Nixon asks corps to reinstate NW Mo. levee

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Gov. Jay Nixon asked the Corps of Engineers on Friday to restore a Missouri River levee in the northwest corner of the state to a federal repair program, saying the corps shouldn’t have ruled it ineligible ahead of record floods.

The Forest City Levee District Levee was told in mid-May that it had failed an inspection and would no longer qualify for the corps’ rehabilitation and inspection program. A week later, the corps began releasing massive amounts of water from upstream dams filled with record runoff from rain and winter snows.

When the floodwaters subsided, local officials found a massive hole in the Holt County levee and estimated repair costs at $4 million. The corps has said it didn’t know about the pending floods when it disqualified the levee from the program, which includes federal funding for levee repair.

In a letter sent to the corps Friday, Nixon said the corps inspected the levee several times over the years and found deficiencies but never removed the levee from the program.

“It wasn’t until days before commencing record releases of water that the Corps decided to remove (the levee) from the program,” Nixon wrote in the letter to letter to Brig. Gen. John McMahon, commander of the corps’ Northwest Division.

Nixon also said the damage to the levee was a “direct result of these unprecedented releases” and asked the corps to reinstate the levee into the program and restore the levee to its pre-flood condition.

The corps didn’t immediately return a call for comment Friday. But spokesman Jud Kneuvean, emergency management chief for the corps’ Kansas City district, said last week that when the corps informed the levee district of its ineligibility, the corps was unaware of the pending floods.

“At the time we put them out we had no idea the flood was coming,” he said last week. “It unfortunately was a coincidental timing for them.”

Months of sandbagging kept waters from flowing over the top of the levee. But when the water subsided, landowners found a trench near the levee’s base. Forest City Levee District officials estimated the hole as 20- to 30-feet deep, more than a quarter-mile long and more than 100 yards wide.

The district asked the corps earlier this month to reconsider its dismissal from the program. Kneuvean said last week that the corps planned to review the request.

The corps and the levee district said one of the main problems that led to the district’s dismissal from the program is that a pipe used to pump water from the protected side of the levee back into the river ran directly through the levee. Such drainage pipes generally are supposed to go over the top of the levee.

Lanny Meng, secretary treasurer of the Forest City Levee District, said it was cheaper to pump water through the levee instead of over it.

But Kneuvean said there could be erosion of the levee embankment if something within the system failed while water was being pumped. He said the district had been warned not to pump water through the levee but kept doing it.

Many in the community claim the corps wants to flood the area so farmers will sell their land for wildlife restoration efforts.

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