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Progress being made on Missouri River levee repairs

by Jeff Haldiman | June 26, 2020 at 4:31 a.m. | Updated June 26, 2020 at 1:15 p.m.
Col. William Hannan, of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Kansas City District, was in a farm field to highlight progress on levee rehabilitation on the Capital View and nearby levee systems. Hannan spoke with area Missouri River Bottom farmers about a number of issues and answered several questions. Standing in the background is area farmer Jay Fischer, left, and Brownfield Network agricultural reporter Tom Steever.

Local and federal officials are pleased with the progress being made to repair levees along the Missouri River that were damaged by flooding last year.

Col. William Hannan, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Kansas City District, visited the Capital View Levee on Thursday.

The Corps awarded a $267,500 contract to Remsel Corp, of Columbia, in March to repair the levee.

Repair work started in mid-May, including placement of approximately 43,400 cubic yards of fill in seven breaches at six locations along with erosion repairs and seeding/mulching.

Hannan said the contractor is making steady progress and the work is ahead of schedule, with all but the seeding and mulching left to complete the repairs. That work will likely be done at the end of the summer or in early fall.

"We've got 65 levees that were breached or damaged along the Missouri in our district, and 52 of those have either the repair work awarded to a contractor or advertised for bidding," Hannan said. "We're moving faster to get those repairs done than we were after the floods of 1993 and 2011."

Corps officials also provided updates on four other levee repair projects in Central Missouri:

Wainwright, downstream of Jefferson City - Dogwood Contracting, of Centertown, was awarded a $116,800 contract for repairs consisting of approximately 5,900 cubic yards of fill placement for construction of a seepage berm, seeding and mulching, and aggregate surfacing. Corps officials said work is ahead of schedule on this project.

Tebbetts and Jacobs in Callaway County - Dogwood was also awarded the contract for these jobs. The work at Tebbetts consists of placement of approximately 4,300 cubic yards of fill closing a breach, slope and erosion repairs, and seeding and mulching. The work at Jacobs consisted of intermittent erosion repairs, seeding and mulching. Both projects are basically complete. Corps officials said the total combined contract amount was $88,500.

Steedman in Callaway County - Greis Trucking and Excavating Inc., of Boonville, was awarded a $165,000 contract for repairs consisting of constructing a 1,435-linear-foot long new landward levee setback requiring approximately 18,000 cubic yards of fill as well as seeding and mulching. Work is ahead of schedule, and the level of protection the levee had given prior to flood damage has been restored.

Corps officials anticipate contractors will complete many of the rehabilitations this summer and fall, with some to be finished in 2021.

Hannan said the flooding also damaged dikes and navigational structures along the river, but the Corps is $80 million short of what they need to complete those.

Hannan took command of the Kansas City District last July and has been meeting local officials along Missouri River to get a better understanding of the devastation of the flooding and seeing how he could help speeding up repairs.

"We're working with Missouri, Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska to figure out how to develop future solutions on the river, looking at the most troubled spots," he said. "We're looking at what are the biggest impacts, right now, that we could make some decisions. The federal government is also looking at places on the river where we don't have enough protection and the water gets too high too quick."

Hannan said in his talks with local elected officials and members of levee districts, two concerns came up every time.

"The first is how could we move faster to repair levees," Hannan said. "The way our laws our written now, to get the whole system repaired on the river is a two-year effort. We were lucky here in Mid-Missouri because we had great local sponsors to work with. We have other parts of the state, such as Holt County in Northwest Missouri, where the water was so high for so long, it took a long time to get the survey work completed. And with the way our processes and laws are written, it's going to take a long time to get those levees repaired."

The second main concern Hannan said local officials have is finding solutions to prevent future flooding.

"The Federal Flood Control Act of 1944 stated that there would be federal levees all along the Missouri from Sioux City, Iowa, down to St. Louis," he said. "Most stopped at the Missouri border - although we've got a few federal levees in Missouri, but most are non-federal levees along the Missouri."

The levees along the river in Central Missouri are classified as non-federal levee systems, meaning they are in the Corps program but not typically built by the Corps. For these systems, the federal government pays 80 percent of repair costs and levee districts pay the remaining 20 percent. The levee district may provide some or all of its percentage by in-kind work as part of an agreement with the Corps.

"The future solutions could mean federal levees being constructed, but for now we don't really have a system," Hannan said. "We have a hodgepodge of federal, non-federal and private levees."

Callaway County Western District Commissioner Roger Fischer said he was excited to see the response to get the repairs done.

"Going into the spring, when we were beginning to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, I was very concerned that this work might not get completed this year," Fischer said. "I was afraid it wouldn't be until the spring of 2021, but we're eight to 10 months ahead of where I was afraid we might be. We've had a lot of local meetings with the Corps, and they've been very responsive."

Wainwright Levee District President Jose Cruz said he, too, was pleased with the federal response.

"The attention they have given us is phenomenal," Cruz said. "We still are trying to work to streamline things so that immediately following a disaster we as levee districts can go in and make temporary or semi-permanent repairs. That way, we have some level of protection and don't have to wait essentially a year later to have the repairs done."

Currently levee districts could add fill to a levy, Cruz said, but it's entirely at the expense of the district.

"What I'm saying is let us be allowed to do either a portion or all the work and then receive some type of reimbursement," he said. "My son and I have farmed in this area for almost 20 years, and this year, after the floodwaters left, we noticed much of the farm had changed. We had shifting silt in some areas, so some places we thought would be hard to farm were easier and others were harder."

Cruz said they were fortunate they were able to get 100 percent of their fields planted in Callaway and Montgomery counties.

"Pretty much in all the areas along the river that weren't damaged, from what we've been told, they have been planted," Cruz said.


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