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US Corps of Engineers meets with Callaway County entities over flooding concerns

US Corps of Engineers meets with Callaway County entities over flooding concerns

July 24th, 2019 by Quinn Wilson in Local News

U.S. Army Corps of Engineer representatives Cliff Sander, left, and Mike Dulin address the room at a Tuesday meeting at the Tebbetts Community Center. The meeting was called by Wainwright Levee District President José Cruz to get the Corps to interact with levee presidents, county commissioners and local emergency management.

Photo by Quinn Wilson /News Tribune.

TEBBETTS, Mo. — Members of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers met with local representatives to discuss levee repairs Tuesday.

Levee district presidents, Callaway County officials and the Corps gathered at Tebbetts Community Center to get on the same page planning a road to recovery.

"We wanted to get emergency management, commissioners and the (Corps) to all interact with one another," said Wainwright Levee District president José Cruz, who organized the meeting.

Corps field technician Cliff Sanders and emergency management specialist Mike Dulin addressed the room for nearly an hour with updates on the assistance the Corps of Engineers would be providing many in the region in the near future. According to Dulin, the Corps received 97 total requests for assistance from the recent flooding.

"Once we get these requests submitted to the (Corps' Northwest Division) approved, we're going to start working on the levees we can access the quickest," Dulin said.

While both estimate area levees will not begin to be repaired until October through December, Corps representatives were optimistic that timeline could be expedited.

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"We're not going to start repairing every (levee) at the same time," Dulin explained. "We do have a priority ranking system that's based on damage severity, consequences of the folks who live behind a levee and economic impact."

While there are no federally operated levees in Callaway County, the Corps still sponsors the county's levees. The Corps provides 80 percent of repair costs, leaving the remaining 20 percent to be covered by the landowners.

The Callaway County Commission, alongside the Emergency Management Agency and various levee presidents, are in the process of obtaining a grant that could potentially cover the 20 percent share owed by levee districts.

"The grant is only good for the unincorporated part of Callaway County. So, Jefferson City's city limits are not eligible; Jefferson City will have to do that," presiding Callaway County Commissioner Gary Jungermann said.

Environmental concerns are one of the primary caveats that can delay the process of receiving funding from the Corps. According to Dulin, the presence of endangered species and an area being a certified wetland are two things that will commonly delay the process of assistance.

With the Missouri River's levels at Jefferson City creeping into minor flood stage once again, many Callawegians, already vulnerable from their previous sustained damaged, hold concerns as to what they can do in the meantime.

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"We've got a river full of water right now that can come out anytime we get substantial rain upstream," Western District Commissioner Roger Fischer said. "Is there anything we can do (about) this, or are we just sitting in a holding pattern?"

Dulin explained levees with substantial breaches, such as the 300-foot breach at the Capitol View Levee, may be temporarily filled with dirt as long as it's done in conjunction with the Corps. Dulin also said any temporary repair action should be eligible for 80 percent coverage by the Corps of Engineers, as long as it's done within current levee alignments.

Fischer also brought up the prospect of a Corps study to be held in Jefferson City in order to realign levees for increased effectiveness. Dulin responded that while the study and realignments are feasible, a federal realignment would require levees to be 3,000 feet from the river.

"That's a pretty hard sell typically for landowners and farmers along the river," Dulin said.