An open letter to city of Glasgow residents from the desk of Mayor Becky Erickson.
In 1938, the Glasgow Levee was built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). Once completed, the Levee was given to the city of Glasgow, which took over ownership, or “public sponsor” of the system for operations and maintenance.
The Levee is 12,040 feet in length, or 2.28 miles, stretching from near the Valley County Museum at Hwy. 2 southward around the south side of town, and northeastward behind the hospital to meet at the Fort Peck Highway. The purpose of the Levee is to protect the 65 commercial buildings and the 354 residential homes, as well as the hospital and other critical city, county, state and federal agencies from flooding. Although not all residents are protected by the Levee, having a Levee failure would impact all city and county residents with the loss of access and services in the short term, and in economic recovery in the long term.
The city of Glasgow, as the public sponsor of the Levee, is currently working on some locally and USACE identified maintenance issues. If the Levee falls outside of these guidelines, the city would no longer be able to participate in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), and homeowners would not be able to purchase flood insurance. Not being part of the NFIP also restricts future development, property development and the city would not be able to receive federal disaster assistance if a significant flood hit and caused damage. For example, the McDonald’s in Glendive ended up closing because the franchise required them to expand, and since that area was not in the NFIP program, they could not obtain the permits needed to expand.
Properly maintaining the Levee include taking steps to remove overgrowth of grasses, trees and bushes along the Levee, minimizing erosion, repairing surface rutting and addressing pest issues, such as holes from burrowing animals.
The city will be doing work on the Levee through the fall. Encroachments, or structures that are within 15 feet of the toe of the Levee, also need to be addressed. Some encroachments could reduce the performance of the Levee system during a flood event and they could also hinder access by emergency workers during a serious flood emergency. In order to correctly identify these encroachments, the city of Glasgow has hired a registered land surveyor to begin surveying the Levee. This allows property owners and the city the ability to know exactly where the “toe” of the Levee and the 15-foot requirement is located. The city asks residents to be mindful of these stakes and to not remove them, as well as take the time to review them among their property boundaries.
Once the reference stakes are placed, the city maintenance crew will clear any vegetation and make the necessary repairs in the city’s area of responsibility. Any discrepancies by the property owners should be brought to the attention of the city so they can work with you to evaluate and address the issue.
In 2011, there was almost continuous water against the Levee from April 7 through June 26. While the Levee performed admirably, without routine and emergency maintenance, this may not be the same result during the next flood. Since the Levee was built, there have been 17 events with the river cresting high enough to have water against the Levee, or one event every 4.5 years. There are many instances in recent history across the United States where levees have failed and improper maintenance continued to be the cause.
The Glasgow Levee Safety Committee was established earlier this year to address the issues with the Levee. The committee includes Dan Carney, Larry Mires, John Fontaine, Mike Kaiser, Rick Seiler, Tanja Fransen and various city council members and staff. They have spent many hours ensuring the Levee will stay within federal guidelines for the safety of the community. The committee and the city welcome resident input and involvement as they work towards meeting the guidelines. We anticipate public meetings in the future to inform, educate and involve the community.
The city of Glasgow takes our flood risk seriously and recognizes that being well prepared and properly maintaining the Levee helps mitigate future losses.