Pattonsburg Dam Proposal Causes Concerns

“If the dam were ever built, it could mean the virtual end of Daviess County. It’s been estimated that over 65,000 acres of the most productive land in the county would be taken out of production. It would split the county in half.”

“If the dam were ever built, it could mean the virtual end of Daviess County. It’s been estimated that over 65,000 acres of the most productive land in the county would be taken out of production. It would split the county in half.”

The above quotation was taken from the March 3, 1955, edition of the “Gallatin Democrat” in regard to the construction of the Pattonsburg dam.

In 1949, steps had been taken to have some kind of flood control in the Grand River Valley near Pattonsburg. Some discussion centered on the construction of several smaller dams in the area, but the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers pointed out this would not be economically justifiable. If the dam was built at Pattonsburg, it would control a 12-inch runoff on 2,240 square miles. Six upstream dams that were studied would control only 1,491 square miles and would require an increase in levee heights to provide complete protection on the lower river.

It was pointed out that if the dam and its reservoirs were built the town of Pattonsburg would be flooded. Its population of 1,000 persons would be displaced.

There were about 180 farmsteads within the 50,000 acres of the proposed reservoir. Both schools and highways would be affected. The small villages of Santa Rosa, Weatherby, McFall and Jameson would suffer economically. The county would also suffer loss of the taxation of revenue from the 42,000 acres of land.

Like all projects, the building of a dam at Pattonsburg met with both favoritism and criticism. On the positive side of the argument it was said that the value of a lake, for no other reason than flood control, would save thousands and thousands of dollars in the event of a flood.

Many thought the dam would be good for a recreational center. It was believed the center would be a distinct benefit to the northwest section of the state. Another part of the project would be connecting the Pattonsburg-King City road which would hook up an area not being served at that time.

Those opposed to the dam used the tactic of reflecting on other places where dams had been built and the fact the people hadn’t been told the truth in some areas. For example, many people were under the impression that the scheme of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for flood control of the Grand River involved the building of two big reservoirs known as the Pattonsburg and Hickory reservoirs and 85,000 acres of the best land in north Missouri provided complete flood protection for all the Grand River Valley lands below the dam.

Other factors supported the facts that in the years 1909 to 1943 if the dams had been in operation, in seven of those years the river-flood-height would have been reduced to bank full height at summer. But in 14 of those years the reduction wouldn’t have been enough to have prevented serious flooding of bottom lands in the area. The reason for this was that only 56% of the Grand River drainage area laid above the dams and the other 44% was still sufficient to cause serious flooding.

Many of the people of Daviess County thought those making a study of the flood situations should give more attention to soil conservation practices and head-water detention dams, and see if a plan couldn’t be made which wouldn’t ruin a county and destroy a city. They felt people not having to be separated from their friends and neighbors they’d established meant more than money.

Another example that gave more appeal to the situation was what had happened at nearby Chillicothe. At that point, Grand River had been at flood stage 89 times in 31 years. It was estimated that 50% of all the valley was considered “waste” or was untillable because of the flood hazard. It’d also have an impact on railroads, utilities and business in general.

— researched by Wilbur Bush, Gallatin