One of the hottest topics at the Glasgow City Council meeting had council members and the mayor trying to figure out how to handle higher waters. With flood being a common problem in the Glasgow area, the city council tried to discuss taking action at the meeting on Monday, Nov. 18.
A letter of intent that was signed in July 2012 gave the city two years to complete a list of items to keep the Levee in conditions that met the Army Corp of Engineers standards. Keeping those standards means being able to accept funds from FEMA to rebuild infrastructures and damage caused by a sever flood. If the list of items aren’t taken care of it could also mean taxpayers would have to carry flood insurance.
The hang up over the past year to take action has been to create a Levee committee to handle issues that may need attention. Bob Kompel, the city director of public works, said that committee or not the items listed by the engineers had to be met within the next year.
The Levee surrounding much of the south side of Glasgow needs trees and brush removed –some of the smaller items on the list discussed at the council meeting. Mayor Dan Carney named a few landowners and suggested two council members and himself to be involved in the committee to help carry out the issues.
“Get it done; if we don’t get it done we’re in deep,” Carney said at the city council meeting.
Council member and Mayor-elect Becky Erickson said she saw conflicts of interests and thought that setting up a committee and moving ahead would be the best option. Kompel said at the meeting that the city would need funds to do some of the work required and that with the winter weather here, spring would be tight on time to complete the list by July 2014. Kompel said that he could need as much as $30,000 to complete the list.
“We need more than funding, we need to get a lot of work done,” Carney said.
Carney suggested using city workers and volunteers to do some of the work and suggested the fire department cut some of the trees that needed to be removed. Fire Chief Brandon Brunelle said the department wouldn’t mind taking on the work.
Larry Meyers was present at the meeting. He has been involved with funding to rehabilitate the St. Marie irrigation and even lobbied on the issue. Meyers also owns property next to the Levee. He stood up and told the room that with a new water resource act that passed in the last year, the national Levee safety committee left the Army Corp of Engineers with the power to change rules on how to maintain and build levees.
Meyers warned that there could be more costs for improvements mandated on small communities with levies. He suggested the city show some effort and get as much done as possible but keep an eye on national happenings that may affect the current issues with Glasgow’s Levee.
Kompel said at the end of the Levee discussion that only six out of a few dozen items had been completed and that he just needed the go ahead on getting things done. He also needs more man power to complete the work before the deadline.
Later in an interview, Kompel explained that the city attorney had to come up with a resolution. The Montana Silver Jackets, the DNRC and USACE Levee team members discussed what needed to be done in a phone conference the following day of the city council meeting. Kompel said that another complication with getting the Levee items taken care of has been property owners with issues on tree and brush removal.
“We’re blessed and cursed with one of the oldest core of engineers levees in the state,” Kompel said.
The Levee was built in 1936, and could have possibly been a WPA project. The Glasgow area suffered repeated floods on the south side of town, and there is a theory that they could have been building the dam while flooding was occurring. Which means the Levee could have encroached on some of the current properties that sit next to the Levee. Kompel and the city attorney has been trying to research and find whether or not an easement was gained to the city legally or not.
“We may be paying the piper for past doings,” Kompel said. “If there were no proper easements made it will mean problems.”
While the dam was built by the engineers, it has been up to the city to keep it maintained. Kompel explained that after the Hurricane Katrina disaster in New Orleans, Levee standards have been raised. While the Levee has remained for many years, the city has still seen flooding on the flood plain on the south side of town.
“It’s gone on for years, the city has tried to fix the problems,” Kompel said. “Over time buildings and infrastructure has grown closer to the levee.”
In the last inspection, Glasgow’s Levee was only minimally acceptable. SWIF (System-wide Improvement of Framework) allowed the city time to plan and correct issues and allow the city to set long-term goals and plans to commit to the program and improve the city Levee. Kompel said that the city has always set aside money in the budget for maintaining the Levee but that has been for minimal projects. Now they have to look at fences, buildings and trees, which are causing costs that will range in the thousands.
Kompel said if the city loses the ability to use FEMA funds in the event of a major flood disaster, it could cost the city $125,000 per square city block to replace infrastructures like roads, water and sewer lines and storm drains. Costs that high could leave the city in a major financial short fall.
“Whether the committee moves ahead or not, we just need the list to be done,” Kompel said.