Mo. levee owners to get levee repair help

A northwest Missouri levee that was dropped from a federal repair program shortly before record flooding caused $4 million in damage has been reinstated to the program, landowners who oversee the levee said Tuesday.

Paul Markt, president of the Forest City Levee District, offered no details other than to confirm the reinstatement to an Army Corps of Engineers program that helps cover the costs of repairing flood-damaged levees.

The Forest City Levee District learned in a letter dated May 23 that it had failed an inspection and would no longer qualify for federal help making repairs after flooding. A week later, the corps began releasing massive amounts of water from upstream dams filled with record runoff from rain and winter snows.

Jud Kneuvean, emergency management chief for the corps’ Kansas City district, didn’t immediately return a phone call Tuesday. But he has said the timing was “coincidental” and if the levee district was reinstated, it would be eligible to receive help fixing damage from this year’s flood.

Gov. Jay Nixon said the corps made the right decision.

“This is a victory for the farmers and residents of Holt County, who suffered greatly from the Missouri River flooding this year,” Nixon said in a statement released Tuesday evening.

When the floodwaters subsided, local officials found a massive hole next to the Holt County levee. The hole was 20- to 30-feet deep, more than a quarter-mile long and more than 100 yards wide, according to Lanny Meng, secretary treasurer of the Forest City Levee District.

An engineer hired to conduct a preliminary damage assessment told the levee district it would cost about $4 million to make the needed repairs.

The levee protects about 300 people and 8,000 acres of land, a grain elevator and the main line of the Burlington-Northern Railroad. But Meng has said the district, which taxes landowners to pay for the levee’s upkeep, is essentially broke.

Nixon had joined the effort to have the program reinstated and sent a letter to the corps last week.

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.

Kneuvean of the corps has said the district had been warned not to pump water through the levee but kept doing it.

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