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Plan aims to bring Jordan Creek out of tunnel in downtown Springfield

A new feasibility study calls for the creek to be on the surface to provide more flood control and a park-like setting.

August 07, 2012|by Linda Russell, KY3 News | lrussell@ky3.com

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- In the downtown area, Jordan Creek runs through a tunnel built in the 1930s.  Now there's a plan to bring the creek back out into the daylight. 

We went on a walking tour through the Jordan Creek tunnel with City of Springfield stormwater experts, Watershed Committtee of the Ozarks members, and other interested citizens.  We also walked the creek's route on the surface.  The reason is the city and the Corps of Engineers wanted to share some big ideas for Jordan Creek.

It's not your usual stroll along an Ozarks creek.  This one does have some fish, but it also carries the markings of multiple artists.  In the two-thirds-of-a-mile dark tunnel, spring-fed Jordan Creek still flows, even in a drought. 

"They will feed for a long, long time, even with no rain," said Todd Wagner, Springfield's principal stormwater engineer.

The tunnel was built to carry the creek more than 70 years ago as a solution to floods.

"Multiple floods that were flooding downtown Springfield, and there was a lot of industry flooded, loss of life, and so the city leaders decided they had to do something," Wagner said.

In fact, the night before the vote in the early '30s that decided whether to box in Jordan Creek, there was another flood that basically sealed the deal.  Underneath streets like Water and Mill, it's been largely out of sight and out of mind for decades. 

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The plan to bring Jordan Creek back out in the sunlight is because of more recent experiences.

"After several floods in the last 20 to 30 years, now we're kind of to the point we realize this is an antiquated system that needs to be upgraded, and there's some really neat ways that we could do this," said Wagner.

After a major flood downtown in July 2000, city leaders began discussing the possibilities.  A Corps of Engineers feasibility study began in 2004 and is soon to be complete. 

"Most of the box, where we can, we'll keep it.  It'll just be running parallel to the channel," said Wagner.

The plan aims to use the tunnel only for floods, and bring the creek's base flow out for the public to enjoy. 

"Create an amenity with water features, bike trails, trees, just places for people to gather," Wagner said.

Of course, there would be some things to work around. 

"The box is running right under that yard right there, and it goes right under the front door of Willowbrook," Wagner said, referring to a former poultry processing plant that will serve as a business incubator for Missouri State University.

Wagner hopes for a future Jordan Creek with more capacity and beauty.

The Corps of Engineers feasibility study is set to be complete this fall.  Read more about the study at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website.  Wagner estimates the entire cost of the project to be around $100 million, and it would likely take 10 years or longer to complete. 

They hope for federal funding as well as some community partnerships to help with the project cost.

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