Transparency questioned as Lander moves forward with flood mitigation plan

Multiple people attended this week’s Lander City Council meeting to speak against a proposed flood mitigation project in town.

The city council recently approved an impact study for the project, which identified local properties that would have to be acquired or relocated in order to construct “a 1,900-foot-long concrete floodwall” along Fremont Street.

The floodwall option is the city’s “tentatively selected plan” to mitigate flood risks on the Middle Fork of the Popo Agie River, according to the study.

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‘Yet to be designed’

After this week’s meeting, Lander City Councilmember Missy White emphasized the tentative nature of the floodwall plan, pointing out that the city’s flood mitigation project is “yet to be designed.”

The final design could incorporate earthen berms, she said, or retractable barriers that are floodwater activated – not just concrete.

“There are concepts for what the design would include, but in terms of materials and specific locations … that’s all part of the design process,” she said. “The engineers will come up with the design and bring it to the city for comment, consideration, and modification – and the public will likewise be involved in that.”

She noted that the public has been invited to participate in discussions about the flood mitigation project since it was initiated years ago.

In particular, she said the property owners who would be directly affected by a floodwall – “meaning there would either need to be an easement of a possible acquisition of land” – have been “in conversation with the city in public meetings and private conversations with city staff for years.”

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“There is nothing illicit, (no) lack of transparency, nothing like that going on,” White said. “I think 2017 was the first public meeting about this, (and) since I have been on the council there have been multiple meetings, public meetings. … It’s all absolutely above board and transparent.”

Lander City Councilmember Dan Hahn shared a different perspective, however.

“There is no transparency in this process,” he said during this week’s meeting, referring to the flood mitigation project. “I’m truly embarrassed at how we are treating citizens in our town to fast-track a project.”

One member of the public who spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting – Raine Lesher – said she learned about the flood mitigation plan for the first time this month.

“I feel that we as citizens of Lander were very much kept in the dark about this, and it’s very upsetting to me,” she said. “The lack of transparency is evident.”

The city website says the Fremont Street Flood Mitigation Project is progressing to the design phase, with preliminary plans expected to be available in September.

For more information call 332-2870 or email [email protected]

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