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Cambridge storm drainage system worked during recent rains

The heavy rains that pounded Story County in late June also helped Cambridge pass a test.

Four years ago the city council approved a contract to install a new storm drainage system. Last month’s rains tested the system and everything worked.

“We haven’t had any heavy rains since the system was finished in 2011, so this was a test,” said Dale Hennick, Cambridge public works director.

On July 1, Story County Emergency Management contacted Scott DeYoung, Cambridge mayor, to warn him that the Skunk River had crested at 24.08 feet in Ames and was headed to Cambridge.

The warning stated that historically a crest of 24 feet meant Cambridge residents would experience flooding. It also warned that residents living near the river were encouraged to monitor levels to protect lives and property.

The city was prepared. After several years of flooding problems, the council held a special meeting Aug. 23, 2010, to approve a contract that would improve the storm sewer drainage system.

The contract went to Keller Excavating from Boone, which began installing 4,300 feet of drainage pipe in March 2011. The main lines were 42 inches in diameter with 15 inch feeder lines. The project cost $830,000.

Ironically, two weeks before the city approved the contract, Cambridge was flooded after heavy rains filled the Skunk River Basin in early August 2010. The rains caused heavy flooding throughout Cambridge.

Before the updated drainage system was installed, the city’s only means of eliminating water was an antiquated county tile system.

Hennick said the age of the tile system was evident as as the contractors began digging. The old tiles not only didn’t drain storm waters, but had trapped water under the city. That meant heavy rains overloaded the system, which backed up into basements and streets.

Future plans include expanding the drainage system to parts of Cambridge that did experience problems during last month’s rains.

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