Road Closed barriers stop drivers (copy)

“Road Closed” barriers stop drivers where Harold Cunningham Road meets Rippeto Road and South River Road in the Missouri River bottoms. A section of South River Road has been closed since flooding in 2019.

Stephen Diederich, president of the Wilton Landowners’ Levee and Drainage Association, started a Change.org petition on Sunday urging the Boone County Commission to gravel and reopen two roads in the Missouri River bottoms that were washed away by flooding in 2019.

The petition had 500 signatures by 4:15 p.m. Tuesday.

After almost a full year of deliberations, the landowners’ association has signed the easements allowing the county to apply gravel and reopen Harold Cunningham and South River roads in the Missouri River bottoms. The levee and roadbed necessary to do that were rebuilt by the landowners in the wake of severe spring flooding.

“I thought that once we got easements to them and the weather was good, they’d gravel,” Diederich said, describing his surprise that the commission had to get the State Emergency Management Agency’s approval before laying the gravel and reopening the road.

Boone County Southern District Commissioner Fred Parry said that before the roads can be graveled, the commission has to submit a proposal to make the improvements before it will qualify for State Emergency Management Agency funding.

“I think that there’s a process involved here,” Parry said. “The property owners sat on the easements for almost a year before getting them signed, and now we have to go through SEMA.”

Parry reckoned it could take the State Emergency Management Agency up to a few months to respond to the commission’s proposal.

“I started the petition because my fear was that if SEMA didn’t give them any money for the gravel, they may not go ahead and approve that the county gravel the roads,” Diederich said.

Parry said that it is unrealistic for the landowners to expect that the road would be graveled immediately.

He also mentioned that as the road gets washed away by flooding every few years, the commission had discussed whether it made sense to keep it open to the public. They eventually agreed that it does.

“I don’t think there has been any serious consideration of not opening this road,” Parry said. “I’ve done my best to work with these folks and accommodate their requests, but I’m at my wits’ end as to what more I can do.”

Parry also mentioned thatif the county paved the road without appealing to the State Emergency Management Agency first, it wouldn’t get any federal funding.

  • I've been a reporter and editor at Missouri community newspapers for 35 years and joined the Columbia Missourian in 2003. My emphasis at the Missourian is on local government and elections. You can reach me at swaffords@missouri.edu or at 573-884-5366.

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