Politics & Government

U.S. House passes resolution to rename the Big Ditch; Senate approval comes next

M.S. “Mitch” Mitchell
M.S. “Mitch” Mitchell File photo

A resolution to rename the Big Ditch passed the U.S. House of Representatives. Now, it just has to make it through the Senate.

The Big Ditch’s official name is the Wichita-Valley Center Flood Control Project. If the House bill passed Thursday is approved by the U.S. Senate, the project will be named the “M.S. ‘Mitch’ Mitchell Floodway,” after the man who supervised the project.

M.S. “Mitch” Mitchell — known affectionately as “Big Ditch Mitch” — is the former Flood Control and Maintenance Supervisor for the City Council Flood Control Office for Sedgwick County and the City of Wichita from 1958 to 1963. He died in March of last year.

In May of 2017, the Sedgwick County Commission and the Wichita City Council each voted unanimously for the name change. In July of that year, Fourth District Congressman Ron Estes introduced House Resolution 2282 to rename the floodway to honor Mitchell.

The Big Ditch was designed to divert excess water in west Wichita and Sedgwick County and help prevent street flooding. It includes channels, drainage canals, levees, floodway easements and connections to other streams and rivers, including the Arkansas River.

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Sedgwick County Commissioin Chairman David Dennis gave a special thanks to Estes, a Republican from Wichita, for advancing the renaming to the U.S. House.

“Mitch Mitchell was a visionary public servant,” Dennis said. “His diligent and innovative work continues to serve our residents today,” Dennis said in a news release.

Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell said the renaming is a way to honor Mitchell’s contributions to the people of Wichita and Sedgwick County.

“We are proud to honor the legacy of Mitch Mitchell, whose work on the big ditch has helped safeguard lives and property in our city for decades and will continue to benefit the region for generations to come,” Longwell said.

The Big Ditch is one of the largest water diversion projects in the country, spanning 18 miles with 50 miles of connecting channels, 100 miles of levees and 150 control structures.

Estes pointed to the number of lives saved, amount of property damage avoided and the growth the ditch is responsible for.

“Citizens and businesses throughout the region benefit today from the diligent efforts undertaken by Mitch Mitchell,” Estes said in the release. “The reduction of floodwaters within Sedgwick County has saved lives, prevented millions of dollars in property damage, and allowed for expanded growth and opportunities.

“This bill provides a fitting tribute to ‘Big Ditch Mitch’ and ensures his public service is remembered by future generations,” Estes said.

(FILE VIDEO -- 2017) 1999 video from the city of Wichita showcases the "Big Ditch" project. Without the ditch, Wichita would be much more flood prone.

Chance Swaim: 316-269-6752, @byChanceSwaim
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