of the Water Department revealed that per capita water use averaged 57.7 gallons per day; and the peak 24 hr consumption was 9,890,000 gallons on July 31st of 1940. There was 191 miles of water main in the city, varying from 2 inch to 24 inch. In addition, the city was serving four townships having an additional 118 miles of mains. The townships served were Topeka, Mission, Soldier and Tecumseh. The metered connections in the combine city and townships system numbered 20,613 of which 17,595 were within the city. Water services were reported to be 100 % metered by 1940.

The report further indicated that while the hardness of the river water entering the treatment plant had steadily increase since 1923 when it averaged 225 ppm, the finished water leaving the treatment plant had materially decreased from an average of 135 ppm to 104 ppm in 1940. The cost of producing the drinking water in 1940 was approximately $58.00 per million gallons. The Water Department had no bonded indebtedness.

Water Commissioner Smith stated that National Defense would make the cost of the supplying water increase because of the possibility of war in 1941. The water department was buying and keeping duplicate equipment on hand as a protection against possible sabotage. He said that all such equipment and materials would eventually be used even if no sabotage occurred. He also stated that costs were rising very fast, especially fuel costs. He said there was adequate fuel on hand to run the plant through the spring. No guards had been placed on duty at the plant and pumping stations but the plant employees were on duty 24 hours a day and were keeping a watchful eye on things.
(Topeka State Journal/1/4/41).

The TOPEKA DAILY CAPITAL reported(6/15/41) that three important changes had been made at the Water Plant since 1935 as a result of the flood of 1935. Silt, nine feet deep, was deposited in the settling basin in 1935. Mechanical clarifiers had been added, enabling the mud to be pumped out rather than depending on gravity to remove the excess. The second improvement was the installation of mechanically cleaned screens in the intake tower. The screens became clogged with debris during the 1935 flood and because of the high water, couldn't be cleaned by hand. The third improvement was the elimination of seepage into the motor pits and the basement of the plant when the river rose. Sheetpiling under the new concrete wall dike effectively stopped seepage during the June 12, 1941 flood.

Commissioner Smith announced on June 17,1941 that planning was underway to build a 1,000,000 gallon elevated storage tank in the vicinity of 11th and Quincy. He said that R.O. Ruble of Paulette and Wilson Engineering Co. recommended a tank be erected in the downtown area, in order to equalize water pressure where the need was greatest. The engineering firm began the study of the water pressure in the water distribution system for the city in July, 1940.

The elevated tank at 11th and Quincy would be 140 feet high and cost about $125,000, according to Smith. He said that the biggest problem might be that of obtaining steel due to the World War II defense effort. Rubles also recommended a 500,000 gallon underground tank be built in the vicinity of 17th and Oakley, but its need was not immediate. Elevated tanks in the outlying townships should be sufficient to maintain adequate pressure in those systems, according to Comm. Smith.

Smith reported that Mr. Ruble recommended more large outlets be made in the underground reservoir at 19th and Fillmore, particularly one to connect with the main on 21st street, serving the residential area of south Topeka.
(TOPEKA DAILY CAPITAL 6/17/41)

On June 18th the City Commission authorized Mayor Frank G. Warren to buy the property consisting of seven lots at the corner of 11th and Quincy for $13,500, from Charles T Hayden. The property measured 160 by 150 feet. The announcement of the pending purchase was immediately followed by the screams of protest from the surrounding neighborhood. A protest petition was presented to the Zoning Appeals Board with 200 signatures by Mrs. Leigh Bingham. Others thought the city paid too much for the lots (which included a large stone house built in 1868, the former home of David Overmyer, an early day leading lawyer in Topeka). The assessed valuation of the lots and house was $7,700. The Topeka State Capital reported that the protesters had their hearing on 6/30/41 before the Zoning Board of Appeals meeting at the Jayhawk Hotel. The Appeals Board was comprised of Jesse Underwood, Chairman, Ernest Dibble, W.E. Glover, Dr. R.W. Mahan, and C.M. McManus. (TSC 7/1/41)

W.H. West, leader of the Kansas Tax Crusade, promised that the case would be taken before the courts if necessary. He further stated that his organization had affidavits about the value and the price paid for the property.

T.M. Lillard, attorney and resident of Westboro, also voiced his concern about the recommendation for an underground storage tank at 17th and Oakley. He asked, "if water towers are so necessary, why don't cities like St. Louis and Kansas City have them?" He urged delay, until further engineering studies were made.

Ed Rooney, the attorney representing the residents in the 11th and Quincy area said the price paid for the property indicated that someone had done an good job of salesmanship on the city commission, and he thought the taxpayers should know about it. He also said that new technology had made water towers obsolete.

Ben Marsh, who owned property near the site, said the women in the neighborhood wanted to know more about the wind and lightning hazards of such a tower.

It was pointed out that a zoning variation was also required. The area, as zoned, permitted structures no higher than 35 feet.

As a result of the protests and the zoning variance required, the commissioners opened bids on July 1st, 1941 but took no action. The lowest bid was submitted by the Chicago Bridge and Iron Co. in the amount of $94,700. In the meantime, the City Engineers Office took note of the uproar and City Engineer W.E. Baldry suggested that perhaps a water tower and armory could be combined to improve the appearance of proposed starkly naked steel tower and tank. The Zoning Board announced that its decision would not be made for two weeks giving the commission time to reexamine the project.

On July 8th, 1941, Commissioner Smith told the City Commission that after discussing the availability of steel for the watertower structure with federal officials, the tank would have to be constructed of concrete and reinforcing steel. Structural steel was simply not available under the priorities established by the Federal War Materials Agency. He also reported that the priority given the project would expire October 1, 1941, so the tank would have to be redesigned and material must be on hand by that date. The Commissioners then cancelled the bids. While there is a paucity of information as to what happened between July,1941 and July 1942, it is apparent that the original schedule for the new water tower construction could not be met (possibly due to the opposition to the structure, the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the subsequent declaration of war). (TSC 7/08/41)

The Defense Department gave a real boost to the project when it was determined that in order to construct the Air Base (Forbes) an adequate water supply was imperative and the city was the best place to get the water. The lack of elevated storage and the subsequent loss of water pressure in the event of a large emergency at the base, gave the proposed city project a high federal defense priority number, No.15268. (The same number as the air base).

R.A. Finney Engineering Co. Topeka, was chosen to design a new structure to be placed at the 11th and Quincy site. On August 15th 1942, Engr. Finney submitted his design for a 2,000,000 gallon elevated storage reservoir which was immediately approved by the commission. The structure would be 140 feet high and 100 feet in diameter. The tank had three distinct parts, the upper tank, the concentric rings for legs and the foundation. 1,000,000 gallons of water could be stored in the foundation and 1,000,000 in the upper tank according to the news release.

Bids for its construction were received Aug.25, 1942. On August 25 the Commission opened the bids and let the contract to the Jones-Hettlestater Construction Co. of Kansas City, Mo. for a total cost to the Water Department of $175,000. The scheduled completion date was Nov. 15, 1942 provided steel and concrete were available.(The design submitted and approved is as the structure stands today). (TSC7/18/42)

Construction was commenced immediately, but according to the TSC 10/22/42 it became evident that obtaining sufficient manpower was going to be a major problem. One hundred twenty men were needed to keep three shifts going. According to O.N. Evans, construction superintendent, he was able to operate only one or two shifts daily, using mostly students from Washburn University. Evans further indicated that he might have to closed down the operation if he couldn't get the concrete poured before cold weather closed in. He said that once concrete pouring above the ground level began, the pour must continue until it was finished otherwise the tank might leak. It would take 10 days to complete the job, he said, if he had three complete shifts.

The two million gallon water tank, 11th and Quincy, 1943

PhotoThe Topeka office of the Federal Employment Agency advertised for laborers, stating that the jobs paid 60 cents an hour, the going wage on all defense projects in the Topeka area.

Only five men showed up for the first midnight shift. Water Commissioner L.B. Smith and City Engineer Baldry were called out of bed. Smith was able to borrow 16 men from the contractor building the Topeka General Hospital (now the VA Hospital) to keep the first night of the pour going. Baldry helped pour the concrete. After that, street department employees, daily paper employees, Morrell Packing plant employees, firemen, Sante Fe shop employees, Washburn students and Kansas Power and Light employees filled in as needed until the pour was completed.

Labor shortages substantially lengthened the scheduled timetable for the completion of the project.
(Source-TSC 11/5/42)

(The project was completed and ready for use in late January, 1943).

The records indicate that between 1929 and 1940 the amount of water pumped only increased from 4.45 million to 4.93 million gallons per day in 11 years. But the years between 1940 and 1946 saw a significant increase in water usage in Topeka, due in part to the opening of Forbes Airbase in 1943, when the military population increased significantly. Water pumped increased to an average of 5.6 million per day in 1943; to 6.0 million in 1944; 6.3 million in 1945; and 6.8 million in 1946.
(Source-Topeka State Journal 1/3/43)

During this period there was also a significant increase in civilian population, increased industrial activity, and substantial increased use of cooling water for refrigeration, a relatively new use. This was not a dry weather period.
(Source-TSC 1/31/47).

A public relations nightmare developed for the City Water Department in early June 1948. The Commissioners had passed an ordinance increasing the water rates by 30% for a period beginning June 1, 1948 to October 1, 1950 to have funds on hand to renovate and expand the water treatment plant. By raising the money in advance of the construction, the issuance of bonds and the subsequent interest on the money would be avoided. However, 2,500 bills were mailed on June 1, 1948 figured on the new rates for the previous month of May before the error was detected. There was an immediate and loud uproar from every group of water users in the city. The loudest complainers were city agencies, most of whom refused to pay their bills at the higher rate. Commissioner Smith admitted there had been a goof at City Hall and promised that no one would pay more than the 28 months of water bills in which the higher rate would be used. His admission and subsequent action quieted the ruckus.

On July 30, 1948, Commissioner Smith announced a demonstration of the effect of cleaning 2-18 inch mains and 1-24 inch main from the water plant to downtown Topeka would be made on that day. This should enable more water to be transported with less pressure by the pumps at the treatment plant.
(Source-TOPEKA DAILY CAPITAL 7/30/48)

The Topeka State Journal reported on 12/28/48 that the Commission had adopted an ordinance that would increase the pay for 30 water department staff. The chemist salary would be raised to $260 per month; the distribution superintendent to $275/mo; and the water production engineer's to $390/mo. This set off a wave of requests for salary increases from the other city departments. As a result, the commission declined to approve any raises, including those in the water department. The controversy was later settled by a compromise giving certain classes of city employees salary increases.

Chapter V
1950-1954

The Topeka Journal (5/12/50) reported that Commissioner Smith announced that if plans and specifications were received from Black and Veatch, Consulting Engrs. by the end of the following week, the city would be opening bids and putting a water treatment plant expansion project under contract by the end of May, 1950. The project included additional settling basins, four new filter units, a new chemical storage building, enlargement of the clear water storage reservoir and new mechanical equipment. These improvements would increase daily production capacity to 16,000,000 gallons.

Construction began on the expansion project August 7th, 1950, according to the Topeka State Journal., under a contract let to the Bennett and Williamson Construction Co. with the project scheduled for completion in early 1952. The completed project cost $733,000 which was paid from accumulated department funds without the necessity for issuing bonds. Water rates dropped back Sept 1st, 1950 to those in being prior to June 1, 1948.

The effects of cold weather and the labor shortage in the fall of 1941 were showing up in the big concrete water storage tank at 11th and Quincy. The City Commission took bids on September 12th, 1950 on repair work to stop leaks in the big tank. The leaks probably were the result of the cold weather and a shortage of labor which forced Water Commissioner Smith and City Engr. Baldry out of bed at midnight to find additional help to keep the concrete pouring continuos. City Engineer Baldry himself had pitched in to keep the concrete flowing but the outcome indicated that the effort was not completely successful.

Topeka Water Works surrounded by floodwaters, 1951

PhotoA severe storm which dumped an average of 11.4 inches of rainfall over a 10,000 square mile area of the Kansas River Basin between the 9th and 12th of July, 1951, according to the US Weather Service, was the cause of the devastating flood on July 13 and 14 of that year. The flood covered a fifth of Topeka, some of it by as much as 20 feet.

The water treatment plant and pumping station was in the direct path of the flood.

The headlines of the Topeka State Journal 7/13/51 read "1,000 CARRY ON GALLANT FIGHT TO SAVE WATERWORKS". On the morning of the 13th, the water plant was surrounded on three sides by the Kansas River and the flood waters were still rising.

The possible loss of the treatment plant was very real. The only access to the water treatment plant was through the Topeka State Hospital grounds on a narrow very muddy road which could only be negotiated by heavy duty military trucks.

Topekans working to save the Water Works, July 1951

PhotoIt was reported that a steady stream of such vehicles carrying men and sandbags ground their way into and out of the plant area for three days.

Volunteers included six hundred men from Forbes Air Base; 85 from the National Guard unit and thousands more from all walks of life in Topeka.

Among those were two 14 year old boys, Robert Jury and Pete Taylor, who worked for hours, lifting 30 pound sand bags into place.

The effort saved the plant but not without anxious moments. The flood waters of the Kaw were 12 feet above the heads of those who filled the sandbags and a break would have surely endangered many lives. The high water mark of the flood was only 9 inches from the top of the concrete wall along the north side of the plant. A sandboil in the west area of the plant caused more anxious moments. Planks and concrete were immediately put in place and sandbags piled on top of it to stem the flow. Sandboils were the result of upward water pressure on the earth inside the 13 acre diked area. Wherever there was a weak spot, the water spurted through it like a geyser.

If such leaks were left uncontrolled, the whole enclosure would quickly flood. As it was, water three feet deep, entered the south wing of the of the main building and one of the large turbines dropped about a foot through the floor. Harry Anderson, Chief Engineer, ordered the main steam powered pumping unit shut down to conserve fuel oil. Later in the afternoon the two remaining electrically driven pumps stopped as a result of a break in the power lines serving the plant. Topeka was without a water supply for 30 minutes until the steam unit could be placed back into service. The distribution system pressure fell drastically during that half hour because Topekans were filling their bathtubs with water.

By July 16th the water plant was out of danger and the damage could be assessed. Dorr Pelton, Water Superintendent, stated that the two new 90 foot settling basins may have been damaged, a part of the upper wall of the pumping station had to be propped up with utility poles to prevent it from collapsing and the power switchboard equipment had to be removed and placed in the pump house. Leaks in the sewer near the plant allowed many tons of earth to be eroded from under the plant, contributing to a loss of structural support beneath the older structures.

Holding the Topeka Water Works together, 1951 flood

PhotoLater it was determined that the sewers draining the diked enclosure were plugged by mud and there was no way to remove water from within except by pumping it over the dikes.

Commissioner Smith thanked and praised the work of nearly 4,500 Topekans who participated in the effort to protect the plant. He also assured the citizens of Topeka that the water in the distribution system was safe and that no immunization shots or other water safety precautions were necessary. Workers at the plant estimated that more than 50,000 sandbags had been placed on the dikes and in crucial areas of the plant.
(Source: Topeka State Journal 7/16/51)

Commissioner Smith said the flood cost the Water Department $105,000 in direct cash outlays for basic repairs. On Aug.30 he announced that a 25% increase in water rates for three years would be requested to pay for the flood damage and other much needed improvements. On Sept. 5, the Commission approved his request which would raise about $435,000. Smith also reported that a number of people had suggested that the water plant be moved to higher ground. He said that such a move would be very costly (millions), but technical problems posed would be almost impossible to overcome as long as the river was the source of the water.
(Source-Topeka State Journal 11/1/51). (The treatment plant was virtually rebuilt during the following 5 years).

The Topeka State Journal 12/11/51 reported that the Air Force planned to build 2500 houses at Forbes in the next year and would require twice as much water as presently furnished. Commissioner Smith said that it would cost about $240,000 to double the capacity of the 12 inch line presently serving the base. It was learned at the same time, that Congress had authorized federal financial assistance to communities for costs associated with the impact of military installation growth. The cost of repairs to the flood ravaged plant left the water department short of funds, so the city was advised to submit an estimate of the cost for supplying the Air Base with the amount of water requested and for sewers if extensions were needed, to the Federal Government.

Plans to fluoridate the city water were announced in the Topeka State Journal 1/31/52 to begin as soon as equipment could be purchased and installation completed according to Dorr Pelton, Water Supt. The announcement generated heated discussions of the benefits of fluoridation, pro and con, for a span of more than a year before the city commission finally approved fluoridation on June 4th, 1953. The fluoridation program was to be placed under the supervision of the City-County Health Department. A public hearing was held prior to the Commissions action, in which 75 people participated. Strong sentiment was voiced both for and against fluoridation. Scientific evidence of the worth of the program in reducing tooth decay prevailed and the adoption of the approving resolution resulted. (Although fluoridation had been approved in June, 1953, it was not until 1956 that fluoride was introduced into the water system of Topeka.)

The Topeka State Journal reported Commissioner Smith as saying the Kansas River wasn't as dirty as it had been 17 years ago. Water plant records indicated turbidity had been reduced by 60% during that period. Smith believed the cause of the reduced turbidity was the increase in soil conservation practices on farms. He also said he didn't think soil conservation, or small reservoirs were going to reduce floods or water flow in the Kansas River. The story indicated that Smith was a long time advocate of Tuttle Creek Reservoir.

Smith explained that although the turbidity had decreased, other substances, minerals, bacteria, and tastes and odors as well as turbidity, still had to be removed. These engendered very technical problems of removal. He explained the process and praised the people who made it happen: Daniel H. Rupp, Production Engineer; Howard H. Huffman, Distribution Superintendent; John Shaw, Chemist; and J.B. Richardson, Plant Engineer.

He said that "Big Allis", the reciprocal steam pump, was not capable of handling small pumping loads and would be used in the future to pump water to the reservoir at 19th and Fillmore and to the Soldier Township Tank. Electric pumps would be used for supplying the rest of the distribution system. Expansion of the pumping facilities were badly needed to provide more flexibility in the system at less operating costs.
(Topeka State Journal 9/25/52)

The City Commission passed a resolution submitted by Comm. Smith on Jan 13, 1953 approving the issuance of $800,000 in revenue bonds by the Water Department to speed up the construction of a new pumping plant and other improvements at the water plant. On February 26, 1953 work began on a new pumping station and equipment to boost the output of the plant to 25,000,000 gallons per day. Bennett Construction Co. was the successful bidder on the contract. The work was scheduled for completion in 300 days and would cost $406,624. The pumping station and other plant improvements were completed in 1954 at a cost of $750,000.

The new pumping plant was the first facility of a 10 year improvement plan to meet Topeka's water needs through 1963 expected to be 30% greater than in 1953. Smith said the cost of the expansion program would be over of $2,000,000. Improvements would include more and larger water mains, 4 new filters, and a new intake pier and pumps. Rapid growth of the city's population after the war and the increase of water consumption per person was responsible for the additional water facilities. He pointed out that the average water use in 1935 was 62 gallons per person and that it now (1954) had increased to 104 gallons.
(Source-Topeka State Journal 7/3/54)

Chapter VI
1954-1992

Disputes between the Water Department and subdivisions developers outside the city limits erupted over who should fund the costs of new water distribution systems in subdivisions. The established policy of the Department placed the cost burden on the developers and it was this policy that was being challenged. A court suit was brought to decide the issue. The Kansas Supreme Court settled the matter in 1954 when it established that the Water Department was not obligated to construct water lines in new developments without being reimbursed by the developer.
(Source-Capital Improvement Program, 1966-1970, Water Dept. Report)

Water Commissioner Louis E. Howard reported that construction would be completed in September 1956 on the first leg of Topeka's west side water trunk line. The line would be 36 inches in diameter from the water plant west and south to West 6th and 30 inches from that point to Huntoon and McAlister. Eventually, the main would be extended south from Huntoon to 29th and Hope as recommended by Servis, Van Doren and Hazard, Topeka Consulting Engineers. The cost of the first phase of the Construction program was $496,000; with Mid Continent construction Co. of Wichita, the successful bidder. The second phase was estimated to cost about $375,000. Mr. Howard said that after the line to 29th and Hope was completed, the water department proposed to build another line east from 29th and Hope to 29th and California. When completed the new trunk line system would supply all the lateral lines to the southwest part of the city and boost the water supply to Highland Park and to the area to the south of the city.
(Source-Topeka Capital-Journal 7/27/56)

Laying 36" water main at Huntoon and Hope, 1956

PhotoAccording to the Topeka Capital-Journal (1/15/57) Commissioner Howard submitted a report to the City Commission outlining an $8,500,000 plan to complete the 10 year program, including one, perhaps two, 5,000,000 gallon storage reservoirs.

One of the reservoirs would be located in the 29th and Hope area, (Burnett's Mound) the other in the Highland Park area. Also included in the report were recommendations for a new main, north from Kansas Ave and Paramore to Lyman Road then west to Tyler, north to Bis Road and then west again to the vicinity of the Goodyear Plant. Comm. Howard said that the proposal would await the results of a rate study by Servis, Van Doren and Hazard before further action would be proposed.

The 3/29/57 issue of the Topeka State Journal carried a schematic portrayal of the improvements underway at the water treatment plant, showing work under construction and that planned- all a part of the 10 year program.

The new intake structure was almost complete; a new filter building, a presetting basin and settling and treatment basins with 20,000,000 gallons per day additional capacity were in the detailed planning stage. The new additions were estimated to cost about 2.5 million dollars. These improvements were said to double the capability of the plant to supply future needs of the city and the surrounding area.

The construction of the first 5,000,000 gallon reservoir on Burnett's Mound was completed in 1961.

First 5,000,000 gal. Water Storage Tank on Burnetts Mound, 1961-1963

PhotoThe reinforced steel concrete tank was 184 feet in diameter and 25 feet 5 inches deep. It sits approximately 208 feet above the street intersection at 29th and Gage.

It was built by the S. Patti Construction Co., Kansas City, Mo., for $370,000. Principal designers were Robt. C. Huntington and Elmer L. Seegmueller of the Servis, Van Doren, & Hazard Engineering Co., of Topeka. (A second 5,000,000 gallon tank at the same elevation on Burnett's Mound would be built later). Supt. Dorr Pelton proposed a new 5 year capital improvements plan to the City Commission in 1966. He pointed out that the erratic development of industrial, hotel, motels and mall sites was making it more costly and difficult to forecast distribution system needs. Larger mains are required at such sites at increased cost because of fire risks to high value property.

In addition, more miles of larger mains must be installed when such projects are scattered over the city rather than concentrated in one area. He pointed out the importance of the Water Department (1) providing top quality water;(2) supplying a sufficient volume of water at an adequate pressure to meet customer's needs at any time and place;and (3) having the capability to furnish 10,000,000 gallons of standby fire protection water in addition to a peak day domestic water demand. He foresaw the need for an additional 27 miles or more of large diameter pipe (12 inch or greater) and to increase the flexibility and capability of the water treatment, storage and pumping facilities (which was limited to 40,000,000 gallons per day in 1966). His report contained several graphs and maps indicating the trends of growth in the Topeka's water system dating back to 1935, and specific information on the type of improvements and additions needed in the period 1966 through 1970.

A new east plant high service pump station was completed in 1967 and the pump station at 29th and Tutbury was abandoned. A new polymer basin for the north and south treatment plants and additions to the chemical building were completed in 1972. (Polymers are resin based coagulation enhancers to aid in the removal of turbidity and hardness). In the same year a new pump station was constructed at 37th and Burlingame and an new 500,000 gallon elevated storage tank erected at 29th and Croco. A new 5,000,000 gallon clear well was added to the treatment plants in 1975. The Meriden Road pumping station was added to the distribution system in 1976.

After the 1951 flood, the Water Department acquired additional acreage east of the 13 acres the department already owned bringing the total to 52 acres. The ensuing flood protection program for the city, as designed and built by the US Army Corps of Engineers in the late fifties and early sixties, provided this newly acquired acreage flood protection from the river. It included a concrete wall along the river and a dike built along the east end of the acreage tying into Interstate 70's right of way. The additional area became the site of a new 25,000,000 gallon per day water treatment facility completed in 1981. A new east plant river intake was built in 1978 and the old one removed in 1979. The completion of the new plant brought a conglomerate of three distinct water treatment plants which could operate either as separate units or as one unit, giving great flexibility of operation and a lower unit cost of production. The combined capacity of the plants to produce treated water was expected to be 75,000,000 gallons per day if and when needed. The older (North and South) units of the plant were expected to undergo renovation enabling them to utilize the newest technology and chemistry to produce high quality of water at all times. Designs for the new plant and the renovation of the older plants were furnished by Black and Veatch, Consulting Engineers of Kansas City, Mo.. M.M. Watson Co., General Contractors of Topeka, renovated the old plants and built the new facilities. The cost of these improvements was $8,600,000.
(Source-Topeka Capital-Journal 9/1/81 & The Leopold Letter, Vol.16, May/82)

Topeka Water Treatment Plant showing nearly completed East addition, 1981

PhotoTopeka Mayor Bill McCormick proclaimed September 9, 1981 as the official date of the Water Department's 100th Anniversary.

This day also served as a dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony for the new East water treatment plant.

The Honorable Jack Alexander, Water Commissioner, presided over the ceremony, with remarks from Richard E. Pelton, Water Superintendent; N. Jack Burris, Director, Bureau of Water Services, State Dept of Health and Environment; and Francine Neubauer, Director, Kansas Water Office.

Top of second 5,000,000 gallon storage tank on top of Burnetts Mound, 1980-1993

PhotoA second 5,000,000 gallon storage tank also built on Burnett's Mound was begun in 1978 and finished in 1980. This steel reinforced concrete tank, 184 feet in diameter and 26.5 feet deep was designed by the Topeka engineering firm of Van Doren, Hazard, and Stallings. Ronald L. Wright was the principal designing engineer.

The tank was constructed by the Douglas Construction Co. The cost of the second tank was $1,406,310.00. It sits at the same elevation as the first tank built on Burnett Mound in 1961. The two tanks are connected by a high volume pump.

A new 500,000 gallon elevated steel storage tank was also built to serve the Lake Sherwood area in 1980. A new pumping station was placed in operation at 37th and Fairlawn in 1981 to provide better service to the Southwest Topeka and Sherwood area. A new maintenance shop was built at the treatment plant site in 1982 which would replace the old one which was demolished in 1990.The North Treatment plant underwent rehabilitation, beginning in 1986 and put on line again in 1987.

Water diversion weir, Kansas River, 1987

PhotoAnother project to assure Topeka would have enough water during drought periods was nearing completion according to the Topeka Capital-Journal 9/24/87.

A low dam (weir) was under construction to divert river water to the south bank where it would become readily accessible to the water plant intake structures.The weir was scheduled to be completed in October, 1987. Superintendent R.E. Pelton said the weir had been held in abeyance several years because of a proposed low dam to back water along Topeka's water front for the purpose of enhancing water front aesthetics, was under consideration.

The technical feasibility of such a dam was seriously questioned on the basis of its proposed design and location. The City Council finally approved the construction of the weir in 1986 as proposed by Van Doren & Stallings, Engineering Consultants for the water department. The weir was built by Gilbert Central Corp. of Grand Island Nebr. The project included an infiltration gallery, according to Pelton. He described the gallery, which lies several feet below the surface of the river, as a large pipe with holes in it, allowing both river water and water which lies in the bed of the river to enter and be carried to the south bank where it can be pumped into the water treatment facility. Pelton believes the gallery would become especially useful when ice cover threatens to shut off the surface water flow into the intakes or when debris is sufficient in the river to clog the intake screens. He said the gallery would function the year around and may be especially useful should the river flow be unable to supply the city's water needs.

In 1988, a new 750,000 gallon elevated steel storage tank was erected at Indian Hills and a new pumping station put in at 10th and Wanamaker. Another new 500,000 gallon elevated steel storage tank was built in Soldier Twnshp. in 1989. Three old tanks were demolished in 1991; one at 21st and Urish Rd.; one at 43rd and N. TOPEKA and one at 49th and S. Topeka.

Water is a limited resource in the State of Kansas. It is limited by both quantity and quality. In 1945, the State Legislature adopted the "appropriated water rights doctrine" which, in short, set up a priority system based on "the first in time is the first in right".This legislation was enacted in addition to the existing "riparian right" or common law doctrine which governed the allocation of water prior to 1945. The latter was altered somewhat to limit the use of water by riparian owners ( owners of land through which a stream flowed or formed the boundaries thereof) to "domestic" purposes such as livestock watering and human use. After June 28, 1945, all water users, other than purely riparian "domestic" were required to obtain a permit to divert water from either a surface water or a ground water source known as a "water right". If the water user had diverted water from the surface or ground water source and could verify the amount and point of diversion, that user could obtain a right, by application, to continue to use that water indefinitely as long there was no interruption in such diversion longer than three years.

Cities, such as Topeka, immediately applied for and were granted such rights. Topeka holds appropriated rights to divert water from the Kansas River and from under ground water sources in specific amounts, as long as the city does not interfere with the rights of others who applied for similar rights earlier than Topeka. All provable diversions, documented prior to June 28, 1945, are called "vested rights" and are considered equal in priority. All applications for appropriation rights after the June 28, 1945 deadline are subject to limitations incurred in relation to prior filing date of all other applications for rights from the same water source.

Topeka holds vested rights to divert an average of 6.6 mgd (million gallons per day) of water from the river and 30,000 gpd from four shallow wells. In addition, the city applied for and was granted an additional appropriation rights to divert averages of 16.5 mgd of river water with a priority date of 1954; 4.6 mgd with a priority date of 1958; 160,000 gpd from two large diameter dug wells with a priority date of 1971; and another 16.5 mgd from the river having a priority date of 1976 for a total average of 44.39 mgd in vested and appropriated water diversion rights. The city's appropriated rights are subject to rights held by others of an earlier priority date when there is insufficient flow in the river to satisfy all diversion requirements. If and when that should happen, the state's administering agency, the Division of Water Resources of the State Department of Agriculture will step in and adjust the diversion rates according to the priority dates. In 1991, Topeka diverted about 66 % of its rights to water from the river. It used none of its rights to water from wells.

In 1989 the Water Department and the City of Topeka entered into an agreement with other Kansas River water users to form the Kansas Water Assurance District. The purpose of the District is to purchase water as needed from storage in upstream Corps of Engineer reservoirs either from the State of Kansas or from the Corps, depending in which reservoir the water is stored. This will enable supplementation of the natural flow of the river by releases of water in sufficient quantity to satisfy the "rights" held by downstream diverters as long as water remains in the designated water supply storage portion of the reservoir. This is a "special" benefit for Topekans from the reservoir system.

The natural quality of water in the Kansas River deteriorates during times of low flow, such as occur during droughts, because of the effect of salt springs which discharge into the Smoky Hill River and Saline Rivers in the vicinity of Enterprise and Solomon, Kansas. The sodium content of the river water during such periods may reach unacceptable levels. These levels can be reduced by diluting the river water with releases of less mineralized water from Milford or Tuttle Creek reservoirs. This is another significant benefit to Topekans from the upstream reservoirs. Research into methods of controlling the flow from the salt springs into the Smoky Hill River has been underway since 1973 by the U.S. Geological Survey and the Kansas Water Office.

A new chlorine system building was constructed at the treatment plants and a new flocculating equipment was installed in the south plant in 1992. A new pumping station is under construction at 19th and western. There were 746 miles of water mains in the City and surrounding area in addition to the production and storage facilities. (June, 1992)

Chemicals required to remove the sediment, soften, disinfect and fluoridate the water include lime, soda ash, polymer, hexametaphosphate, hydrofluosilicic acid, chlorine, ammonia, and carbon dioxide. The amount used varies with the amount and quality of the incoming river water. Both the amount of water and its raw quality are under constant surveillance by well trained water technicians. The raw water quality can vary greatly from day to day.

The finished water chemical constituents are stable and have remained so for many years. The following are the averages of those constituents in mg/l (milligrams per liter) or ppm (parts per million): alkalinity,-75; aluminum-0.05; ammonia-0.7; calcium-25; chloramine-3.0; chloride-100; fluoride-1.0; hardness-120; iron-0.00; magnesium-12.0; manganese-0.0; nitrate(N)-1.00; pH-9.5; phosphate-0.5; potassium-9.0; silica-9.0; sodium-80; sulphate-120; total dissolved solids-350; turbidity-0.2. The fluoride is added as hydrofluosilicic acid.

The only significant difference in water chemistry of the Topeka water supply since the 1970's is the reduced level of trihalomethanes. (Trihalomethanes are formed by the chlorination of a number of trace organic compounds( humus) in water and are considered hazardous substances in large quantities). The reduction in trihalomethanes has been accomplished by adding ammonia to the treated water which forms chloramine in the distribution system, a non-hazardous substance.

Summary statistics supplied by the Topeka Water Department for 1991 indicate that 90.17% of the water treated and distributed was used within the city and 9.83% outside the city limits. The per capita use was estimated at 151 gallons per day and an average of 24 millions gallons of water was pumped into the system each day. The Water Dept was operated by 131 employees; 40 in production, 55 in distribution, 8 in administration and 28 in customer service.

The combined "book" value of the Topeka's water system in 1992 was $50,683,397. There was $17,365,000 indebtedness against the system. Income is derived from the sale of water to the customers based on the amount of water used as it has since 1905. All services are now metered through 45,000 connections. The system served an estimated 131,500 people in 1991, 119,000 of whom resided within the city limits. None of the Water Department income is derived from property or sales taxes. It has been necessary from time to time to increase the water rates to keep up with inflationary trends; to provide better and better quality of water and to keep up with the growth characteristics of the City of Topeka.

Water rates effective July 1st, 1992 for customers within the City of Topeka were: first 100 cubic feet- $2.60; next 800 cubic feet- $1.31/100cf; the next 99,000 cubic feet-$0.79/100cf; and over 100,000-$0.69/100cf. The minimum monthly bill was $5.20.

Wholesale rates to the rural water districts were as follows:

Jackson Co.#1- $1.05/mo/100cf with a minimum bill of $3,879.65;
Shawnee Co. #1&2- $0.79/mo/100cf with a minimum bill of $4,069.71;
Shawnee Co. #3- $1.05/mo/100cf with a minimum bill of $3,227.60;
Shawnee Co. #4- $1.05/mo/100cf with a minimum bill of $1,419.50;
Shawnee Co.#6- $1.05/mo/100cf with a minimum bill of $2,577.65;
Shawnee Co. #8- $1.05/mo/100cf with a minimum bill of $3.132.05;
Shawnee Co. #8(2nd)- $1.05/mo/100cf with a minimum bill of $4,496.00; and
Douglas Co. #3- $1.05/mo/100 cf with a minimum bill of $897.65.

The quality control requirements alone are as rigid as any in the industrial world. System breakdowns are extremely rare and can only be tolerated briefly before a major community crisis develops. It must operate in all kinds of weather, wars, and economic conditions. By comparison, the quantity of product flowing into the city dwarfs other essential foods and needs. On an average day the amount of water treated, pumped and distributed to patrons is about 100,000 tons or stated in another way- equivalent to about 3,500 gasoline tank trucks carrying 7000 gallons each. The system has the capacity to triple the average output volume on a few hours notice. It is all operated by 131 people!

The history of the Topeka Water Department parallels the history of Topeka. The need to promote the public health of Topeka citizens has been the principle goal and has progressively improved quality as water and health technology advanced through the 19th and 20th centuries. Water supplied by the Department has been the city's primary barrier against the hazards of fires; has served to promote the aesthetics of the community and enhances the quality of life; and has been an attractive and significant influence on the military, commercial and industrial development of the area. The City operated water system is a major and very efficient industrial complex in and of its self. It epitomizes the classic city infrastructure which must not be allowed to deteriorate through shortsighted planning and goal setting.

History of Storm and Stormwater Drainage

Chapter I
1854-1954

The infrastructure of a city includes the conveyance systems by which it imports energy (food, water, power, raw materials etc.) and gets rid of its waste and unwanted byproducts. Without these, no city would be able to function. The history of two of these systems, water treatment and distribution and the waste water collection and treatment, illustrate how these systems grew and developed in Topeka.

According to the Five Year Summary Report 1966-1971 by the Topeka Water Pollution Control Department, the first storm water drainage sewer in Topeka was built in 1878. Others followed in 1880 in rapid order and building of sewers continued as the city expanded. By 1899, there were 40 miles of sewers serving about 1300 acres (2 square miles). Early sewers were designed to drain surface water from the streets and roofs directly to the Kansas River rather than draining naturally through creeks and waterways. By 1880, many of natural drainage ways had been substantially changed by the grading and paving of streets, by railroads track, housing and other structural development. Without adequate drainage, ponding of runoff, including household slops, manure, street debris etc. created bad odors, mosquitoes and mud in a growing city of 30,000 people. These primitive conditions were not appreciated in the Capital City of Kansas. As a result, a public effort to improve the livability of the city was initiated.

The drainage system developed was patterned after earlier eastern US cities systems. The latter were sized to carry large volumes of water during heavy rains with a trough built in the bottom to carry away water which entered the sewer during dry weather. Such sewers were designed as a structural arch set on a flat bottom and built of vitrified brick. The largest built in Topeka were 5 to 7 feet in height. To be effective, the sewers had many "catch basins" and as a result, anything in the streets was flushed into the sewers.

Large storm sewer still functioning 1880-1993

PhotoHistorically, the transport of fecal matter in a sewer system was a new idea in 1880. (In many countries it was illegal to put fecal material or household slops in sewers.) Chicago built its first combined storm water and "sanitary" waste sewers in 1875.

Such "combined" systems enabled a city's populace to rid itself of the filth and smells surrounding most homes and businesses. The objective of the combined sewer was to drain the waste to a waterway large enough to remove it from sight and smell, along with the rain-water.

The building of a water distribution system, and a water pumping plant in 1882 provided ample water for Topeka's household and industrial purposes. The availability of water from a public supply began to replace the private wells, rain barrels, and the hauling of water from the river. The introduction of "water closets" and related plumbing were made possible by relatively new and cheap steel pipe. The household "privy" was often replaced with a "cesspool" or septic tank, then the septic tank in turn was replaced with a connection to the public sewer. Indoor plumbing was a significant improvement in the quality of life and readily accepted by most households and businesses. These successive events rapidly increased the amount of human waste matter going to the Kansas River through surface water drains (sewers).

At the same time, a water technology revolution was occurring in the US and western Europe as a result of two events. The first was the discovery that disease could be transmitted through water. In 1854, John Snow traced a cholera epidemic to a water well in London, England. The second was Robert Koch's epidemiological research work during a cholera epidemic in Germany in 1883. Koch isolated the bacillus causing cholera and many other "germs", and proved that bacteria were the sources of many diseases, some of which were waterborne.
(Source-Rosenau, 6th Edition)

This substantial upgrading in public health knowledge and practice, together with the conveniences brought by the availability of running water all occurred in a period when the young capital city was growing rapidly. The US census indicated that in 1890, Topeka's population was 31,007; in 1900-33,608; in 1910-43684; 1920-50,023; 1930-64,120; 1940-67,833; and in 1950, 90,000.
(Source-Report, Servis & Van Doren, Oct. 1951)

The management of Topeka's public sewer system was originally vested in the Streets and Public Improvement Department under the direction of a Commissioner. The Commissioner had "charge and control of public sewers in the city, to see that they are repaired, maintained and operated in a sanitary manner and kept in a sanitary condition". The principle objective of the department during the late 19th and early 20th century was building and maintaining the surface water drainage sewers. The treatment of sanitary waste matter became an added responsibility in 1926.
(Source-Operating Report Summary, 1970, City of Topeka Water Pollution Control Dept.)

New Oakland Sewage Treatment Plant completed in 1928

PhotoThe original N. Topeka sewage treatment plant was built in 1926, and the East Topeka Sewage Treatment plant (Oakland) was completed in 1928 in response to a threatened lawsuit by the City of Lawrence and pressure from the State Board of Health. In 1924, the Board ordered Topeka to stop dumping untreated sewage into the Kansas River. ( It was also reported that during winter, ice was being harvested for commercial purposes less than three miles below the city's last sewer outfall).

The original Oakland treatment works consisted of settling tanks, known as primary clarifiers, sludge digestion tanks and sludge drying beds. (Sludge is the sediment accumulated in the bottoms of the clarifiers and periodically removed digester tanks where it undergoes anaerobic decomposition forming methane gas, other gases and humus. After a period of time, decomposition is complete and the remaining material (humus) is withdrawn from the digestors and placed on drying beds where the moisture is removed by gravity drainage and by the air). Only organic and inorganic material in the sewage, which would settle out in a few hours, were removed by this process. The amount of the organic material removed by sedimentation was about 40%. The remaining 60 % was discharged into the river.

The North Topeka Treatment Plant, built in 1926, had similar characteristics but called an Imhoff tank. It differed from the east side plant in that settling and sludge digestion were all incorporated in one tank rather than in separate structures. It looked like, and operated like, a very large septic tank. Both the East Topeka and the N. TOPEKA plants were designed by the Haskins Engineering Consultants, Kansas City, Mo. and W.E. Baldry, City Engineer of Topeka. The original Oakland plant was constructed at a cost of $225,000 by the Carrothers Construction Co.
(Source-TJ,4/5/30).

Reportedly, the original plant site was excavated using horse drawn slip scrapers and other horse drawn equipment. The piping and mechanical equipment were moved from the railroad siding to the plant site by horse drawn wagons. A small gauge rail track was built at the site and horse drawn rail car system was used to remove sewage sludge from the drying beds to a storage area. The cars were loaded by hand. A garage was included for the storage and repair of the rail cars and remained intact until the early 1970's.

Its close proximity to the Oakland residential area soon brought complaints from nearby residents about odors being emitted from the plant and a lawsuit was brought against the city in 1930. A brick structure was built over that portion of the plant from which the odors came in 1931. This structure did assist in suppressing the odors and had substantial psychological effect on the neighborhood. ( A "good neighbor" policy put to work).

Since 1928, there has been an ongoing program to separate sanitary wastes from the surface water drainage system. Since 1950, the separation has occurred at a more rapid rate. But it was during the 1960's and 70's that most of the separation was accomplished. The availability of federal grants for that purpose; the recognition that the natural streams and waterways were becoming so polluted that their usefulness was being threatened; and state and federal legislation demanding that separation be accomplished, sparked the movement in the 60's and 70's.

The natural drainage areas within the city dictated the design of the original surface water drains which are now known as "storm sewers". The city encompassed about 7,750 acres according to Black and Veatch, Consulting Engrs. in a report to the city in 1946. The city has several watersheds, all of which drain to the Kansas River. Shunganunga Creek, Deer Creek, Soldier Creek, Ward Creek and Martin Creek are the larger ones. These drainage areas or watersheds formed the natural boundaries of most of the original sewer systems.

In 1946, there were 12 separate sewer systems in the city which carried sanitary sewage and industrial trade waste:
The Roosevelt St. system serving an area north of 17th street and west of Roosevelt carried only sanitary sewage and roof drain water. This system served a resident population of about 8,250 people and discharged its water directly into the Kansas River at the foot of Roosevelt St. It did not service the State Hospital for the Insane whose wastes drained, untreated, directly into the river just below the Topeka water treatment plant. A waste treatment plant, consisting of primary settling tanks, separate sludge digestion and a trickling filter, was not built by the State Hospital until the early 1950's.
(Source-B & V report, 1952)

The hospital wastes were later picked up along with the Roosevelt Street system wastes by the 30 inch South Kansas interceptor sewer built in 1957, the treatment plant was then abandoned.

The Potwin system served a resident population of 10,300 in 1946 and carried sanitary waste, roof drainage and storm water. It discharged into the Kansas River near the foot of Hawthorne St., but had an overflow discharge point to Martin Creek in Children's Park. It carried wastes from an area north of 17th St. between Buchanan and MacVicar including St.Francis, Stormont and Christ Hospitals and Washburn University. The original Potwin system, designed by Col. Wm. Tweedale ,Topeka Public Works Director, was completed on July 1, 1889 and drained about 100 acres of the incorporate village of Potwin. This system continued to discharge into the river until the South Kansas interceptor begun functioning in 1957 when a pump station was built to lift the Potwin system sewage and the sewage from the Quinton Ave. system into the new interceptor.

The Quinton Ave. Sewer system served 1900 residents living in the area north of 4th St. and between Broadmore and Fillmore. This system was designed to carry sanitary waste, roof drains and storm water. It was only a 27 inch pipe-too small for a large storm flow, necessitating several over flow diversions from it into surface drains. The 27-inch pipeline discharged directly into the Kansas River at the foot of Quinton Ave. until 1957.

The Jackson and Polk system served the city's commercial area, the Statehouse and Topeka High School and incorporated the largest sewers in Topeka. The 1st Street interceptor line was 7 ft high and 6 feet wide at the junction with the Jackson St. sewer. The 7 foot giant discharged its flows directly into the Kansas river at the foot of Van Buren and Jackson Streets and was the first sewer system built in the city. It was initially constructed in 1878. This system collected storm water, including roof drains, and sanitary waste from a 1946 population of about 12,550. It also carried some industrial waste. After 1930, the dry weather flows (sanitary waste) were diverted at the City Park and Jackson St. junction and conducted to the east side (Oakland) sewage treatment plant via the Crane St. sanitary interceptor sewer.

The Post Office system was constructed in the alley between Kansas Ave. and Quincy from 8th St to the river. It originally discharged to the Kansas River but when the Crane St. interceptor was built, this system drained into it. In 1946, it served about 570 people.

The Quincy-Monroe sewer was located in the alley between Quincy and Monroe Streets with the upper end at 6th street. It served about 620 people and also discharged directly into the river until it was connected to the Crane St. interceptor in 1930.

The Monroe-Madison sewer was located in the alley between Monroe and Madison (now Interstate 70). This system discharged into the river until it was intercepted by the Crane St. sanitary interceptor in 1930. It served about 760 people.

The Jefferson street system was the longest in the city and one of the oldest. Construction on it began in 1890 and continued in a "piecemeal" fashion into the 1980's. It was originally a combined sewer for much of its length. Its small size, however, necessitated numerous overflow relief structures and inherent discharges of wastewater into Shunganunga Creek. The overflow structures were located at 5th and Adams, 8th and Adams, 11th and Jefferson, 20th and Fillmore, and at 21st and Birchwood Lane. This system drained an area of 1920 acres between Huntoon and Shunganunga Creek, and from Jefferson to Oakley. It served an estimated population of 21,000 people, including Winter General Hospital. The hospital discharged its waste into a pumping station from which it was pumped through a force main into the upper end of the Jefferson street system. The storm water was discharged into the Kansas River and the dry weather flows were directed into the Crane St. interceptor sewer after it was built. The junction with the Crane St. sewer is near the intersection of River Road and Jefferson.

The Chandler Street system served an area of about 880 acres (and 10,600 people) between Branner St. and Golden and north of 15th., to the River. This system carried roof drainage, sanitary waste and some street runoff. There was an overflow structure at 3rd Street near Ripley Park which discharged into the Shunganunga Creek. The sanitary or dry weather flow was diverted into the Crane St interceptor. Storm water flows were discharged into the River at the foot of Chandler street.

The Oakland Park system served an area of about 440 acres and 3000 people including the Topeka Airport (Billard). Built in 1928, it was designed strictly for sanitary wastes, excluding roof drains. This area lies north of Seward, from the Airport to the River. This system discharges directly into the Municipal (Oakland) Sewage Treatment Plant.

The Crane Street interceptor was built in 1930 and runs from the intersection of Van Buren and Crane in City Park along Crane St. and River Road to the Ash Street pumping station. It was constructed of reinforced concrete with a vitrified clay tile liner and is 42 inches in diameter except for the upper 300 feet, which is 30 inches. It received industrial waste from Santa Fe Shops, Hill Packing Co. and the Morrell Packing Co. as well as dry weather flow wastes from all the other systems, beginning with the Jackson-Polk system eastward, excluding the Oakland Park system. All other systems west of Topeka Ave. continued to discharge untreated sewage into the Kansas River until 1957. According to the TJ/4/5/30, the Crane street interceptor sewer was built by the Thomson Construction Co., of Kansas City Mo., for $220,000.

The North Topeka System, built in 1926, served almost all the area north of the Kansas River within the city limits. In 1946, 650 acres of the area were sewered and 118 was not. 7000 people were connected to this system. This included the Union Pacific R.R. yards and other industrial installations in N. Topeka. The system carried roof drainage and some street drainage. Overflow was directed to Soldier Creek (old course) during period of heavy runoff. Dry weather flows were directed to the North Topeka Treatment plant, also built in 1926, located just east of the UP tracks and north of Fairchild.
Since the flow of water and waste in a sewer system is usually induced by gravity, most systems were (and are) built beginning at the point of discharge and progressively constructed to higher elevations and can be expanded over both time and area until the entire watershed has been covered. Sometimes there are areas within a watershed which cannot be drained by gravity. Then it becomes necessary to collect the water and waste at the subdrainage area's lowest point and pump the collection into the main system. There are a number of such sub-basins in Topeka. In 1946, there was a pumping station at Central Park and 22nd Street that served an area of 37 acres. This station pumped the wastes through a cast iron force main into a branch of the Jefferson St. system on 22nd St. between Fillmore and Western.

The airport pumping station pumped waste from the Terminal and other buildings into a branch of the Oakland Park system through a connection at the end of Iowa Street.

In 1946, there was a small pumping station which pumped waste from the Menninger Sanitarium into a branch of the Roosevelt Street system and into the river.

The Winter General Hospital wastes were collected and pumped from a station owned and operated by the federal government through an 8 inch force main into a branch of the Jefferson street system.

The John Morrell Meat Packing Co. wastes were discharged into large sewer which terminated in the Madison Street pumping station then pumped into the Crane Street interceptor. This station also received storm water flows and in time of these flows, or when the Kansas River was high, all waste and storm water was pumped directly into the River. The Morrell Packing Co. plant was severely damaged during both the 1935 and 1951 floods. It did not reopen after the '51 flood.

The dry weather flows of sanitary waste from N. Topeka were collected at the Kious Pump Station located at Grant Street and the A.T.& S.F. Railroad and pumped into the N. Topeka Waste Treatment Plant. This station also pumped the storm water flows directly into the Kansas River and during high water periods, the treatment plant was valved off and both sanitary wastes and storm water went into the Kansas River.

Early sanitary sewers often had so few hookups that during dry weather periods there was insufficient water in them to carry away the solid material, thus cleaning plugged sewers became a problem. The remedy was the installation of large under ground flush tanks at the upper ends of the laterals which emptied several hundred gallons of water periodically into the sewer to remove the settled material. The usefulness of such flushing devices decreased as more household hookups were made. The Topeka system had numerous such devices built into it in the 20's and 30's. Water to fill the flush tanks came from connections to the city's water mains which constituted a plumbing hazard known as cross-connections. Once it was realized that a hazard to the public water supply existed, the water and the sewer system maintenance people disconnected the tanks. The last ones were removed or disconnected in the 1960's.

The TOPEKA DAILY CAPITAL, 8/27/40 reported the Topeka storm sewers were severely tested by a sudden cloudburst the evening of August 26., the "hardest rain seen in Topeka in 10 years". The pumps hurled 55,000 gallons a minute out of North Topeka into Soldier Creek. The new city pumping station on N. Topeka Blvd. handled 23,000 gallons per minute from 16 blocks of new storm sewers and the Kious St. plant-22,000 gal/min. The Fairchild Station with a capacity of 25,000 gals/min was on standby. The Fairchild station was maintained primarily as a guard against a flood on the Kansas River. It was not needed this time.

Street Commissioner Lawson said that the new sewer at 10th and Chandler worked perfectly and the new sewer near completion at 17th and the Santa Fe underpass, drained that area well. The sewer at 2nd and Polk, installed in 1930, got its first real test and proved adequate.

The Ash Street pumping station, built in 1928, pumped storm water flows and sewage and packing house wastes. This pumping plant was the largest in the city in 1946. The Crane Street and River Road interceptor sewer discharged into it. The sanitary sewage was pumped from it into a large force main and discharged into the East Topeka Sewage Treatment Plant (Oakland), a distance of over a mile. Storm water flows were pumped into the River along with domestic and industrial waste during high water periods. The Ash Street station was designed by W.E. Baldry, Topeka City Engineer.

The State Board of Health again ordered the city to further reduce the sewage waste going into the river in early 1936. The Charles A.Haskins Engineering Co. was called in again to design a treatment plant which would meet the State Board of Health's requirements. T.R. Haseltine was placed in charge of the design work and later was resident engineer on the project. The additions to the East Topeka Plant were built by the Geo. Senne Contractors of Topeka.

The expanded plant was completed in 1937 at cost of approximately $335,000. Funding was primarily supplied from Federal work emergency funds (WEF). The resulting plant was one of three plants in the US of this particular design. The other plants were located at Cedar Rapids, Iowa and Springfield, Illinois. It would be the first sewage treatment plant in the state to utilize methane gas from the digestors for fueling the large engines driving the pumping and aerating equipment.
(Source-TJ,3/20/37)

The original settling tanks plus the new technology employed, known as the Activated Sludge Process, was potentially capable of removing up to 95% of the organic material, as measured by the five day Biochemical Oxygen Demand (B.O.D.), from the sanitary sewage. (At the time the investigation was conducted by B&V in 1946, the plant was removing about 75% of the B.O.D).

River pollution still prevailed in 1938. Only about 65 % of the city' population was served by a sewer system connected to the waste treatment plants. The rest were still discharging wastes through combined storm water sewers which emptied directly into the river or into creeks which emptied into the river. According to W.E. Baldry, City Engineer, it would cost at least $100,000, (which the city was in no position to fund) to connect the rest of the city's residences to the East Topeka treatment plant. Mr. Baldry, stated that connecting the rest of the residents would not overload the treatment plant, but he was very concerned about the cost of the plant operation which had been budgeted at $20,000 and had already been exceeded by more than $8,000 in 1937.
(Source-Topeka Capital-Journal, 1/9/38)

The average daily flow of industrial and domestic sewage from all sources in the city was 8.85 million gallons in 1946. The population of Topeka connected to the sewers was estimated to be 75,000 people (about 85% of the city's population) at that time. The industrial waste produced during that period was equivalent to that of another 79,000 people. Approximately 90% of the dry weather sewage reached the sewage treatment facilities by 1946. The remaining 10% was discharged to the river untreated. During periods of wet weather, the percent of domestic and industrial waste reaching the treatment plant was probably less than 50%.

Several of the larger industries producing waste have already been mentioned. B&V investigated 13 plants during their 1946 study including: the Beatrice Creamery Co. at 2nd and Polk; The Jensen's Creamery at 2nd and Topeka; The purity Ice Cream Co. at 2416 W. 6th; The Topeka Pure Milk Co. at 400 Jackson; The Barrett's Poultry Place, 2054 Fillmore; The Premium Poultry Products Co. at 216 N. Kansas; Seymour Packing Co., 200 N. Kansas; Hill Packing Co., Crane St.; John Morrell & Co., Crane St. between Madison and Jefferson Sts.; Santa Fe R.R. shops, 2nd St. between Adams and Chandler; North Topeka Dairy, 1400 N. Kansas; Shawnee County Creamery 1200 N. Kansas; and The Topeka Packing Co. 844 N. Madison. All of these plants processed food except the R.R. shops. Together, they produced about the same quantity of waste (pounds of BOD) as the rest of the city.

Personal interviews with John Glidewell Jr., Slyvan Coles and Ray Stillwell, revealed that prior to the construction of the Crane Street interceptor, wastes from Hills and Morrells Packing plants carried so much grease and offal that several people in the city made a good living by skimming the grease from the surface of the river water and selling it back to the packing companies' for rendering purposes. Log booms were placed in the river behind which the floating material collected. The same sources indicated that after the interceptor was built most of the same material came into the East Topeka waste treatment plant causing problems with the treatment processes. This continued into the 50's.

B & V noted that in 1946, Shawnee Co. and the City of Topeka had a comprehensive list of public works projects but only 4 small projects involving sewers and waste disposal were included, and that no consideration had been given to the future sewerage problems. The B&V report also noted that Topeka was experiencing "fringe growth" and recommended that as the water supply and distribution system was expanded, the waste collection and treatment system should also be expanded. Potwin and Highland Park were cited as examples of areas which should be connected to the city and Highland Park should be annexed. The B&V report also projected that the city would grow rapidly to the southwest, both inside and outside the city limits.

Highland Park, an unincorporated area in 1946 of about 1000 acres west of Deer Creek, with a population of 4800 people had all city conveniences except sewers. Each house reportedly had an individual septic tank or privy. The area electorate failed to support a bond issue for a sewer system that would have discharged into a dry water course at 15th and Lafayette which ran through a part of Topeka, ending up in Shunganunga Creek. This was not a satisfactory solution. In retrospect, the failure of proposition was best for the community. The issue would resurface in a few years and sewers would be built in the area with a connection to the Chandler street system and the waste treated in the East Topeka Waste treatment plant. (Highland Park was annexed in 1965.)

The State of Kansas Board of Health's Stream Sanitation Policy, dated May 5, 1950, stated "The following policy in enforcing pollution abatement measures will be followed:-- Cities and industries now providing inadequate treatment shall submit an engineering report to the Board showing proposed improvements by January 1, 1952, and all work shall be under contract by January 1, 1955. Pollution hazards in some areas will require that this schedule be advanced. These cities shall also eliminate any combined sewers which are now in existence. In enforcing this policy, no sewerage permit will be granted to cities not maintaining a program in accordance with the above schedule".

Topeka was one of the cities in Kansas which the Board instructed to separate the storm and sanitary sewers and to increase the efficiency of the sewage treatment processes.

Topeka Street Commissioner, C. Madison Williams introduced a resolution which would permit the City to borrow $50,000 to $70,000 from the federal government to fund an extensive survey of the sewer system. This would be a "no interest" loan and would not require repayment until a portion of the resulting work plan was under contract, according to Williams. He said that " In view of the great demand for housing in Topeka as a result of the Air Force Base, with its increased personnel and the general trend toward increasing the city boundaries to include large areas out side the city it has become increasingly necessary and apparent in my opinion that a scientific master plan covering the sewerage system be provided". He continued, "for years our sewerage system has been designed and built piece meal with results that are far from satisfactory as to service and with greatly added costs to the taxpayer". He pointed out that there were many absurdities in the system, such as a 60 inch storm sewer line discharging into a 24 inch sanitary sewer. Williams was obviously worried about the city's seemingly lack of interest in the sewage collection and storm water drainage systems. The loan was acquired from the Housing and Home Finance Agency in December, 1951.
(Source-Topeka State Journal 5/1/51)

The city hired the Engineering firm of Black & Veatch to update their 1946 report. The updated report was completed in August, 1952 at a cost of $12,000.

Topeka had no master plan until 1952 for handling storm and sanitary wastes, even though several competent engineering consultants had advised the adoption of one years before. A comment " the Topeka sewerage system has, like Topsy, just grown ", was included in one of the reports. A common theme of these reports was the necessity for building an interceptor along the south bank of the Kansas River and to separate the storm and sanitary sewers including the exclusion of roof drains from the sanitary sewers.(A city ordinance passed in 1933 forbid any newly constructed house or commercial building roof drainage from entering the sanitary sewers. An ordinance was also adopted at that time requiring an efficient storm drainage system be constructed as a part of any new street paving project and the cost included therein). Basement drains would have been recommended for removal from the sanitary sewer system in 1952. However, regulations of the Federal Housing Administration required builders to provide such drains and that they be hooked to the household sewers or drain to the surface as a prerequisite for the approval of an FHA loan.

The July 13, 1951 flood on the Kansas River left Topeka devastated, particularly north of the river. The North Topeka waste treatment facilities were inundated and the caretaker's home was completely destroyed. Raw sewage from all parts of the city once again had to be discharged directly to the river. Four months passed before the silt and mud could be removed and service restored at the N. Topeka plant. The East Topeka plant (Oakland) was partially flooded, but became operational again shortly after the river receded.

Silt filled many of the sewers in N. Topeka and a few areas south of the river. Several local contractors were hired on an emergency basis to clean out the sanitary sewers so they would function again. The storm sewers were in better condition than the sanitary sewers. Generally storm sewers were larger and self flushing. The pumping stations had been inundated and had to be cleaned out; motors and pumps were rebuilt, dried out or replaced. This was a part of a general cleanup necessary before Topekans should settle in their homes again and get back to near-normal lives.

The flood of 1951, together with State and National emphasis on reducing water pollution, forced a period of building new and rehabilitating many storm and sanitary sewers in Topeka. The 1952 B & V report recommended a plan to meet the State standards for a sanitary waste collection system separate from the storm sewers costing $3,750,000. This cost included the relocation of storm sewers where necessary. (maps and individual cost estimates included)

In October, 1951, Servis and Van Doren, Consulting Engineers of Topeka provided a preliminary report on recommendations for improving the East Sewage Treatment plant. The plan included an expansion program to meet pollution abatement goals until 1975, but did not include cost estimates. In 1954, Servis and Van Doren updated the 1951 report and included an estimated cost of $746,500. (preliminary drawings and analytical data included).

In 1951, W. Kenneth Wilke was Mayor of Topeka; Harry C. Snyder, Park Commissioner; Lloyd B. Smith, Water Commissioner; J. Glenn Davis, Finance Commissioner; C. Madison Williams, Street Commissioner; W.E. Briscoe, City Engineer; and D.B. Kissinger, Plant Superintendent. In 1954, George G. Schnellbacher had succeeded Kenneth Wilke as Mayor, and Wm. Yerkes succeeded Harry Snyder as Park Commissioner; the others remained the same.

Late in 1951, the city arranged to buy 11 acres of land adjacent to the East Topeka sewage treatment plant to provide room for plant expansion.

The East Side plant was expanded in 1952-53 to include a new digestor gas fueled 565 horsepower internal combustion engine, a new clarifier, and additional sludge storage lagoons. The sludge digestion system was modified in accordance with plans proposed by Servis and Van Doren in 1951. The construction of these facilities cost $101,057.00.

In addition to the completion of the most urgent expansion needs at the East Topeka plant (Oakland), the City Commission instructed Fred Carman, City Attorney, to start proceedings to condemn 24 acres of land south and west of the existing plant. The land was needed to expand the plant and to stabilize the Kansas River bank to protect the installation from future floods on the Kansas River.
(Source-TOPEKA DAILY CAPITAL 10/3/53)

In 1955, the plant was again modified. Four new primary clarifiers replaced two clarifiers constructed in 1928-29. New headworks, pre-aeration, a sludge pump house and another final clarifier were added and the sludge digestion system renovated. The cost of these new additions and replacements was $612,575.00.
(Source-Historical Report on the Oakland Treatment Plant, 1973)

Topeka, in 1955, was the only city on the Kansas River to have a modern sewage treatment plant. The renovated plant had the capacity to handle 10 million gallons of sewage daily and a maximum capacity of 30 million through the primary or sedimentation stage and 16 mgd through the activated sludge (secondary) portion of the plant for short periods of time. A force main sewer pipeline was installed across the river in 1962 and the sanitary sewage from N. TOPEKA was pumped from the Kious St. pumping station to the East Topeka plant and treated. The old Imhoff Tank in N. Topeka was abandoned and later razed.

Chapter II
1954-1962

The cost of the needed operation and improvements by 1950, began to exceed the income provided by 1.0 mill property tax levy. This levy had been used to pay for the salaries, maintenance and treatment plant improvements, with benefit districts and frontage assessments funds generally used to pay for new storm and sanitary sewer construction costs.

On July 4, 1954 the City Commissioners adopted Ordinance # 8546 to provide for the collection of sewer service charges to supplement a reduced half mill general tax levy. The rate schedule was developed under authority of Chapter 12, Sec. 631 of the General Statutes of Kansas and subsequent amendments. ( A bill was placed before the 1953 legislature to permit first and second class cities and certain townships to assess sewer users a charge for the use of the public sewers and treatment plants, the charge to be based on the volume and kind of waste discharged. Similar bills failed in the 1945, 1947, 1949, and 1951 sessions but passed in the 1953 session. This bill created a municipal utility similar to that of water departments ). The rate schedule ordinance assessed a 60 cent monthly charge for single family residences; 60 cents plus 4 cents per hundred cubic feet of all water used in excess of 600 cubic feet per month by multiple family dwellings, commercial and industrial users. It further provided a schedule of rates for those establishments which contributed abnormally strong sewage to the system. Sewer services charges were billed and collected by the Water Department for a charge of 5 cents per bill.
(Source- S,VD & H, 1962 Report).

The Commissioners action did not go unchallenged. Opponents said that it was just another tax to provide a fresh bundle of money for the politicians to spend. There was an attempt made by opponents to require a vote of the electorate before any action on the adoption of a rate schedule ordinance could be taken. Lloyd Smith, Water Commissioner, was a strong advocate of service charges for sanitary sewer use. He and Williams prevailed and no opposition surfaced among the Commissioners.

The 1954 rate structure was continually modified over the next few years and it apparently was a bureaucratic nightmare to administer. There were innumerable kinds of households, multiple family dwellings, motels, hotels, restaurants, commercial establishment and industrial establishments, etc. Some had garbage grinders and some did not. Those who did were granted an exemption from paying the garbage pickup fee. It was virtually impossible, at that time, to properly assess the content of industrial waste to establish a fair monthly charge. The new rates brought in revenue $150,000 to $200,000 a year but by 1961 the maintenance and operating expenses of the treatment and collection facilities again exceeded the revenue.

Salaries, operation and maintenance costs of the waste treatment plant were $36,129 in 1954; $132,692 in 1955; $162,714 in 1956; $194,413 in 1959; $190,294 in 1960; and $254,412 in 1961. Salaries, operation and maintenance of the sewage collection system and storm water drains for the same periods were $99,400; $38,923; $38,100; $56,880; and $51,348 in 1960. Costs were not separated in 1961 so the $254,412 represents the treatment plant, the sewage collection system and storm water drainage systems costs.

The budget increased considerably once an additional source of revenue became available. Prior to 1955, personnel had been underpaid and the organization grossly understaffed. By 1961 the staff of waste collection and disposal department had been increased and training upgraded sufficiently to meet most needs except for a special crew to remove grease from the interior of the sewers.

City Engineer Abram Pratt stated that Servis, Van Doren and Hazard, Consulting Engineers had been hired to prepare plans and specifications for the construction of the South Kansas River interceptor sewer. Pratt said that as soon as the interceptor was built, probably sometime in 1957, there would be no more raw sewage going into the Kansas River. He also reported that contracts totaling $382,000, had been let to build the first leg of the Shunganunga interceptor along the north bank of Shunganunga Creek from just west of Gage Ave. to the 22nd and Central Park pumping station.
(Source-Topeka State Journal 8/16/55)

The second leg of the Shunga interceptor from 22nd and Central Park to River Road was completed in 1956 at a cost of $1,250,000. Improvements completed at the East Topeka plant in 1955 enabled it to treat the increased flow of sewage from southwest Topeka and from the area to be served by the south Kansas River interceptor.

However, the city continued to grow and stiffer state and federal stream pollution control requirements had to be met. Approximately 10 miles of sanitary sewers were being added each year and the volume of waste was increasing at a rate of about 1 million gallons per day per year. The storm sewers had to be extended as well, adding significantly to the number of catch basins to be cleaned and maintained. The increasing age and the overloading of portions of the system also led to the increase in the number of sewer failures, both storm and sanitary, necessitating frequent and costly repairs, replacement or additional sewers to carry the increased flow. The gains made in revenue and staffing after 1955 were being rapidly eroded by the increasing demands.

Chapter III
1962-1970

The Topeka Engineering Consultants of Servis, Van Doren and Hazard were commissioned in early 1962 to study the 1954 rate structure to determine how to finance further improvements needed in the East Topeka (Oakland) treatment plant. New improvements and additions were estimated to cost $1,000,000. There were still $504,000 worth of revenue bonds outstanding from improvements undertaken at the plant in 1954.

S,VD&H recommended that single family residences be charged 80 cents per month. Multiple family residences, including apartments, hotels, rooming house, motels, trailer courts, fraternity and sorority houses, business buildings and all other sewer services involving a single family residence or a special service would have a minimum charge of 80 cents per month for 600 cubic feet of water used or less per month plus a charge of 9 cents per hundred cubic feet of water over and above the 600 cf of water usage. Producers of high organic waste would be charged according to the strength (BOD) of the waste, beginning with the basic 80 cents per month for 600 cubic feet of water used with a BOD of 400 ppm or less and an increasing surcharge of 12 cents per month for waste ranging between 400 ppm and 800 ppm. Thereafter the charge would increase 2 cents for each 400 ppm incremental increase in BOD. (800-1,200- 14 cents etc.) Household garbage grinders would be charged an extra 40 cents a month.

The rate schedule was projected to cover a period of 20 years. The proposed rate structure was adopted in 1962, but it did not produce enough revenue and had to be increased again and again. By 1968, the basic charge for single family residences had risen to $2.00 per month for the first 600 cubic feet of water used with incremental increases for more water consumption and/ or higher organic content. In 1966, sewer service charges raised $558,454, and by 1970 income from this source exceeded $1,000,000. But expenditures were still outdistancing revenues and in 1970, exceeded income by $457,000 annually.

There were eleven people working three shifts daily operating the East Sewage Treatment plant. Sewage treatment had become a engineering and biological science in the 1950's and as a science it required more and more professionally trained individuals (engineers, chemists, microbiologists, etc.) to successfully manage the waste treatment facility. Two trained operators were required on each shift. The relief operators were doing maintenance work when not on operator duty. All belonged to the Kansas Water Pollution Control Association and eight were certified competent operators in their respective classes by the association. There were two grade A operators, two grade B, and five grade C. The staff also included four maintenance men and one chemist. The chemist held one of the two grade A certificates.

Charles W. Wright was Street Commissioner; Abram Pratt was City Engineer; John Glidewell Sr., Plant Superintendent; Arthur Stovall, Chief Operator; William Parr, Maintenance Foreman; John Glidewell Jr., Chemist; Addison Nedeau, Sewer Foreman; James Simons, Sewer Construction Foreman; and Clark Arbogast, Garage Mechanic in 1962.
(Source-S,VD,& H Report and Sewage Treatment Plant Operations Report, 1962)

Personnel remained much the same through 1964. A Sanitary Engineering position was added in 1962 and filled by Bernard Williams. In 1965, an organizational change was made; Chas. Wright became Mayor; Abram Cox became Street Commissioner and Philip W. Slagel became Superintendent of Sewerage; John Glidewell Sr. became Treatment Plant and Pumping Station Supervisor and John Glidewell Jr. became Plant Chemist and Chief Operator. The rest remained in the same positions. There were a total of 44 employees in the sewer department at the end of 1965, including those who maintained and repaired the storm water drainage system. Personnel salaries totaled $200,800 in 1965.

The city continued its growth. The city covered 16 square miles in 1952; in 1965 it had grown to 40 square miles, an increase of 250% in 14 years! The sanitary sewage collection system had grown to 400 miles of sewers including at least 10,000 manholes and 15 pumping stations. There were approximately 150 miles of storm sewers, 10,000 catch basins and eight storm water pumping stations in the that system. There were 32,381 residential and commercial connections to sewers covering about 78% of the city area. The book value of the collection system at the beginning of 1965 was approximately $12,000,000 and the treatment plant-$1,750,000. Debts of the system included General Obligation bonds of $3,986,000; Revenue Bonds of $1,234,000 and special assessments of $2,099,758.

From 1965 to 1970, the staff increased from 44 to 58 people. The Oakland plant (East Topeka Plant) was again enlarged in 1966 to accommodate the growth in population and industrial establishments. During that 5 year period, the miles of sanitary sewer increased from 400 to 450; the number of pump stations increased from 15 to 19; the area encompassed by the City of Topeka had increased from 40 to 48 square miles and the population from 119,000 to 125,000.

Four new sanitary sewer interceptors were built between 1966 and 1970; along the South Branch of the Shunganunga to serve the area generally south of 37th and Burlingame; along Butcher Creek to serve the area south of 37th and Adams; along Soldier Creek to serve the area north of Jefferson and Old Soldier Creek; and along Furman Road to serve the area north of Silver Lake Road and Furman Road.

In 1970, the North Topeka Sewage Treatment plant was rebuilt at a different location (1600 Button Road) at a cost of $650,000. It had the capacity to treat 1.25 million gallons per day and was of a relatively new design called "Complete Mix Activated Sludge System". There were 175 miles of storm sewers by 1970 with 10,200 catch basins up-from 150 miles and 10,000 respectively in five years. The expansion of the treatment facilities, sanitary sewer interceptors, the operation and maintenance of the system were now all being financed from the revenue produced by sewer service charges. Land developers were now being required to include sanitary and storm drainage systems along with streets, sidewalks and curbs in their housing development plats and to construct them according to city specifications at the developer's expense.

The operators of the Oakland plant maintained a good record in spite of increasing demands placed upon them and the plant to produce an acceptable effluent. The flow of sewage into the plant increased from a daily average of about 11 mgd (million gallons per day) to 13 mgd in four years, (1966-1970) but the BOD reduction through the plant remained at fairly constant level of 87%. The plant effluent averaged about 25 ppm (parts per million) BOD going to the river. (Operating Report Summaries, 1966-1970). The BOD going to the river averaged 16 ppm in 1990 and 1991 while the gallons discharged into the river averaged 18.3 mg/d in 1990 and 16.7 mg/d in 1991. The efficiency of BOD removal had increased to 90% in 1990 and 92% in 1991. (Oakland Wastewater Treatment Plant summary report, 1990-1991) The pounds of organic matter going to the river, however, were increasing in almost direct proportion to the flow of sewage. The challenge becomes one of constantly increasing the efficiency of removal just to maintain a nearly constant organic load to the river. (This is akin to maintaining one's place on a treadmill which is constantly accelerating. It is necessary to run faster and faster just to remain in one spot!)

Chapter IV
1970-1992

This increasing need was reflected in a decision made on January 8, 1971 by the Kansas State Board of Health, to adopt water quality criteria and regulations requiring disinfection, among other things, of sewage treatment plant effluent and to meet the criteria and regulations by December 31st, 1975. Meeting the criteria also necessitate the increase in laboratory facilities to provide the substantiating plant effluent quality data. The tempo of stream pollution control was being stepped up again in the state's and nation's efforts to reduce water pollution.

In July 1976, the reorganized Kansas Department of Health and Environment followed with a policy statement pertaining directly to Topeka and its contiguous areas to wit: "In general, this Department will give priority to the elimination of the existing waste water treatment facilities in the study area through the planned construction of interceptors, pump stations, and interim regional wastewater treatment facilities. The only domestic wastewater treatment facilities considered to be permanent in Topeka and the contiguous area are the Oakland and North Topeka facilities, and a potential site to the east near the confluence of either Stinson or Tecumseh Creek with the Kansas River. Any new temporary treatment facility constructed to serve anticipated development must be designed to facilitate connection to the planned interceptor system in the watershed."
(Source- V-H-S Proposal-Comprehensive wastewater Facility Plan for Topeka and Vicinity.)

There were 34 temporary treatment plants within the contiguous areas toward which the Policy statement was directed plus the two designated permanent plants in 1980. (Some of the "temporaries" had already been in service 30 years by 1992.)

The contiguous area of Topeka continued to expand. Sanitary sewer extensions and connections from these areas to the city system continued throughout the 1970's and 80's. In some instances the acceptance of these additional flows necessitated increasing the capacity of the city's interceptors and treatment works. The following is a listing of the new areas contributing to the City's system:
Deer Creek Interceptor, pumping station and force main and connection to Oakland Park system and thence to the Oakland Wastewater Treatment plant was completed in 1970.

Stinson Creek Main connected into the Deer Creek system in 1971.

Vail Ave Interceptor, Force Main and lift station in North Topeka with connections to the N. Topeka Wastewater Treatment plant completed in 1972.

Butcher Creek interceptor line with connections to the Shunganunga Creek interceptor completed in 1970 and enlarged in 1979.

South Shunganunga Creek area main sewer with connections to the Shunganunga Creek interceptor completed in 1972.

Chlorination facilities were installed at the N. Topeka Wastewater Treatment plant in 1975.

West Shunganunga Creek area sewer(extension of Shunganunga Interceptor from KNI to about 10 blocks west of I-470, the city limits) was completed in 1976.

Wanamaker interceptor sewer, an extension of the South Kansas River interceptor to Huntoon and Wanamaker, was completed in 1978. This replaced three pumping stations and a force main in an older system which conveyed wastewater from the Westridge subdivision, West Hills and the Menninger Foundation to the South Kansas River Interceptor system.

A new 10,000 cubic feet per minute air blower was installed in the Oakland Wastewater Treatment plant in 1977 to increase the air supply needed in the treatment process.
(Source- Topeka and Vicinity Comprehensive Facilities Plan, 1981)
From a historical perspective, the expansion of the wastewater collection and conveyance systems is like watching frost crystals grow on a window pane; they continue as long as there is moisture (need and money) feeding them. (Maps available in the 1981 Wastewater Facilities Plan Document).

One method to effectively utilize facilities and at the same time reducing public health hazards in the Topeka area creeks and streams was to reduce the leakage both into and out of the sewage collection system. Originally all the sewers in the older parts of city (except the Oakland Unit) carried both storm and sanitary wastes. In 1980, most of the trouble was located in six areas. These were identified in the V-H-S report of Feb. of 1980 and separation of sewers, the elimination of overflow of sanitary waste into the streams, or the reduction of groundwater infiltration into the sewers was recommended. Those identified were the Roosevelt-Stormont Vail, Quinton, Downtown, North Topeka, Ripley Park and the Huntoon-Fairgrounds area systems.

In 1980, the interceptors along both the Kansas River and Shunganunga Creek still discharged raw sewage into those streams during period of high sewage flows. There were five bypasses from the sanitary sewer and three combined sewer bypasses into the Shunganunga Creek, and one sanitary sewer bypass and six combined sewer bypasses in the Kansas River. There was also a sanitary sewer bypass in Hillcrest Park into Biddle Creek and two combined sewer bypasses into Martin Creek, one of which actually discharged into a small channel in a park several hundred feet upstream from the Martin Creek channel. (All except the bypass in Hillcrest Park were noted in the 1946 Black and Veatch report).

The V-H-S report contained recommendations that combined sewers be eliminated and the bypasses in the sanitary sewers be corrected by increasing the capacity of the system. Specifically it was proposed (1) that the flow in the Shunganunga interceptor in excess of its carrying capacity originating in the south and west Shunganunga area, be pumped from a point across SW 29th St from the Brookwood shopping area, north to a point where it could be discharged into the Roosevelt St. interceptor; (2) that a new interceptor be constructed in Highland Park to eliminate the bypass in Hillcrest Park; (3) That the 2 bypasses into Martin Creek be eliminated by the construction of a sewer line to increase the capacity sufficiently to carry the wastes; (4) That a storm sewer be constructed in the Quinton Street area to eliminate the excessive flow��s in the sanitary sewer;(5) that storm sewers be constructed in the Fairgrounds-Huntoon area to remove these flows from the sanitary sewers in that area. It was also noted in the report that at times of heavy rain as much as 10,000,000 gallons of raw sewage was probably discharged directly into the creeks and streams of Topeka.

A counter proposal to the construction of a pumping station at 29th and Brookwood was discussed and hearings held. The counter proposal would construct a less costly wastewater treatment plant located on the south edge of the KNI grounds. Residents in the area balked at having a wastewater treatment plant at this location because of probable odors and the discharge of the treated wastewater into Shunganunga Creek. (The surrounding residents didn't completely trust the technology of waste treatment). A wastewater treatment plant at the KNI site would have also challenged the 1976 KDHE policy directive not to build any more.

Permanent wastewater treatment works except as noted in the directive. It would also would have been more expensive and complex to expand an existing waste treatment plant, than to expand a pumping plant's capacity to meet future needs of southwest Topeka.

In mid 1983, building the cross-town wastewater carrying force main and gravity sewer plus the attending pumping stations was begun. The project was completed in 1985.

Cross-town Sewage Pumping Station across from Brookwood Shopping area, 1993

PhotoThe southern end of the line (pumping station) was located about 400 feet north of 29th St. and 100 feet west of the South Branch of Shunga Creek across from the Brookwood shopping area in Big Shunga Park.

It is the red brick building readily seen from 29th street. Six pumps, capable of pumping up to 43 million gallons per day in 6 stages, were installed. The pumps are arranged to discharge into either a 12 inch or 42 inch pressure main or both, depending on the amount of flow coming into the plant. The pressurized lines parallel each other on a northeasterly course across the South Branch of Shunga Creek for a distance of 200 feet. There they turn north across Shunganunga Creek and then proceeds northward about 50 feet east of the east boundary of the KNI property. The lines cross 21st Street at 2727 W. 21st street and run along the east side of Webster to 12th, then jogs over to Collins and then north again on Collins. At the northeast corner of Munson and Collins, the pressure lines end and discharge into an existing 54 inch gravity sewer and a new 36 inch gravity sewer built as a part of the cross-town project. The new sewer follows the west side of Martin Creek through Auburndale under Interstate 70 and ends in a new 21.6 million gallon per day pumping station on the north side of the interstate. From that point, a 36 inch pressure main was laid in a trench across the Kansas River to a 7 million gallon holding tank at the North Topeka Waste Treatment plant site. When the flow coming to the pumping station on the south side of the river exceeds the capacity of the station, the excess wastewater is discharged into a 5 million holding tank on the south side of the river. When the flows recede, the contents of the holding tanks can be released for treatment either to the Oakland plant or the North Topeka plant. At this time, the portion of the cross-town sewer north of the South Kansas River interceptor is active only when flows of wastewater are in excess of the capacity of the south Kansas River interceptor. The North plant must be greatly increased in size before it can accept flows of a magnitude greater than 1.5 million gallons per day.

Sewage pumping and holding Basin at Mcvicar and I-70, 1993

PhotoThe sewage pumped from the Shunga Station is presently being discharged into the South Kansas interceptor and treated in the Oakland Plant.

The limited capacity of the N. TOPEKA plant (1.25 mgd) does not permit its use for the treatment of more waste at this time (1992). It is anticipated that use of the pumping plant and under river crossing will begin as soon as a new 25 mgd plant in built at the N. Topeka site on the north side of the Kansas River (1600 Button Road).

North Topeka Sewage Treatment Plant at 1600 North Button Road

PhotoThe cost of the cross-town system was about $10,500,000 funded by an EPA grant. The cross-town project was designed by the Topeka Engineering Consultants of Van Doren, Hazzard and Stallings and was constructed by several different contractors.

Construction of the Highland Park interceptor(proposal #2) was begun in August, 1983 running north from the intersection of east 21st & Michigan to the vicinity of East 11th and Lawrence. It was constructed by the B.A. Durst Co. of Topeka for about $220,000.

An EPA grant assisted in financing the project which was designed by Taliaferro & Browne of Kansas City Kansas under the administrative supervision of Van Doren-Hazard-Stallings, Engineering consultants.

All proposals outlined in the V-H-S report were built in the 1980's. The availability of federal grants from EPA under the Water Pollution Control Act of 1956 as amended in 1972 and later, enabled these projects to be built at very little cost to Topeka.

The era of the 70's and 80's was a time of great expansion and upgrading for the wastewater system of Topeka. The quality of treatment of the city's wastewater will undoubtedly be addressed in a very significant way during the 1990's. Several parameters of quality of the water returned to the Kansas River are presently better than those in the natural river water.

On the average, 75 to 80 percent of the water pumped into the distribution system by the water department is returned to the river through the waste water collection and treatment system. The difference in quantity between that pumped and returned is lost through: (1) through sales to customers still using septic tanks;(2) yard watering;(3) fire fighting;(4) street cleaning;(5) main breaks;(6) leaks;(7) industrial consumptive uses, etc. In the near future, it may be less costly and more environmental responsible to recycle the treated wastewater through the water treatment plant for reuse than discharge it back into the river, using only enough river water to make up for the losses.

Water Pollution Control has been a municipal utility since 1954 and now administered as a part of the Topeka Department of Public Works (1992). Edie Snethen is Director of Public Works. Steven Sandberg is Superintendent of Water Pollution Control. The Water Pollution Control Department is divided into four sections; plant operations, facilities maintenance, industrial monitoring and administration. Each section has its own chief. WPC has a total of 82 employees and an annual budget of $7,400,000 for fiscal year 1992 and an adopted budget of $8,300,00 in 1993. The increase of the 1993 budget over the 1992 is due to the additional responsibilities the water pollution control program will have with respect to the administration, and monitoring and evaluating the storm drainage system for water pollution contributions. Engineering and construction functions are either carried out by the City Engineer's Office or under contract with outside engineering consultants.

Income for WPC is derived from service charges as it has been since July 4th, 1954. The monthly service charge rate as of Jan. 1, 1991 was $5.16 (minimum) for the first 200 cubic feet of water used and $1.09 for each 100cf over 200 cf of domestic strength wastewater. Any wastewater containing in excess of 300 milligrams per liter of biochemical oxygen demand is subject to an additional charge of $1.02 per 100 cf. This schedule applies to service connections within the City limits. Wastewater originating outside the City limits is subject to a different rate schedule. The minimum charge for the first 400 cf of domestic strength wastewater (less than 300 mg/l BOD) is $12.10 and each 200 cf above the 400 is subject to an additional charge of $1.73 per 100 cf. Industrial or commercial strength wastewater is subject to additional charges depending on it BOD and suspended solid content.

Revenue from service charges for 1991 was $9,000,000. Water Pollution Control has indebtedness of $2.4 million in general obligation bonds and $5.3 million in revenue bonds for a total of $7.7 million. That indebtedness will increase substantially in the next few years when construction of the new N. TOPEKA wastewater treatment plant is begun.

There were 42,000 connections to the Topeka sanitary sewer system and 541 miles of sanitary sewers in place at the end of 1992. The present book value of the sanitary sewer system (treatment, collection, buildings, pump stations, etc.) is $50,000,000.

Maintenance of the storm water drainage system was performed by Water Pollution Control from 1954 until 1980. The cleaning and construction of the catch basins was performed by the Street Department. A new section, the Flood Protection Maintenance Section, was established within the WPC in 1965. Its function was to maintain the levees as they were being constructed. This section was transferred to the City Engineer's Division in 1975 and became responsible for the maintenance of all the open channels, storm water pumping stations and catch basins in the city. Dale Sandberg was named chief of the Section. Although it was a part of the City Engineering Division, the new section received an increased budget, funded separately and directly from city general funds. Three water pollution control employees were assigned to the section and paid from WPC funds until 1980. In 1980, the maintenance of storm sewers was transferred from WPC to the Flood Maintenance Section now renamed the "Drainage Section" in the City Engineer's Division.

The Drainage Section remained within the Engineering Division until 1990 when it became a section under the newly created Topeka Department of Public Works directed by Edie Snethen, former Director of Water Pollution Control. Major projects, such as the Ward-Martin Creek reconstruction, were under the general supervision of the City Engineer's office. During the construction of the Kansas River Dikes, the Corps of Engineers did a special study of the size of the storm water discharge outlets and pumping stations required to prevent water from backing up on the land side of the dikes and provided the needed reconstruction.

The storm sewer system (1992) consists of 211 miles of storm drains (18" to 7'in diameter.), 10,339 catch basins, 3,427 manholes, 1,143 pipe ends(upper end and discharge points), and 11 flood control pumping plants.

The Section works closely with the US Army Corps of Engineers and operates the city's flood gates and administers other flood protection procedures in accordance with instructions from the Corps of Engineers.(see flood water section for details of this operation). The Section is also responsible for enforcing the flood protection ordinances (exclusive of the flood plain insurance program regulations).

Open channel and dikes maintenance including the Kansas River dikes is performed by the Section using private contractors as needed. Such work usually consists of brush and tree removal and debris clean-ups and other channel repairs. The Ward-Martin Drainage District is the only district in Topeka formed for the purpose of financing the construction of the improvements and maintenance of a drainage way consisting of both covered and open channels.

In 1992, the Section had 8 full time employees and 4 seasonal (6 months) employees and a budget of approximately $675,000. The appropriation needed is made from the City's General Fund. (Organizational charts and system maps are available through the City Engineers office.)

The Shunganunga Creek Drainage District and the North Topeka Drainage Districts were formed to provide for the construction, maintenance and management of flood control and protection projects and are not a part of the Topeka system. Both the latter districts do however coordinate their activities with Topeka and Shawnee County engineering and drainage people.
(Source of Information- Interview with Dale Sandberg, Chief, Flood Control Maintenance Section).

The administration of the storm sewer system has again undergone a review by the Topeka City Council. The engineering firm of Camp, Dresser and McKee proposed that a municipal utility be created to operate the storm water drainage system, financed by fees collected through the billing procedures of the Water Department. The amount of the monthly bill would be based on the size of the nonporous area (roofs, parking, etc.) held by the payees. These recommendations were proposed as a result of the need to increase surveillance and control of the water polluting potential of storm drainage as mandated by federal legislation. These mandates substantially increase the cost of the management and administration of the storm water drainage system. The water quality sampling of the storm water and drainage through the storm sewer system discharge points was initiated in 1992.
(Source-Topeka Capital-Journal-5/20/92)

The Topeka City Council adopted the municipal utility proposal and it will go into effect on January 1st, 1993. The monthly fee will be based on an "equivalent residential" unit of 2,018 square feet which is the average nonporous area of a residential property in Topeka. The monthly fee has been set at $2.85 per equivalent residential unit.

Kansas River Floods and Impacts
Topeka's early history, like the first book of the Bible, relates the story of a mammoth flood, the flood of 1844 on the Kansas River. There have been at least 30 other floods that resulted in damage to the Kansas River valley---some great and some minor, but none that rivaled the one of June, 1844. The records of that flood are vague, but flotsam left at high water marks indicate it was at least five feet higher than the next largest occurring in July of 1951. (US Army Corps of Engineers River State Data 2/20/76). The elevation of the 1844 flood reached 893.86 feet msl, or 42.2 feet above the zero on the Topeka Kansas River gauge used in 1976. A better perspective os this height might be gained by visualizing flood water to within three feet of top of both sides of the fill forming Interstate 70 as it parallels the Kansas River from the First street exit to McVicar.

Major floods also probably occurred in 1785, 1828, and recorded floods in 1858, 1867, 1881, and 1895.

According to Kansas historians, the Kansas River changed its course during the 1844 flood. As shown on the 1856 government survey maps, the river's new banks were about 500 feet south of their pre- 1844 flood position. LeRoy Ott, a farmer living north of Grantville, reported after the 1903 flood, that he at last understood why and how several logs on his farm at the edge of the valley found their way to that particular spot. They were stranded there in the 1844 flood. Mr. Ott estimated that the logs rested about 4 feet above the high water marks of the 1903 flood.
(Shawnee Co. Historical Society. Bulletin # 45).

Area settlers commissioned the construction of a wooden bridge across the Kansas River in 1857 near the site of present (1992) Kansas Ave. bridge. The original bridge was 925 feet long and 16 feet wide. US Army troops from Ft. Leavenworth waited several weeks on the north bank until construction was completed on May 8th, 1858 before crossing.(A drawing of this bridge, is on page 45 of Giles book). It lasted just 70 days! Another flood on the 17th of July, 1858 swept it away. No attempt was made to build another immediately. In 1865, a pontoon bridge was built at that site, but life for it was also short. It was carried away by another flood (or ice) on February 12, 1867. The first iron (Bowstring) bridge across the Kaw at Topeka was commissioned as a toll bridge. Construction begin on it in 1869 and it was opened for service in 1870.

The 1903 flood, which occurred between May 30 and June 4th, was very destructive and costly for the City of Topeka. Thirty four lives were lost and 8000 people or about 20 percent of the City's population was driven from their homes, 4000 of whom lost their homes completely. The lives lost were either the elderly or youngsters who were unable to summon help or help themselves. There were no undamaged business left in N.Topeka, most were completely gone. Water was reported to have been over 20 feet deep in some parts of N. Topeka.

Headlines of the Topeka Daily Capital (TOPEKA DAILY CAPITAL) 5/29/03 read " HEAVY RAINS PUT KANSAS IN A BAD FIX". A great storm had centered over the five state area of Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri and dumped from six to ten inches of rainfall in 24 hours over much of the area. The western edge of the storm was over western Kansas where Leoti received two inches of rainfall in a few hours. Numerous tornadoes were reported, some of them very damaging. Lives were lost to tornadoes as well as flood waters. Almost every stream in the five states was in flood stage by May 30. In Kansas, the Arkansas and its tributaries, the Smoky Hill, Saline, Solomon, Republican, Blue, Kansas and its minor tributaries, Delaware, Wakarusa, Marais des Cynes, and the Neosho and its tributaries were all in record flood stages. Kansas cities, including Wichita, Hutchinson, Salina, Abilene, Lawrence, Manhattan, Kansas City and Topeka were heavily damaged by flood waters.

Looking South across Kansas River, 1903 flood

PhotoHutchinson and Salina were reported to have been completely submerged. Many smaller cities such as Wamego, Lyons, Osborne, and Council Grove sustained severe damage.

Similar damage was reported in the other four states.

The river crested at 33.5 feet (1976 gauge) on May 30, 1903 which was about 8.7 feet below the 1844 flood and 2.3 feet below the 1951 flood crests. Although the crest had flattened out somewhat by the time it reached Topeka, it still was a great flood.

Railroad tracks and bridges were washed out over wide areas so that there was little movement in or out of the five states. The telegraph system suffered widely. The storm effectively isolated the region for five days with neither transportation or communication systems operating. The situation was worse in many small towns and cities where water systems were flooded and drinking water had to be boiled. Fires were rampant. Livestock were drowned in great numbers. An editorial in the St. John's Weekly June 5, 1903 stated that " the great floods of the past week will receive a prominent place in Kansas history as one of terror and destruction of life and property, and by far the worst known in the Central and Western States".

The TOPEKA DAILY CAPITAL (5/30/1903) reported that Jesse Shaw, Superintendent of the Topeka Water Company, called the TOPEKA DAILY CAPITAL at 4:00 AM the 30th to report that water was beginning to flood the boiler room of the pumping plant and it would be necessary to shut down pumps in about an hour. The City's water wells and water pumping plant were completely inundated shortly afterward. As soon as a connection could be made, water was pumped into the city system from the Santa Fe wells, steam being supplied for the pumps from two locomotives. No help was available for N.Topeka where as many as 80 fires were burning at the same time.

The Brickyard Road bridge was washed out and two spans sank next to the City water plant. An island in the river was formed by debris collected in the sunken spans. When the river receded, the water ran around the north end of the island and a diversionary ditch had to be dug before water could be channeled to the pumping plant intakes. The water wells and pumping plant were extensively damaged.

The Melan bridge approaches were washed out and the bridge itself was heavily damaged when water and debris piled up against it.

Wreckage near Melan Bridge following 1903 flood

PhotoFollowing the flood, temporary pontoon bridges were installed to reach the center spans. It was the only remaining road link between north and south Topeka. This shaky linkage was used almost a year before the approaches were rebuilt and repairs to the center spans made. The railroad bridges also suffered great damage and eventually had to be replaced.

It was reported that one locomotive was lost in the river and that two locomotive were positioned on the Rock Island bridge to hold it in place. Miles of track and many small bridges were lost and railroad traffic was completely shut down for several days.

The storm water drainage system in N.Topeka was completely clogged with mud, so even after the river receded, water was still ponded and could not be immediately drained. The river had scoured some of its older channels and left them filled with water.

What is left of a North Topeka home after the 1903 flood

PhotoTo give an added perspective of the situation during the peak of the flood, it was reported that the junction of Soldier Creek and the Kansas River was three miles west of N.Topeka.

The estimated damage to N.Topeka property was $5,000,000 in 1903 dollars (later reduced to $2,600,000 in C of E computations or about $85,000,000 in 1992 dollars) and 34 lives were lost in this flood whereas none were lost in 1951.

Debris in Garfield Park, N. Topeka, after the 1903 Flood

PhotoThere were no man-made flood protection measures in place in 1903, but a natural berm had partially protected North Topeka from smaller floods. It began near the Brickyard Bridge on the west and continued downriver to a point on old Soldier Creek near the Curtis cemetery.

The berm was described as varying in height above low water, but averaging about twenty feet. Such berm are formed along most rivers and are the results of sediment deposits along the banks when minor floods occur. It failed to provide any protection from the 1903 flood. Immediately after the 1903 flood, the Weather Bureau sought and received an appropriation to extend its flood warning system into the Kansas River watershed. (The Bureau already had warning systems in the Mississippi and Ohio River Valleys).

Corner of Crane and Kansas, looking south, after the 1904 flood

PhotoSeven gauging stations were established in the Kansas River basin; at Manhattan and Blue Rapids on the Blue River; at Clay Center and Concordia on the Republican River; at Beloit on the Solomon; and at Abilene and Lindsborg on the Smokey Hill.

Observers were employed at each of the cities to read the gauges and to telegraph the readings to the Weather Bureau office in Topeka. With this system, the Bureau could warn residents in flood prone areas 24 to 36 hours ahead of an expected dangerous rise in the river. The system worked well in 1908 and enabled an orderly evacuation of N. Topeka residents who had been so devastated in 1903. No lives were reported lost in the 1908 flood. Between 1903 and 1908, there were minor floods in 1904 and 1907.

Chapter II
1904-1935

The 1903 devastation and a minor flood in 1904 prompted Topeka area residents to begin thinking seriously about the construction of local flood protective works in the form of levees. The Kaw River Drainage District, the N.Topeka Drainage District and the Shunganunga Drainage District No. 1 were chartered in 1906 by the Shawnee County Board of Commissioners under the authority of the State Drainage Law enacted in 1905. (KSA 24, Art. 4). The East Side Shunganunga Drainage District was chartered in 1911.
(Source- Special Water Districts in Kansas- Kans. Water Resources Board, September 1967).

The N.Topeka Drainage District petition, (Information source- Minutes and other records of the N.Topeka Drainage District) signed by more than 40% of the resident taxpayers within the proposed district was submitted to the County Commissioners on May 18, 1906. The Commissioners responded immediately by ordering a hearing to be held on May 28, 1906 on the establishment of the district. Then on June 1, 1906 the Commissioners ordered that the territories within the boundaries described in the petition except that portion embraced in the district known as the Kaw River Drainage District, be created and incorporated as the N. Topeka Drainage District. The newly created district was bounded on the north side of the river roughly from the center line of section 14, Township 11, Range 15 East northwest to the bluff west of Soldier Creek, east along the bluff line to the west line of Reserve 5, Kaw Half Breed Lands, south to the Kansas River and then followed the meandering of the Kansas River to the beginning point. The enclosed area contained about 27.5 square miles.

The Chairman of the Board of Commissioners dissented from the exception made to the petition by the other two members of the County Commission. The Commission majority held that since the Kaw Drainage District had already been incorporated, they didn't think it was a good idea to open that issue again. The boundaries of the District would be changed several times over the following years, the last time on Febr.2, 1952 when it was extended both east and west and to include the Kansas River.

The first election of the Board of Directors of the N.Topeka Drainage District was held July 14, 1906. Elected were Thomas Page, T.M. James, J.H.Skinner, T.E. Cooper and R.M. Forbes for two year terms. The records of the first Board of Directors meetings have been lost, but it is known that John P. Rogers, Topeka City and Shawnee Co. Engineer and Land Surveyor was hired to compile detailed maps and engineering data. The press of his other duties necessitated that he relinquish his position with the District after a few months. The Board hired V.R. Parkhurst, Civil Engineer, to replace Rogers.

The electorate of the district was evidently unhappy with the first Board because a completely different slate of candidates was elected in March of 1908. J.B. Billard was named Chairman, S.R. Kutz, Secretary and J.N. Stewart, Treasurer. The other members of the second Board were George Young and Charles Stover. This Board immediately rehired V.R. Parkhurst, a Wisconsin University Civil Engineering graduate originally hired in December 1906 by the first Board, and I. J. Ketchum, an experienced right-of-way expert, to get a plan of protective works together. An office was established at 801 N. Kansas Ave as the headquarters for the District's operations.

A large flood occurred again on June 9, 1908 when the river reached a height of 28 feet shortly after 3:00 AM on the 9th. Water covered North Topeka up to 3 feet deep in the business section. Railroad tracks were under water. A Santa Fe passenger train enroute to Emporia was reported to have ploughed through 3 feet of water as it crossed the Kaw River Bridge. Other rail lines stopped all traffic until the flood subsided. The Topeka Capital-Journal (6/9/08) reported that the water was 3 feet nine inches lower than the 1903 high water mark on a telegraph pole at the Taylor Milling Company. No bridges were lost during this flood but approaches were damaged. The Sardou bridge suffered the most damage at its west approach.(Topeka Capital-Journal-6/10/1908). The Topeka Capital-Journal records some of the harried moments of the 1908 flood. A Mr. Sells was caught in rising waters of the Kaw when he tried to get to his boat tied to a tree just above the Sardou Bridge. He managed to hang onto a large willow tree and yell for help. Freeman Sardou, who figured prominently in several rescues in the 1903 flood heard him from across the River. Sardou got his row boat and started across the river. The current was so strong, it took him nearly an hour to cross, but finally got Sells safely out of the tree. He reported afterward that the current was much stronger in the 1908 flood than in 1903.

North Topeka, looking south on Kansas Ave., 1908 flood

PhotoThe flood was the result of a 7 to 8 inch rainfall in one week over North Central Kansas according to the Weather Bureau.

Concordia and Cloud County were hardest hit...

The Republican River was very high at both Junction City and Clay Center.
Source: (Topeka Capital-Journal- 6/1/08)

Melan Bridge (Kansas Ave) June, 1908 flood

PhotoAfter (Topeka Capital-Journal-6/10/08) he surveyed the damage to the Topeka area on June 10th, 1908, US. Senator Charles Curtis ( later Vice President) pledged that a program to build very large reservoirs to contain Kansas River floods would be started as soon as he returned to Washington.

He said he was sure no local protection works could be depended upon to stop large floods.

Even before the flood waters receded, politicians were busy blaming one another for the flood damage in Topeka. Topeka Capital-Journal-6/9/08 headlines read "Councilman blames County Commissioners" for not building levees to the west, extending those built by the city in 1904 on the north bank of the Kaw. The Commissioners countered by saying the State legislature gave this responsibility to Drainage Boards by the Drainage District Act of 1905.

On October 6, 1908 the North Topeka Drainage District Board adopted a resolution which set the location and specifications of dikes to be built along the Kansas River and Soldier Creek. To wit:" Resolved, by the drainage Board that dykes be located and crowns and slopes be designated as follows: From the Santa Fe Bridge on the North Bank of the Kaw River to the North approach of the Melan Bridge, crown to be 24 feet, slopes to be 2 1/2 to 1 on the outside, and 1 1/2 to 1 on the inside. From the Melan Bridge on the north bank of the Kaw River to the Rock Island Bridge, crown to be 20 feet, slopes to be 2 1/2 to 1 on the outside and 1 1/2 to 1 on the inside. From the North approach of the Rock Island Bridge west along the Union Pacific right of way to the Norris Tract; crown to be 30 feet, slopes to be 2 1/2 to 1 on the outside and 1 1/2 to 1 on the inside; from the North end of the Santa Fe Bridge on the Kaw River to Three Bridges on Soldier Creek in a crescent form and to include the plat of Little Russia with the crown to be 16 feet, slope 2 1/2 to 1 on outside and 1 1/2 to 1 on the inside. From the Three Bridges on Soldier Creek westerly through Garfield park to the high ground, crown to be 24 feet, slopes to be 2 1/2 to 1 on the outside and 1 1/2 to 1 on the inside. From the high ground in Holman's Addition on Soldier Creek Northwesterly to the Curtis Cemetery on the west bank of Soldier Creek; crown to be 30 feet, and slopes to be 2 1/2 to 1 on the outside and 1 1/2 to one on the inside."

On October 27th, the Drainage Board received the Engineer's preliminary report relative to the location of needed right of way and approximate costs of the improvements. They also appointed R.B McMasters, E.S. McClintock, and Claude Maze as a Board of Appraisers to appraise all real property benefited by the proposed improvements as shown in the Engineer's report.

On Nov. 2, 1908 the Board received the final engineering report in which the locations of the dikes were shown and an estimated cost of construction. On the same day, the Secretary of the Board was instructed to advertise for sealed bids for the construction work. The successful bidder, C.L. Dolman, came in with a price of slightly less than $80,000.

The N.Topeka Drainage District Board adopted another resolution on January 4, 1909 which authorized and directed the issuance of $80,000 of improvements bonds at 5% interest to mature February 1, 1919 for the purpose of financing the construction. N.B. Arnold was the Attorney for the Board from 1906 to 1914.

The dikes were constructed as proposed during the remainder of 1909 and completed in 1910 under the direction of V.R. Parkhurst. Mr. Parkhurst remained as the Board's Engineering Consultant until 1926. Morris Jinkens served as construction foreman during the construction of the levees. He later was appointed as levee foreman and served in that capacity from 1914 t0 1926.

A floodwall was built on the south side of the river in 1908. This and the levee on the north side of the river were extended both upstream and downstream between 1920 and 1929.

Over bank flooding at Topeka from the Kansas River was also recorded in 1915, 1922, 1928, 1935, 1941, 1943, and 2 in 1944. The 1935 and 1943 floods were serious.
(Source- Wolman, Howson and Veatch Report, February, 1953).

Between 1910 and 1926 numerous attempts were made to reduce flooding from Soldier Creek and its tributaries. Several loop cut-offs were made, the most effective one was just north of the Boys Industrial School where the channel of Soldier Creek was shortened by nearly two miles. It has been estimated that more than $200,000 had been spent, mostly by local landholders, for cut-offs and local levees during that period. The useĆ¾ of these streams as "dumps" was prohibited and attempts were made to remove growths of brush from the streams. Indian Creek remained the "bad actor" and none of the procedures used seem to reduce its destructive nature.

The period during the early thirties was marked by a great deal of discussion between local interests in N.Topeka, the N.Topeka Drainage District Board, several local professional engineers and the State Division of Water Resources, whether or not to cut a new channel for Soldier Creek from the Rochester Street Bridge to the Kansas River near the mouth of Indian Creek.

A comprehensive plan including cost estimates and a thorough study of the flood frequencies on Soldier Creek was prepared for the N.Topeka Drainage Board by Chas. W. Suit, Professional Engineer, and submitted to them on May 21, 1934. He did not recommend the new channel to the river but did recommend 5-foot levees and channel straightening in some creek sections. His recommendations were based on containing a flood flow having a frequency of occurrence of once in 10 years. Excessive cost was his reason for not recommending the new channel. This study was prompted by an unprecedented flood on Soldier Creek in April 1929 when an estimated peak flow of 38,000 cfs (cubic feet per second) was recorded. Mr. Suit pegged this flow as greater than a once in a one hundred-year flood flow. It was caused by a storm that dumped 5 inches of rainfall in a few hours over the Soldier Creek water shed. In addition to the 1929 flood, very large amounts of silt had accumulated in the lower three miles of the Creek's stream bed and threatened to fill it completely. (It would remain for the Corps of Engineers to finally build the Paramore Diversion Channel as a part of the overall plan of flood protection conceived and built after the 1951 flood.)

Chapter III
1935-1951

The Topeka Daily Capital interviewed the builder of the levee system on June 1, 1935, and quoted Mr. C. L. Dolman as saying that there was no danger of the dirt levees breaking. He said he had built dikes on the Mississippi, Missouri, Neosho and the Kaw Rivers. He said, "There is no danger of this dike breaking on the Kaw, though it might run over the top, there is no guarantee against that." " It's a good one". " A dike is one thing that age improves, barring the damage that might be done by gophers and other rodents". He also said " no single cloudburst between Topeka and Manhattan would be sufficient to ever cause a flood on the Kaw. Four days (June 5, 1935) after the article quoting Mr. Dolman, was published, a flood cresting at 27.7 feet passed through Topeka causing a great deal of nervousness but only minor damage, most of it to the Topeka City Water plant.

The flood of June 5th, 1935 began with a cloudburst in eastern Colorado, southwest Nebraska and northwest Kansas, an area drained by the upper tributaries of the Republican River. As these flood waters roared across southwest Nebraska they inundated McCook and swept away several small towns in Nebraska with a substantial loss of human life.

The Topeka Capital-Journal- 6/02/1935 headlines read NEBRASKA FLOOD SWEEPS ACROSS KANSAS BORDER. Residents near the Republican River in Republic and Cloud Counties were warned to get to higher ground. On June 3rd, 4 persons were reported drowned and 16 were missing in Cloud County alone. The Republican was reported to have the highest water ever recorded at Concordia. It was said that a wall of water 6 to 9 feet high came down the river. During the period, only light showers had occurred in the Kansas River valley. The Weather Bureau predicted there would be about a three foot overflow in the Topeka reach of the river and that the dikes should hold. Even so a general evacuation of North Topeka and residents near the river on the south side was ordered. Governor Landon called the National Guard to readiness for a major emergency.

Safeway Store in North Topeka under water in 1951 flood

PhotoAll traffic across the river bridges was stopped. Drift wood piled up against the Melan Bridge and for awhile it appeared that the bridge might collapse. The dikes on the north side of the river held, but the John Morrell Packing plant on the south side suffered great damage. The Morrell stockyards were under water and a small number of livestock remaining there were drowned. Fortunately, most of the animals had been moved to higher ground. There were 2,000,000 pounds of meat in the packing plant's refrigerated warehouse. A gallant effort was made to keep the refrigerated area intact but it was a losing battle and much of the meat was lost. The river crested at 27.7 feet on the 5th of June, 1935.

The Kansas River begins flooding rural areas between the mouths of the Delaware River and the Vermillion River at a river stage of about 20 feet. The Chicago, Rock Island Railroad and the Santa Fe Railroad bridges are now built at 32.5 feet above the zero on the 1976 gauge. The 100 year flood probability has been established by the Army Corps of Engineers at a stage of 31.5 feet. These river stage elevation reference points provide a picture of the potential for flooding in the Topeka area.

The north Topeka drainage district levees and modifications made in 1938-39, contained at least 20 floods between 1908 and 1951, but in 1951 Topeka's luck ran out; and Mr. Dolman's prediction that the dikes would never be washed out was itself "washed out".

The Federal Government began its interest in water as a stimulus to commerce in 1824, when Congress passed the Rivers and Harbors Act, and authorized the Army Corps of Engineers to "aid" navigation on the nation's waterways. In 1838 the Corps began removing "snags" from the Missouri River in which 300 steamboats sank in one year. In 1853, the Federal government authorized three surveys for the purpose of locating a Transcontinental railroad route through Kansas-Nebraska territories. The river valleys were natural pathways for such routes. Congress passed the Desert Lands Act of 1877 authorizing the sale of public lands to persons who would irrigate them within three years, another water oriented commercial assist.

The scope of federal interest steadily increased. Congress created the Missouri River Commission in 1884 under provisions of the Rivers and Harbors Act. The five member Commission was composed of three Army Corps of Engineers representatives and two civilian representatives. The purpose of the Commission was to: (1) superintend and direct river improvements authorized by Congress and (2) consider and devise additional plans for improving the river (Missouri) for purposes of commerce and navigation. The Commission functioned until 1902 when its duties were returned to the Corps of Engineers.

A series of Congressional acts followed between 1902 and 1910 for the purpose of stimulating irrigation and hydroelectric power development. In 1912, Congress authorized a six foot deep navigation channel on the Missouri River from Kansas City to the mouth. Congress passed the first Flood Control Act in 1916 asserting Federal responsibility for flood control in response to major floods that had occurred on the Mississippi River and its tributaries. In 1927, the Congress authorized the Corps of Engineers under Public Law 308 to undertake comprehensive river basin studies. These studies became known as "308" studies and included recommendations for the development of the waterways for navigation, irrigation, hydroelectric power and for flood protection. The "308" reports became the starting point for the present flood protection system in the Kansas River Basin. The Flood Control Act of 1936 authorized the construction of levees and floodwalls on the Kansas river at Topeka and the Kansas Cities and at Omaha-Council Bluffs reach of the Missouri River.

The US Army Corps of Engineers entered the Topeka flood protection scene officially on December 28, 1936 at a public meeting in the Topeka Municipal Auditorium. The hearing, held by the Omaha office of the C of E and chaired by the District Engineer Lt. Col. P.A. Hodgson, was for the purpose of explaining the role of the Corps of Engineers in carrying out the U.S. Congressional legislation known as The Flood Control Act of 1936 including an explanation of the content of the Act and to seek local response. The Act "recognized that destructive floods upon the rivers of the United States, upsetting orderly processes and causing loss of life and property, including the erosion of lands, and impairing and obstructing navigation, highways, railroads, and other channels of commerce between the states, constitute a menace to national welfare; that it is the sense of the Congress that flood control on navigable waters or their tributaries is a proper activity of the Federal Government in cooperation with the States, their political subdivisions. and localities thereof; that investigations and improvements of rivers and other waterways, including watersheds thereof, for flood control purposes are in the interests of the general welfare; that the Federal Government should improve or participate in the improvement of navigable waters or their tributaries, including watersheds thereof, for flood control purposes if the benefits to whomsoever they may accrue are in excess of the estimated costs and if the lives and social security of people are otherwise adversely affected. That hereafter no money appropriated under authority of this Act shall be expended on the construction of any project until the States, political subdivisions thereof, or other responsible local agencies have given assurances satisfactory to the Secretary of War that they will(a) provide without cost to the United States all lands, easements, and rights of way necessary for the construction of the project except as otherwise provided herein; (b) hold and save the United States free from damages due to the construction works;(c) maintain and operate all the works after completion in accordance with regulations prescribed by the Secretary of War".

Col. Hodgson continued " there follows a long list of authorized projects and among them we find on page 21 of the Act: Kansas River, Topeka Kansas: Levees and flood wall to protect people and City property". He said that the 73rd Congress had further authorized the continuance of ongoing studies and surveys. He said that the Corps had developed a protection plan for the City of the Topeka, but that it would cost more than the Congress had authorized and would have to be cut back. He said that local support for the project was also required not only in terms of dollars and cents but in understanding. Col. Hodgson then called on Capt G.C. Reinhardt to describe the proposed project.

Capt. Reinhardt stated that the Sardou Bridge, the Santa Fe Railroad Bridge, and the Rock Island Bridge must be raised and the Melan Arch Bridge ( Kansas Ave. Bridge) completely removed or replaced. Otherwise the bridges would either obstruct flood flows and raise the flood waters even higher or wash out and cause more problems. The estimated cost to fix the bridges, according to Capt. Reinhardt was $2,244,000. He went on to state that the Corps of Engineers plan included 6950 feet of levee averaging 11 feet high on the north side of the river from opposite Ward Creek to the Santa Fe Bridge; 1700 feet of new levee 13 feet high, from the Santa Fe Bridge to the Sardou Bridge and from the Sardou bridge to the North end of Harrison Street, 8650 feet of levee averaging 13 feet and from the north end of Harrison back to the point opposite Ward Creek mouth 5260 feet of levee averaging 16 feet in height. The ring levees around N. Topeka would cost an estimated $173,000.

Capt. Reinhardt then turned his attention to the problems on the south side of the River. He said that a levee from Ward Creek to the Rock Island Bridge averaging 10 feet high and 5750 feet of retaining wall from the Rock Island Bridge averaging 13 feet high, to the east side of the Santa Fe shops and a new levee, 33,000 feet long and averaging 15 feet in height, from the Santa Fe Shops to Shunganunga Creek cutoff. In addition, super protection for the water plant must be built.

He said that the total estimated cost for plan "A" was $3,173,000 for construction and $883,000 lands and damage costs. He said that these costs exceeded the damages which Topeka suffered from flooding to date and that was the reason why some reduction in protection measures had to be found. He added that the protection level (Plan A) was equivalent to that of a super flood ( one greater than the 1903 flood).

He pointed out that Congress had only authorized an expenditure of $845,000 for construction purposes and that was the figure which the Corps had to meet. He then went on to explain that this could be done in Plan "B" by reducing the height of the levees purposed for North Topeka by three feet, building the protection around the water plant to full height, building the floodwall as proposed on the south bank of the river and leaving the bridges alone and eliminating the earthen levees on the south bank. This would be considered the first step in a total protection plan outlined earlier in the presentation and if at a later date the law was changed or better criteria available, none of the construction would have to be torn out-only added to.

The well attended meeting was then opened to public comment. Almost immediately, a question was asked by a member of the Kiro Dam Association, a support group, why no mention had been made of the Kiro Dam and reservoir. Col. Hodgson explained that under Public Law 308, the Comprehensive Planning Act of 1927, the Kiro location was investigated but that the rules established by the Congress in the Flood Control Act of 1936 requiring the project benefits to equal or exceed its costs, prohibited the Corps from considering Kiro. He said that the estimated cost of the Kiro Dam and Reservoir was $67,000,000 and the benefits to Topeka were only $2,600,000.

The transcript of the hearing indicated that some strong feelings were expressed about the absence of the Kiro Dam in the protection plan presented by the Corps of Engineers. R.M. Owthwaite, General Manager of the John Morrell Packing plant and President of the Topeka Chamber of Commerce apparently became concerned that the meeting was getting off track. He arose to recommend that the Corps had a plan (Plan "B") before the group which could be built immediately, even if not completely adequate, and that the community accept this plan. Finally a motion was made to accept the Corps' plan and the City and other public agencies involved, be urged to give the Corps the official assurances needed. The motion carried by the raising of hands and the hearing was concluded. It was evident that not everyone was happy with the outcome of the hearing.

The construction of the concrete floodwall and the levees and floodwall at the water plant began in April 1938 and finished in December 1938. Other portions of the system were not completed until 1940. The earthen levees down river from the water plant and on both sides of the river were strengthened and their height increased in accordance with Plan "B". It was these levees that were over-topped when the July 13, 1951 flood reached a height of 32 feet. The western section of the levee around N. Topeka was never completed.

The Soil Conservation Act of 1937 authorized the development of many small dams and reservoirs to prevent large soil losses through the reduction of the flooding potential of small streams and creeks. This enabled a cooperative effort between locally controlled soil conservation districts and the Soil Conservation Service of the US Dept. of Agriculture. Numerous verbal clashes between the proponents of the small dams and advocates of the larger structures built by the Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation resulted from misunderstanding of the objectives of this Act as it related to the other flood control acts. Its purpose was to supplement the larger dams, not to displace them and keep topsoil eroded by rain and snow melts near its point of origin-not as sediment in larger downstream reservoirs.

The Flood Control Act of 1938 included authorization of Tuttle Creek Dam and Reservoir. No Appropriations were included for its construction and would not be until 1952. With the arrival of the war years, civil works construction was put on hold.

The Flood Control Act of 1944 (The Pick-Sloan Plan) authorized the construction of 316 separate projects including 112 dams, hundreds of miles of levees and other flood protection structures and a 9 foot depth Missouri River channel from Sioux City, Iowa to the mouth of the river. Reservoirs built under this authorization in Kansas included Kanapolis (completed in 1948) and Cedar Bluffs (completed in 1951) on the Smoky Hill River incorporated nearly 600,000 acre feet of flood control storage.

Chapter IV 1951-1972

The disastrous floods of 1951 were the result of exceedingly heavy rainfall in May and early June according to Richard A. Garrett, Chief Meteorologist, Topeka Office of the Weather Bureau. The rainstorm that caused the July 13th flood occurred between July 9 th and 12 th. A weather front stalled in an east-west position across Kansas. The clockwise flow of air around a high-pressure area in the southeastern part of the U.S. pumped gulf moisture into the state. This met and overrode colder air over the north side of the front resulting in almost continuous heavy rains in the same place for 3 days and nights. The rain was located so with runoff divided among the Cottonwood-Neosho, Marias des Cynes and the Kansas River Basins. The Weather Bureau placed the center of the storm at Herington, Kansas.
(Topeka Capital-Journal-7/14/91-Elon Torrence, Author, THE FLOOD).

Had the July 9-12, 1951 storm been centered 20 or 30 miles further northeast, the Kansas River would have received most of the runoff. The rate of flow at Topeka might have reached nearly 1,000,000 cubic feet per second, enough to cause a flood on the Mississippi River. As it was, the Neosho River carried a peak rate of 436,000 cubic feet per second past Iola, the Marias des Cynes carried 148,000 cubic feet per second at the Missouri state line and the Kansas River carried 469,000 cubic feet per second past Topeka. (For comparative purposes, the average flow of the Kansas River at Topeka for the past 73 years has been 5542 cubic feet per second and the least flow during the 73 years is 112 cubic feet per second).

The Weather Bureau calculated that an average of 17.5 inches of rain fell in a 100 square miles surrounding Herington between July 9 and 12. The average for 1000 square miles was 15.5 inches and for 10,000 square miles was 11.4 inches. More than 20 inches fell in several locations.

These rains came after very heavy rains the last week in June 1951 farther north and west in the vicinity of Hays, Kansas. As a result of the floods on the Smoky Hill, Solomon and Saline rivers, the Kansas River at Topeka reached the highest stage since 1903 on June 30, 1951. The protection works, with help from Kanapolis and Cedar Bluffs reservoirs (completed in 1948 and 1951 respectively) on the Smoky Hill River, held this flood to a level below the levee tops through Topeka.

A similar weather pattern may have produced the June, 1844 flood when the water was at least 5 feet above the level of the 1951 flood.

Only by having experienced the sights, sounds and stench of a disaster of this magnitude can one describe the feelings of those who lived through the flood of July 1951. These sensations were captured by Mr. Elon Torrence in his article, THE FLOOD. He quotes Mr. Charles Porubsky (owner and operator of a grocery and restaurant in a section of North Topeka known as "Little Russia"). " We got out before the water came in. We got everything out of the basement and put it up on the counters. That didn't help any because the water was coming completely over the top of my building. It was about 25 feet deep here."

"When we were able to return we found the ends were out of the building. A big walk in refrigerator was several blocks away. Lumber was strewn all over the premises. When we were cleaning up, some sightseers drove by, laughing. It wasn't a laughing matter."

"We had to start from scratch and get everything new. I had just gotten the place paid for in January before the flood."

"We also lost our home. It didn't wash away but it was completely shot. We worked very hard rebuilding our home and business. We missed the bridge more than anything." (Before the flood, traffic between N. Topeka and Oakland crossed the Sardou Bridge and passed in front of the Porubsky business. The bridge was destroyed by the flood. The replacement was located a block north so that the Porubsky business was no longer on a major traffic thoroughfare.)

"I suppose this kind of flood could happen again. But if it did, I'd just walk off and leave it."

A detailed description of the effort to protect the Topeka Water Treatment Plant is found in the Water Department History section of this document, part II page 34.

Rock Island RR Bridge, looking upstream, 1951 flood

PhotoA story in the Topeka State Journal, July 13, 1979 provides additional information regarding the disaster that befell Topeka on July 13, 1951. The North Topeka levees were topped when the river reached a stage of 29.9 feet, 8.9 feet above flood stage. No levees remained west of the Topeka Ave. Bridge, but except for numerous holes, the remainder of the levees east of the Bridge and back along Soldier Creek were intact.

It was reported that from the Kansas Sand Co. to the Union Pacific coal chutes the levees were gone and so was the land on which they had been built. The combination of concrete flood wall and earthen levees that made up the flood protection system on the south side of the river was topped when the water reached 32 feet. The flood prone areas south of the river begun to flood before the river reached the 32 foot mark because a floodgate was not closed in time. Sand boils and underseepage began to erupt in warehouse basements even before the river had risen to flood levels. The south side protection system lasted longer than the north side, but in the end, the effects were the same. Several major businesses did not rebuild after the flood, including the John Morrell MeatPacking plant which had just barely survived the 1935 disaster. The City's sanitary and storm water sewer system, pumping stations and treatment plants were badly damaged.
(see the History of Topeka Drainage and Sewer section of this document for details, part III page 22) PICTURE 26

The Topeka protection system breached by the '51 flood was the system authorized by the Federal Flood Control Act of 1936 and built under the supervision of the US.Army Corps of Engineers in 1938-40.

Rock Island RR Bridge underwater, 1951 flood

PhotoTangible cost of damage done in the City of Topeka by the July 1951 flood was estimated by the Corps of Engineers to have been $24,700,000 north of the River and $9,000,000 south of the River in 1951 dollars. (about $190,000,000 in 1992 dollars). There was no way to estimate intangible damages.

The highway and railroad lines located in or crossing the Kansas River Valley were interrupted for weeks, some for months as bridges, trackage and roadways were replaced. There were only six highway bridges remaining intact across the Kansas River between Manhattan and Kansas City after the flood. Electric power and telephone service was non-existent for more than a week after the river receded. Wet grain in storage silos swelled and split the structures with explosive force. There were no lives lost in Topeka attributable to the '51 flood, but there was months of cleanup effort by local people trying to put their lives back together. The fact that there was no loss of life was due to the early warning given the residents of Topeka by the Weather Bureau through the flood forecasting system set up in 1904 and in recent years, supplemented by the Corps of Engineers and the US Geological Survey.

The construction of the flood control and local flood protection measures did not happen without interest and strong support of people and their neighbors who lost their property and livelihoods as a result of the floods through out the Kansas River drainage basin. These persons were led by the common goal of "let's not let it happen again". Strong opposition surfaced from those whose livelihood and way of life were threatened when it became apparent that flood control could not be attained, practically, without very large water storage reservoirs. It became a matter of partially uprooting an unwilling section of society for the benefit of another.

It was only a short time after the July 13, 1951 flood that the cities and others hardest hit by the flood began to individually petition the State Legislature and the Congress of the United States for help in preventing future disasters of this nature. At an even earlier date (1938) the Army Corps of Engineers had made it known that a good flood control reservoir site (Tuttle Creek) existed near the mouth of the Blue River, capable of storing almost 2,000,000 acre feet of flood waters and Congress had authorized it, but appropriated no money for its construction. However, while storing this much water, about 50,000 acres of prime farm land and several small towns would be permanently inundated. Opposition to such a project was swift and well organized by those affected. They also petitioned Congress and the Kansas Legislature not to permit such a project to be built. Thus the battle lines were drawn. The term " Big Dam Foolishness" and accompanying book by that name was the creation of Elmer T. Peterson, Editor of an Oklahoma newspaper and a very vocal and effective protagonist for the Soil Conservation movement. These catchy phrases brought nationwide publicity to the project. Books, magazines and the news media picked up the scent of a story ( Blue Valley Belles) about how a few good people (land owners) were being harassed and threatened by an evil mob (downstream flood victims).

Kansas Congressman Albert Cole, whose District encompassed the Blue River site for Tuttle Creek, was not a supporter of the project prior to the 1951 flood. He changed his mind after the flood and promptly lost the election in 1952. The whole idea of building Tuttle Creek Dam was under serious threat from its inception in the 1938 Flood Control Act until its completion in 1962.

It became pretty obvious to supporters of comprehensive flood control measures that no single individual city or group was going to come out a winner in a political showdown unless the individual interests organized themselves into an equal or greater political force. It was under these circumstances that a small group of persons representing commercial, banking, and local urban interests met in Kansas City, Kansas to form an organization whose purpose was to promote adequate flood protection and water conservation within the Lower Missouri River Basin (Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Iowa) and that portion of the Arkansas River Basin within the State of Kansas. The Organization was incorporated in the State of Kansas on the 29th day of August, 1952 and would be known as "Mo-Ark" short for Missouri-Arkansas Basins Flood Control and Conservation Association. Officers were elected and a budget was formulated immediately. Noel T. Tweet was named Executive Manager. The Organizations immediate goal was to obtain Congressional funds for the construction of the Tuttle Creek and John Redmond Projects. Funds to support the new organization would be solicited from member groups representing cities and civic interests in the four state area having goals similar to "Mo-Ark".
(Source-A History of the Missouri- Arkansas Basins Flood Control Association).

The Topeka Flood Control and Conservation Association, Inc. was organized shortly thereafter for the purpose of uniting local flood protection supporters and to add strength to the political clout of Mo-Ark. The Topeka organization was incorporated as a Kansas non-profit Corporation on October 30, 1953 with L.M. "Lew" Paramore, Resident Agent. The incorporators were Kelly Lewis, L.M. Paramore, John Fernstrom, Carl Elkins, Lloyd Rages, C.P. Schenck, Clayton Eslinger, and Harvey Stearns. The new corporation was officed in Room 722, National Bank of Topeka Building, Topeka, Kansas.

The objectives of the Association as outlined in their charter were to:
Assure the earliest possible completion of the authorized, coordinated and comprehensive flood control plan, the authorization of officially recommended plans with such additions as time and experience show are justified.

Seek sound comprehensive flood control programs for the Kansas River and other tributaries of the Missouri River and for the Arkansas River and its tributaries in Kansas.

Support and recommend a sound program of conservation of the land and water resources within the area, when such support will not interfere with the speedy and economic progress of flood protection.

Procure and disseminate to the public accurate and trustworthy information concerning the construction and engineering requirements both in respect to levees, reservoirs and other works incident to the provision of adequate flood protection and soil and water conservation within said area.

Sponsor and promote effective cooperation with agriculture, commercial, industrial, and other interests in the solution of the problems of flood damage and control, including cooperation to that end with all interested local, city, county, public and civic organizations for the purpose of presenting a united front before legislative bodies.

Associate and cooperate with other flood control and soil and water conservation associations whose purpose and objectives are in accord with those of this Association.

Early 1954 found the flood protection proponents for the Kansas River valley divided into at least three factions; those who thought that a soil and water shed conservation plan would suffice; those who thought that clearing the flood plain of housing and industrial development and in effect giving it back to nature was the way to achieve protection; and those who thought that a full program of protection was necessary, including soil and water conservation on the land, large reservoirs to hold back floods and store water for dry periods and levees and channel improvements where the river flowed through urban areas. The Topeka area was further divided by those who thought that the Topeka should petition Congress for assistance in a separate Congressional funding act even though an appropriations bill (H.R.642) was already under consideration, which included funding for a large number of flood control projects throughout the U.S. (including Topeka). The latter bill was favored by the newly formed Topeka Flood Control and Conservation Association.
(Source-Flood Control and Conservation Editorials Topeka State Journal- 1/5/54 to 5/12/54)

Further confusion resulted when, in early 1954 the Kansas Legislature memorialized Congress to delete funds for continuing work on the Tuttle Creek Dam (and succeeded) from the Flood Control Appropriations Bill. ($5,000,000 had been appropriated to start construction on Tuttle Creek Dam in the 1952 Appropriation Bill). When Congressman Scrivner of Kansas tried to get the project reinstated, he was taunted by members of the US House of Representatives Appropriations Committee for the action taken by the Kansas Legislature.

Support for clean "flow-ways" without large reservoir storage projects came as the result of report prepared for the Kansas Industrial Development Commission in February, 1953 by a group of national known Consulting Engineers (Wolman, Howson and Veatch) employed to study the flood problems of the Kansas River Valley. The report, costing $45,000, was paid for by the State Legislature and had the support of Gov. Arn. The cornerstones of the report's recommendations were:
improved channel conditions i.e. widening and diking the channel through urban areas and prohibition of additional urban development on the flood plain. The report did not recommend large or small reservoirs as a part of the system. The report was immediately attacked by both sides of the flood control controversy. The opponents of large dams attacked it because of comments included which stated that floods caused no long term agricultural damage and in some instances were actually beneficial to farmed land and because it did not support small reservoirs as flood deterrents. The report was considered by the proponents of large flood storage reservoirs as short sighted because it did not consider the shifting nature of the Kansas River channel, which if widened, would fill with sand very quickly, thus defeating the purpose of the effort to protect the surrounding urban areas. The idea of trying to widen the stream channel through metropolitan Kansas City as being cost effective also received criticism. Thus this episode became another sidebar in the history of the effort to protect the Kansas River Valley from devastating floods.

Support for the Soil and Water Conservation program as the answer to floods came from those who would stand to lose their land, homes, businesses or all three and a large body of sympathetic public across the nation. The Saturday Evening Post in an article by W.S. Hutton entitled "How to Make Bureaucrats earn their pay" played up the "deaths of towns", the probable escalation of construction costs and the rumored incapability of professional engineers to adequately design large projects. Field and Stream Editor, Harold Titus said" Those Blue River folks have been desperately fighting against the construction of the Tuttle Creek Dam, a so-called flood-control project that will drown out their homes, farms and towns".

While the eye of the political storm centered around the need for Tuttle Creek Reservoir, Mother Nature entered the picture again. This time in the form of a severe drought which begin in 1951 after the flood and continued through 1956.The situation became critical in late 1953 when many Kansas cities and towns were already rationing or hauling water. Those who favored the larger, multiple purpose reservoirs for water supply storage, recreation and wildlife conservation as well as flood control, began to convert those who had held other views. A change of heart by many plus an intensive congressional lobbying effort by those who favored the comprehensive approach to water management persuaded Congress to reinstate Tuttle Creek Dam in the public works appropriations bill (H.R. 642) which finally passed. (Mo-Ark was represented by more than 100 persons, who at their own personal expense, went to Washington in 1954 to testify in behalf of Tuttle Creek and other flood control appropriations).

The next Congressional action to affect the Kansas River and its tributaries was the Flood Control Act of 1954 which authorized a number of reservoirs and levees in the Kansas and Marais de Cynes River Basins. This Act set the stage for the replacement, modification, completion or enhancement of the plan set forth as plan "A" for Topeka in December of 1936. The flood of 1951 necessitated some changes in the plan, mostly increases in the heights, length and location of local levees and bridges and the installation of a major upstream reservoir system. Construction began in 1957.

With appropriations from the 1954 Act and subsequent congressional actions, the Kirwin dam on the north fork of the Solomon River was completed in 1956, Webster dam on the south fork of the Solomon River and Harlan County dam on the Republican River (Nebraska) were completed in 1957; Tuttle Creek Dam on the Big Blue River, 1962; Wilson dam on the Saline River, 1966; Glen Elder on the Solomon River, 1969; Perry dam on the Delaware River, 1971; Milford dam on the Republican River, 1972; and Clinton dam on the Wakarusa River in 1976. All were built as multi-purpose reservoirs, and all included flood control storage to reduce flood damage in the Kansas River Basin. These reservoirs and the ones built earlier have the capability of storing 5,863,270 acre feet (an acre foot of water is 43,560 square feet of area covered to a depth of 1 foot) of flood water from streams tributary to the Kansas River. The 1951 flood, however, is estimated to have produced more than 6,830,000 acre feet of water, much of it originating below the large reservoirs' locations. If the reservoirs had been in place, they would have greatly reduced the damage in the Kansas River valley, but massive local flood protection works still would have been necessary to have contained the flood as it passed through urban areas.

In addition, watershed districts were organized in Nebraska and Kansas under the Federal Soil Conservation Act of 1954 (Hope-Aiken Bill) in many of the watersheds contributory to the Kansas River. Thousands of miles of farm terraces, and hundreds of small reservoirs were built in these districts under the supervision of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Soil Conservation Service. The SCS reservoirs are capable of holding runoff up to and including a once in 25 year event, while the larger structures constructed by the U.S. Army Corps Of Engineers were designed to control once in 100 year or greater flood events.

The Kansas Legislature began to review its actions following the confusion and the political battles in the early 1950's and appointed a select committee consisting of the Chief Engineers, Division of Water Resources, State Board of Agriculture (Robert Smrha) and the Division of Sanitary Engineering, State Board of Health (Dwight Metzler) and the Chief of the State Geological Survey,(Frank Foley) to recommend what should be done to improve the State's water resources planning capability. The committee presented their report and recommendations in 1955 which included new legislative action to establish a State Water Resource Board to oversee the planning and development of the State's water resources. Legislation was adopted and the Board was established in 1955. The Legislature adopted a State Water Plan in 1963 pursuant to the recommendations of the Water Resources Board.

Chapter IV
1972-1992

Construction of the current Topeka local flood protection system began in 1957 and completed in 1972.

When completed, it consisted of 39.9 miles of earthen levees including 2.6 miles of modified existing levee with height of between 10 and 18 feet; 2000 feet of concrete flood walls at the Topeka water plant, 14 feet in height; 14.7 miles of channel improvement including the Paramore Diversion Channel (Soldier Creek); 12 pumping plants to pump water from the land side of the levees into the river during period of high water; 4 new railroad bridges; 24 street and road bridges alterations (raised, replaced or new); and 76 relief wells (to prevent land side seepage or sand boils).

Kansas River Levee looking west from Kansas Ave bridge, 1993

PhotoThe Kansas River flood prone area of North Topeka is now completely surrounded by levees.
(Source - C of E Project data Sheet dated 1 September, 1981)

The construction was broken down into 7 units:
(Source - Operation and Maintenance Manual, Flood Protection Project as revised in 1978.)
the Soldier Creek Unit, sponsored by the North Topeka Drainage District, had 17.9 miles of levees and 9.2 miles of channel improvement; the South Topeka Unit sponsored by the City of Topeka, has 1.4 miles of levees, 27 relief wells, 1944 feet of floodwall and 5 pumping plants; the Oakland Unit sponsored by the City of Topeka, has 10 miles of levees, 22 relief wells, 5.5 miles of channel improvements, and 2 pumping plants; the Waterworks Unit sponsored by the City of Topeka, has 2000 feet of levees, 9 relief wells, 1662 feet of floodwall, 4 stoplog gaps and 1 sand bag gap; (Stoplog gaps are openings which must be closed with wooden planks called stoplogs during floods. Sandbag gaps are low spots in the levees or openings which must be closed with sandbags during period of flooding.) the Auburndale Unit sponsored by the City of Topeka, has 1.3 miles of levees (Interstate 70 Highway fill serves as the south bank levee), 15 relief wells, 2 pumping plants and one sand bag gap the North Topeka Unit sponsored by the North Topeka Drainage District, has 9 miles of levees, 3 pumping plants, 3 relief wells, 1 stoplog and 1 sandbag gap; the C,RI& P. Railroad Bridge sponsored by the City of Topeka, is 152.5 feet long and has a lift of 11 feet.

Stoplog gates in concrete barrier at Water Treatment Plant, 1993

PhotoThe cost of the Topeka flood protection project was $31,558,095 of which the Federal Government paid $21,174,593; the City of Topeka, the North Topeka Drainage District and the State of Kansas (KDOT) shared the remaining $10,383,492 (1972 dollars).

This includes the cost of removing the Melan bridge and the old Sardou bridge and building their replacements.

The Topeka protection system was designed to contain a flood of 314,000 cubic feet per second above the mouth of the Paramore Diversion Channel. The levees have been designed so that if necessary, an additional 2.6 feet of sandbags can be added to their height. In 1972, this was estimated to be a rate comparable to a once in 360 year flood event. (In light of recent investigations however, this may prove to be an overly optimistic assessment of the level of protection.)

Stoplog gate in concrete barrier at Cotton Belt railroad bridge, 1993

PhotoOn the 8th day of October, 1957 the Topeka City Commissioners approved a resolution declaring it to be the policy of the City of Topeka, Kansas that the City would furnish the assurances required by Section 3 of the 1936 Federal Flood Control Act as amended.

Those assurances were: (a) the City of Topeka agreed to comply with the requirements of the 1936 Act and the Chief of Engineers and to provide, without cost to the United States, free and unencumbered, all lands, easements and rights-of-ways, and any relocation or adjustment of facilities necessary for the construction and for ponding of interior drainage.

end :) (for now).

© City of Topeka