The city and the county want to rename the Wichita-Valley Center Flood Control Project after M. S. “Mitch” Mitchell.
The name change, outlined in a joint Wichita-Sedgwick County ordinance, would still need to be approved by Congress.
The project, commonly called the Big Ditch, is a key flood control structure for west Wichita and Sedgwick County. It’s a combination of channels, drainage canals, levees, floodway easements and connections to other streams and rivers.
Mitchell designed it and surveyed its creation in the 1950s. He was the former chairman of the Metropolitan Area Planning Commission and Stormwater Management Advisory Board. Mitchell died in March.
“We’re eager to rename a significant part of our community in honor of the person who was really instrumental in bringing it to pass,” said Sedgwick County Commission Chairman Dave Unruh before a unanimous vote Wednesday on the ordinance.
Unruh recalled how bad flooding used to be in large portions of Wichita when he was growing up.
“I’m not trying to tell you how old I am or anything. I’m just saying it was a real problem,” he said to some laughter.
Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell spoke in favor of the ordinance, which was passed unanimously by the Wichita City Council on Tuesday.
“We’re coming together to honor a significant person who’s changed our city and our county,” he said. “I think it’s the only proper thing to do.”
Wichita Area Builders Association president and CEO Wess Galyon called the flood project “a phenomenal undertaking.” He praised Mitchell’s “knowledge and experience (that) he possessed.”
“He would be in awe of the honor you’re going to bestow on him,” Galyon said.
Commissioner Jim Howell, who suggested renaming the project earlier in the year, said the Big Ditch has saved millions of dollars in property.
“It became obvious we needed to honor him and his legacy,” Howell said. “I’m so glad that the city and county are coming together.”