Floodwall effort relies on cooperation

Thursday, September 27, 2007

By Douglas K. Leslie

There has been some recent news concerning the status and plans for the floodwall system in downtown Cape Girar-deau. We do not dispute the information that was in the articles, but we would like to provide some additional insight to this significant asset protecting our community.

The floodwall system, including the wall and levee you see above ground as well as the extensive underground piping and two large pumping stations, have served us well for nearly 50 years. One only has to gaze at the top of the Broadway floodgate to see the high-level marks for the 1993 and 1995 Mississippi River floods. Without this system of protection, the downtown would have been devastated during both of these major flood events.

Inspections by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers following these floods events indicated some issues that need to be addressed to reinforce the wall, provide joints for expansion and contraction caused by the heat and cold, replace the underground drainage network and substantially upgrade the two pumping stations. Much of this work is needed simply because the system has seen 50 years of service and several challenging floods.

Following this report, various stakeholders met with representatives of U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, U.S. Sen. Kit Bond and then-U.S. Sen. Jim Talent to discuss needed repairs and improvements to the system. It was evident early on that these repairs would be costly and would be beyond the ability of either the levee districts or the city to finance.

It was at that time that our federal legislators became involved and challenged the corps to present a plan and estimates for providing a new 50-year design life for the floodwall system. After numerous meetings and conferences with federal representatives, the plan and funding to make the plan a reality were packaged.

It was also during the course of these discussions that both levee districts, the Main Street Levee District and the North Main Street Levee District, had changed in character or interest, causing the corps to question the long-term continuity of the sponsorship of this system if this substantial investment were made. The city did not seek to sponsor the system but was simply responding to the requests by the corps and others to assume this role for the future. The discussions and actions needed to transfer responsibilities are still underway.

I commend the Main Street Levee District, led by Andy Juden, for his decades of service and excellent maintenance of the system and his vigilance in watching the river to protect the downtown area.

Also, AmerenUE and its predecessor Missouri Utilities played a key leadership role in the North Main Street Levee District, providing staffing and expertise in management of the operations of this system for many years. The contributions of these individuals in this effort cannot be overstated.

We look forward to the improvements to be made to the system and the assumption of responsibilities for long-term operation and maintenance of this system. None of this would have been possible without the incredible funding support and assistance from our federal legislators Emerson, Bond and Talent. Rest assured the city will continue to exercise care in this system's maintenance and will meet its flood protection responsibilities in the future.

Douglas K. Leslie is the city manager of Cape Girardeau.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: