Glasgow Levee Fails Inspection
Maintenance, Encroachments On Right-Of-Way Cited
BY SAMAR FAY, COURIER EDITOR
Published: Thursday, February 9th, 2012
A five-man delegation from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers delivered the news to Glasgow officials Tuesday that the city’s levee had received an “unacceptable” rating from an independent inspection company. The contractor did 63 inspections in Montana and found that 10 levees were unacceptable.
The Corps group met with city, county, National Weather Service and hospital representatives at the Glasgow office of the National Weather Service.
Glasgow’s levee, built by the Corps in the 1930s, protected the city from the worst flooding in history last year, but that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t fail under the next stress, said Bryan Flere, who is in the Geotechnical Branch of Omaha District’s Engineering Division, in charge of the levee program.
The Corps doesn’t operate and maintain the levees it builds, but it does conduct regular inspections. If a levee is up to snuff and fails in a flood, the Corps will pay 100 percent of repair costs to restore it to the pre-flood condition. If a levee fails to meet inspection criteria, it is dropped from the program.
“We want to manage our risks,” Flere said. “You need to fix the biggest concerns, to reduce the risk to the community.”
He also urged the city to file a System-Wide Improvement Framework (SWIF) that would keep the levee eligible in the program for two more years while city officials come up with a plan to remedy the deficiencies.
“If you move forward with a plan, we’ll work with you,” Flere said.
The high-priority concerns in Glasgow include trees and vegetation growing on the levee, cracking and animal burrowing. Some low sections should be topped with gravel to bring them up to height. There are also what Flere called legacy issues: re-establishment of the right of way and removal of encroachments such as garages, gardens, fences and stairs in the levee.
Flere said the Corps had a legal right of way when the levee was built, but over the years the exact line has been obscured. The levee has been raised, land was filled in alongside it in some places, parts were removed west of the fairgrounds when U.S. 2 was enlarged. The Corps wants a clear 15-foot right of way from the toe of the levee, so they have backspace to build berms against seepage. They even have an interest in construction taking place within a 500-foot buffer zone, if it would affect the integrity of the levee. The example given was a large fish pond that could seep and weaken the levee.
Bob Kompel, Glasgow’s director of public works, said that a historical study and a survey were done in 2010 to determine the center line of the levee – and resulted in threatening letters from lawyers hired by landowners who accused the city of trespassing. One person in particular refuses to remove encroachments right against the levee.
Glasgow Mayor Dan Carney said the city would like to fix the problems but it doesn't have the cash. Flere said he only has money for inspections. It is always the sponsor’s responsibility to maintain the levee.
One proposed solution, to move the levee out into the flood plain, away from the encroachments, would be a major modification requiring a headquarters-level review to current Corps standards, Flere said. It would also have to be reviewed by FEMA to maintain its certification.
FEMA would not be a source of funding for the city’s problem, according to Kompel.
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