On July 3, Sen. Jerry Moran, Rep. Ron Estes and members of the Wichita City Council and Sedgwick County Board of Commissioners gathered for a ceremony to mark the renaming of the Wichita-Valley Center Floodway.
The public work will now be known as the M.S. “Mitch” Mitchell Floodway, after the engineer who designed it and supervised its construction in the 1950s. Colloquially, it is usually referred to as the Big Ditch.
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The Wichita City Council and the county commission approved a joint resolution requesting that the floodway be renamed in honor of Mitchell in May 2017, two months after he died at the age of 91. Estes sponsored the renaming bill in the U.S. House, and Moran sponsored it in the Senate. At the July 3 ceremony, Pat Mitchell accepted a copy of the signed bill in honor of her late husband.
The Big Ditch diverts excess water around the city of Wichita. It is one of the largest diversion projects in the nation, spanning 18 miles, with 50 miles of connecting channels. It contains 100 miles of levees and 150 control structures.
“There’s no doubt, the floodway has prevented flooding in our community, especially as of late,” county spokesperson Kate Flavin said. “Wichita and Sedgwick County have experienced an exceptionally wet spring and summer, and the floodway has served our community well during this time.”