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Archive for Saturday, March 31, 2007

Levee recertification will cost city

After Hurricane Katrina, federal regulators want intensive inspections

March 31, 2007

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Tugged in two directions, Judy Todd, Lawrence, takes her Toy Fox Terriers Ranger, left, and Radar out for an afternoon stroll along the Kansas River levee. A new FEMA mandate will require Lawrence to re-certify it's levee system, which may cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and jeopardize the future of the levee trail.

Tugged in two directions, Judy Todd, Lawrence, takes her Toy Fox Terriers Ranger, left, and Radar out for an afternoon stroll along the Kansas River levee. A new FEMA mandate will require Lawrence to re-certify it's levee system, which may cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and jeopardize the future of the levee trail.

City prepares to take on huge levee project in the wake of Katrina

More than a year and a half after Hurricane Katrina, we continue to feel the effects here in Lawrence. The city is preparing to take an in depth look at our own levee system. Enlarge video

Hurricane Katrina strikes again - and this time its reach is being felt far outside of traditional hurricane country.

City Hall leaders are bracing themselves for the possibility of spending "hundreds of thousands of dollars" to inspect the city's Kansas River levee system as part of a program that federal regulators are undertaking after hurricanes devastated several levees along the Gulf Coast in 2005.

The news has left Lawrence leaders scratching their heads on how they'll fund the intensive inspection.

"We're concerned that this amounts to an unfunded federal mandate, even though we don't have any indication that there's anything wrong with the levee," City Manager David Corliss said.

The 13-mile levee that protects North Lawrence from flooding gets inspected by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on an annual basis. But this inspection would be much more detailed and technically is what federal regulators call a "recertification" of the levee. The process likely would involve taking core samples and testing the compaction of the 1970s-era levy to ensure that it is still structurally sound.

The city has little choice but to do the recertification. Melissa Janssen, a spokeswoman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said if the city does not do the recertification - or if the levee fails the inspection - that FEMA would begin treating the North Lawrence area as being in an unprotected flood zone. That would require essentially all North Lawrence property owners who have a mortgage on their home to purchase flood insurance, which could cost several hundred dollars per year.

"That's not a very good option for us," Chuck Soules, the city's director of public works, said about not recertifying the levee.

Janssen said the nationwide recertification process is important to ensure people are receiving proper flood protection.

"I would imagine that people, especially those who live behind the levee, would want to know that the levee is actually providing protection," Janssen said. "We have on our maps that they're being projected by these levees, and we don't want to be publishing anything that is not correct."

Soules - whose department maintains the levee - said he's confident that the levee is in good shape. He said the levee performed well in the 1993 flood.

"My understanding is that the water level was as high as it had ever been," Soules said. "The levee got a test then and did fine."

City leaders don't have a good estimate of how much the recertification process will cost, but Soules said "it is not a little project." He said in talking with officials from FEMA and the Corps of Engineers that it seems reasonable to expect that it will cost more than $100,000.

Thus far, FEMA is giving the city until June 2009 to complete the process, though Soules said cities are hoping for an extension.

One other side issue that city leaders will be watching during the recertification process is the future of the popular bicycle path that is atop the levee. Corliss said Corps of Engineers and FEMA officials at times have questioned whether the bike path creates unnecessary erosion or wear and tear on the levee.

Neither regulating body has told the city that the path must go, but Corliss said the city will want to make sure that doesn't become an issue.

"I think the levee is a wonderful park," Corliss said. "We are going to fight to keep public use on the levee."

Bicycle enthusiasts said they would also join in that effort.

"It is a very popular trail," said Eric Struckhoff, a frequent bicyclist and member of the city's bicycle advisory committee. "I can't see how it creates much damage to the levee. It would be a real shame to have anything happen to the trail."

Comments

KsTwister 7 years ago

KU grad:

"The hole gapes 48 feet long by 14 feet wide and at least 23 feet deep beneath North Second Street just north of the Kansas River bridge. Moody describes it as big enough to swallow a small house. Every new problem adds dollars to the hole's expense. The city commission so far has allocated $102,000 for contractors to fix it.

At that cost definitely "I" would use that term,unless you prefer'money down the drain'.

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bearded_gnome 7 years ago

"good"citizen, 1. as reading my above post, most would see that the New Orleans ref is about the kind of leadership represented by yDOOM-dranyam, not that she 'was responsible.'

  1. apparently you think I'm a "wingnut" because I oppose senseless, everlasting, traffic snarls. you mischaracterize the sierra club's opposition to the original building of the SLT. they opposed it because people would drive on it and they're opposed to driving. and by that indicate that they instead favor gridlock for traffic.

thank you,

/gnome

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kugrad 7 years ago

KStwister, I lived right near north 2nd and there wasn't what I would term a sinkhole there in 93 - I'm not sure what you are talking about. There was some road damage to be sure, but nothing like you are suggesting. A levee inspection would fail to reveal a "sinkhole" anyway. What is under the levee is not an unknown and, as it was historically a floodplain, a sinkhole running along the bank of a river is pretty much out of the question geologically speaking. You raise a scenario that just won't happen. You also imply that the levee protects both sides of the river, which it does not. The train park will be underwater before north lawrence.

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kugrad 7 years ago

Asbestos, obviously I don't have data, but I lived in North Lawrence during the flood, no, I don't recall a true sinkhole (and that is not the levee anyway), but I did walk the levee's daily in 93 and for years.
The levee inspection should not cost so much and should not be our responsibility. It will fall to property tax owners, and not just those protected by the levee. If the levee held in 93 after years of neglect and has been upgraded since then, I think it wholly reasonable to believe the levee is capable of handling just about any flood we are likely to see. I think it is more likely for the levee to be crested about 8th street or so than for it to actually break. Even that is unlikely since it didn't come close to doing so in the biggest flood on record. An inspection needs to be done, but the federal govt. needs to pay. We already pay enough taxes to support the Corp. of Engineers without them asking us to pay more. They built it, they should maintain it, and we already pay for it.

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KsTwister 7 years ago

Now thats Funny!! lol Somewhat ironic isn't it.

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Godot 7 years ago

Why didn't the $250,000 consultants recommend this levee inspection as part of the overall vistion for the city? Oh, wait, they recommended building the library in the flood plain.

Our city commission has wasted so much time, opportunity and money, it is almost a crime.

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KsTwister 7 years ago

I was not emotional about the sinkhole, it just a fact that showed up. Which is better than after the "fact"[data?], finding flooded streets then asking for data.

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ASBESTOS 7 years ago

"The levee is not unsafe. It easily held up to the 93 flood, which was our 100 year flood, and it has had significant improvments in terms of pumping and diversion channels since then. "

Based pray tell on what measurements and data? You need to have those measurements and the data otherwise you do not know for sure. As another poster pointed out which I forgot about:

"Remember the "sinkhole" that opened in the middle of the street by the bridge(1993)?"

Those come from upwelling water from the water table to the surface. How many other sinkholes are unknown and unmapped? A levee is a poor item to paly "chicken" with?

Glad some of you aren't in chareg of making decisons. You seem to make them based on emotion rather than data!

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hawkperchedatriverfront 7 years ago

Ways to raise money to "fix" the levee. CHARGE camping fee for anyone who wants to live along the river. If more than two unrelated, the fee schedule goes up. Tents are extra , but the city could lease them. Porta potty is optional. Welcome to Lawrence, the city of Alternative Housing. Spend a week along the river, enjoy the sights and sounds of a city in pain.

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hawkperchedatriverfront 7 years ago

Bet the folks up at Hamm's are smiling....they got ROCK..and if not..can get it! $$$$$$$$$$$$$$

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cool 7 years ago

hire a levee consultant !

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KsTwister 7 years ago

Remember the "sinkhole" that opened in the middle of the street by the bridge(1993)? Just suppose, for the sake of debate here that the rest of that sinkhole runs the length of the levy at its base. Now add several hard rains and city hall moves itself downstream,Mass street is opened for new businesses and North Lawrence is farmland again. Creates a whole new "vision" for Lawrence.

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kugrad 7 years ago

In my opinion, we have already paid taxes to the federal government that should cover this maintenance. It is ridiculous that we have billions unaccounted for in Iraq (yes, BILLIONS lost with no accounting) but then have to pay the military, of which the corp is a branch, for an inspection that is certainly relevant to the security of this city. In other words, having safe levees IS part of national security. The city should not have to foot this bill. The Corp of Engineers should do it as part of their routine business. This is another federal tax. It reminds me of the tax we now pay to enter national parks that were once free or much cheaper. It is billed as a use tax, and the common understanding is that the fees go to help maintain the park (just like the city is being billed to maintain the levee), when, in fact, the dollars just go into the general fund. Visit a national park, pay for the military and the war (these items chosen for cost, not politics), have your levee inspected, more money into the general fund. It certainly won't be a fee based on cost. The levee is not unsafe. It easily held up to the 93 flood, which was our 100 year flood, and it has had significant improvments in terms of pumping and diversion channels since then. Also note that the cutbank is on the opposite side of the river from the levee making it very unlikely that another flood would threaten to breach the levee in the first place.

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Marion Lynn 7 years ago

If this sudy was required for a nuclear reactor, folks would be in the streets in support of it.

Nuclear reactors have killed fewer than a dozen people while floods kill hundreds every year.

It only makes sense to insure that the levees are safe as levees remain firm right up to the point at which they don't.

There is no reason for any entity to provide flood insurance for people who live behind unsafe levees.

This is the city's job and the city should get after it.

Thanks.

Marion.

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compmd 7 years ago

Ragingbear, thank you for pointing out something that nobody else has so far.

This amounts to hurricane insurance in Kansas.

WTF. The city had better fight this.

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goodcitizen 7 years ago

So, because she was (is) a leader of the LOCAL sierra club, she is responsible for the decision to (supposedly) "oppose storm surge gates" in NEW ORLEANS?

Talk about weak software and spam........

As for the SLT, don't be so specious. There are many environmental impacts cited as to why the various plans over the years would have been detrimental to quality of life for ALL species--even the great spotted wingnut .

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bearded_gnome 7 years ago

one poster recently asked if "merrill" was just software that posts liberal spam on the boards. not a bad description. often repeating the same burned-out stuff by cut-and-paste, oh and it is Bush's fault. yeah, riiiiight.

some claimed that Bush had the 9th ward levee in New Orleans blown up intentionally...probably Merrill is one of them...but Merrill is just liberal software that posts leftist spam that should never be believed.

oh, speaking of levees, we have a greenie city commish candidate running, was local leader of sierra club. that organization with another enviro group successfully sued and stopped the building of storm surge gates in *new orleans. guess what, if those gates proposed in the '70s had been built, NO would have remained dry. so, the enviros seem to oppose ordinary flood/surge protection. she also led the opposition in the beginning of the SLT, saying that if it is built, people will drive on it. that was their reason for opposing it.

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Ragingbear 7 years ago

Well, you know there is a chance that a hurricane could go up the Mississippi river and then take a number of branches through ditches and irrigation canals to the Kaw river.

This is just stupid. Spend the money on something more productive. Like hiring consultants to tell us we need more roundabouts or something.

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hawkperchedatriverfront 7 years ago

Oh, lets see,,,,how about a leveee fee on the water bill. the city commissioners can pass that on their own. After all, the water bill is a fee collection service.

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monkeyhawk 7 years ago

Good thing we have all that money in the rainy day fund......... don't we???

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ASBESTOS 7 years ago

""We're concerned that this amounts to an unfunded federal mandate, even though we don't have any indication that there's anything wrong with the levee," City Manager David Corliss said."

The old "unfunded mandate" argument. WEAK very WEAK argument. YES, levees have failed in Kansas in 1993. Some of the levees were undermined and the cities and counties did NOTHING to inspect and verify. We have lots of levees that are in critical condition or unknown condition.

Again the Governmental entities that have the responsibility of making sure things work, and that people are safe, are making excuses on how they cannot possibly do their damn job!

God Forbid one of these levees let's go, then see how far your weak a$$ "unfunded mandate" argument gets you.

"This is Bush over kill for his staff screwing up in Katrina for which HE is still catching hell ..."

Leve it to Merril to make this a Pres. Bush problem. THis is a problem 30-40 years in the making, and it will get worse before it gets addressed, let alone better.

"He said the levee performed well in the 1993 flood."

Yeah they did perfrom well, but have the levees been inspected and verified? NO! SO how does this public servant idiot know????

Again, our city, state civil servants LYING TO US because they cannot get things done and cannot do the job!

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KsTwister 7 years ago

If you take the $90k from the Downtown Lawrence flower budget that will help. In 2002 that budget for the entire city was $500k.Choosing between paying for a sound levee and over exaggerated budget expenditure,then Lawrence protection should come first,trail or no trail.

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onrywmn 7 years ago

I was raised in North Lawrence and lived a lot of my adult life there too, and believe it or not, not all propety owners have to pay for flood insurance. Your property is surveyed to see if it lays in the flood plain due to its elevation. We lived in the 500 block of Lincoln St. for 10 years and it was not required. Of course, they may not recertify the levee after spending more than $100,000. Why? Guess where you get your flood insurance? From the government thru your insurance company. Interesting, huh?

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grandmesa 7 years ago

If it keeps on rainin, levees goin to break, If it keeps on rainin, levees goin to break, When the levee breaks Ill have no place to stay. Mean old levee taught me to weep and moan, Lord, mean old levee taught me to weep and moan, Got what it takes to make a mountain man leave his home, Oh, well, oh, well, oh, well. Dont it make you feel bad When youre tryin to find your way home, You dont know which way to go? If youre goin down south They go no work to do, If you dont know about chicago. Cryin wont help you, prayin wont do you no good, Now, cryin wont help you, prayin wont do you no good, When the levee breaks, mama, you got to move. All last night sat on the levee and moaned, All last night sat on the levee and moaned, Thinkin bout me baby and my happy home. Going, gon to chicago, Gon to chicago, Sorry but I cant take you. Going down, going down now, going down.

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Richard Heckler 7 years ago

This is Bush over kill for his staff screwing up in Katrina for which HE is still catching hell and the funding he promised has yet to see the light of day like No Child Left Behind,like the southern border fence like mideast soldiers protective equipment etc etc.

Yet this project has funding? : http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/12319798/

Are you telling me North Lawrence Property Owners are not already required to have flood insurance? That would be hard to believe.

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