Flooding is a concern in the Glasgow area, a concern that has become a reality a number of times over the last century. Only a few years ago, in 2011, a large flood threatened and damaged the area. The disaster caused millions of dollars of damage.
The Army Corps of Engineers gave the city of Glasgow two years to complete a plan to fix several issues with the Milk River and Cherry Creek Levee that was rated as unacceptable. Glasgow formed a Levee Safety Committee in order to meet the deadline that will come up on July 1 of this year. That committee has met regularly and looked into all the issues listed by the corps.
The city council received the final draft of the System Wide Infrastructure Framework (SWIF) and approved sending it to the Army Corps of Engineers at the city council meeting on Monday, April 21. Dan Carney, Mike Kaiser and John Fontaine, all part of the Levee committee, were present at the meeting to support the final draft. Carney explained that the SWIF would go to the Omaha Division of the Corps and after approval it would go onto Washington, D.C ., for final approval. The hope is to have the plan officially approved by the July deadline.
"If its not approved, we're working on another plan, we're waiting on a letter of intent until its approved, which could change the scope of the project," Carney said at the meeting.
A push to finish the project is due to the fact that if a breach in the Levee occurs, after a rating of unacceptable, money to repair the Levee that might come from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) wouldn't funnel to Glasgow's Levee. It would also mean that the entire south side of town would be required to obtain flood insurance.
Glasgow is blessed and cursed with one of the oldest levees in the state of Montana. There has been a history of a Levee being placed along the same lines since the early 1900s, but the official project was a WPA (Works Progress Administration) project completed in 1936. Once the project was complete, it was up to the city of Glasgow to maintain.
During a tour of the Levee, Colleen Horhan from the Army Corps of Engineers inspected and looked at all the problems listed. Fontaine explained that over the years of floods, the Levee actually shifted as dirt was added to the side to keep water from breaching during floods.
Fontaine spent a lot of time researching the history and trying to plot lines to where the original Levee existed. That shifting of the Levee has helped cause encroachment issues with property owners.
Dealing with that encroachment issue might be what costs the big bucks. The proposal of moving the Levee could cost the city up to $1.2 million, according to the city SWIF plan. Several other issues, such as removing vegetation, repairing burrows and erosion, and repairing depressions and ruts added to those repairs, could cost the city a few million.
Carney explained at the city council meeting that some of the work to remove vegetation had already been done with the help of Valley County. The work was valued at $11,000 to remove trees and shrubs from half of a mile of the Levee. Work done by the city of Glasgow that has been completed was valued at $9,400. Survey work finished for the right-of-way was $2,200 and title searches cost $3,825.
"There are huge costs," Glasgow Mayor Becky Erickson said at the meeting. "We need to be diligent on finding the funds."
The city proposed a timeline to the corps to complete some of the work. Carney said at the meeting that they aren't really sure how long the corps will allow to complete some of the work, but the finances involved will take time to budget. Removal of vegetation is scheduled to be completed by February 2015, but some of the bigger issues, such as relocating a portion of the existing Levee to deal with encroachment issues, might not be completed until 2020.
The next step after the SWIF draft is sent will be to make suggested revisions. Once the plan is finalized, the city will begin to plan for budgeting concerns to complete all the tasks. The Levee committee will continue to meet regularly while they wait to hear back from the Corps.