City council hears golf course report, looks at multi-million-dollar fix

Dick Emter, Dave Jewett and Randy Wilts play on hole 4 at River Bend Golf Course last Friday, one of the holes where the fairway was damaged by flooding the previous two years.

Changes to the River Bend Golf Course to remedy flooding issues could cost millions, a consultant told city council members last week.
For the previous two years, the course has flooded, damaging fairways, killing trees and limiting play. Last year, the course was underwater, except for the high points of three holes, an aerial map shows.
The entire course is in the FEMA flood plan and is a relatively flat course so if it floods, water will move across it, said Patrick Wyss of Wyss Associates in Rapid City.
While there will be good years, it’s going to flood, he said. This year, all holes on the course are open for play.
Fixing the problem with mitigation and restoration efforts could cost more than $2 million, depending on what choices are made. No decision was discussed at the special meeting on July 28.
“I think there’s some questions that need to be asked,” Wyss said. “One is, it’s a lot of money. It’s less than if you’d build a new course, but it’s approaching that question.”
Mayor Dan Sutton said now that the council has credible numbers for what changes would cost, they can make choices, look at options and consider their budget.
“The council has some real decisions of what they want to do moving forward,” he said. “It’s going to take a partnership from many to make this happen.”
Wyss said it would take both mitigation and restoration to solve water problems and improve the course to be more playable.
Wyss recommended taking out holes 1 and 2 and adding two holes north of a drainage ditch on land the golf course owns. In that case, holes 3, 4, 5 and 6 would become 1, 2, 3 and 4. A cart crossing would be built to the new hole 5. There also would be enough room to add a driving range near the two new holes, which would be good for developing players, he said.
The recommendation for modifications also included filling in the low area in front of holes 4 and 7 and installing culverts.
For restoration, the most expensive part of any changes, all tee boxes would be elevated between 2 and 5 feet so that they won’t flood, he said.
In addition, the fairways are really beat up, Wyss said. “They’re silted. They’re filled in.” The grounds superintendent is doing the best he can with the long-term damage he has to work with, he said. The irrigation system also is 25 years old, about the lifespan of the equipment.
Alderman Brad Bjerke asked if there is some work that could be started that would return the best value. “If we were to chip away at this thing, do you have a sequential suggestion?” he asked.
Wyss said fixing low areas on holes 4 and 7 would be one improvement, and the city could work at raising a couple of tee boxes a year.
Primarily, the course is for the community, even though some golfers will travel to play a facility they know, he said.
“As a public course, you’re competing for recreation dollars, and people have a lot of choices,” Wyss said. “If you’re going to have a golf course, your customers need to have the expectation that … (it) is worth the money they’re going to spend.”

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