Highway officials discuss solutions for rebuilding road at Wappapello

Sunday, September 4, 2011

WAPPAPELLO LAKE, Mo. -- One possible fix for the flood-damaged section of Route T at Wappapello Lake would have a permanent road in place within a year, highway officials told U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt on Wednesday during an informational tour of the damage.

Missouri Department of Transportation workers expect to bring this and other potential solutions to the public for input later this month.

They joined Butler and Wayne County commissioners, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers St. Louis District Col. Christopher Hall and Wappapello project manager Cindy Jackson to answer questions from Blunt at the lake's project office.

"It sounds to me like everyone, at every level, is doing their best," said Blunt, a Republican, after speaking with the group. He said he and U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson would "continue to watch this and do what we can to be helpful and also not get in the way. Right out there is the way to solve this, rather than in D.C."

During the meeting, he asked for more information about ways Route T might be repaired, costs associated with the project and any other community needs.

The obvious solution is a bridge, said Wayne County Presiding Commissioner Brian Polk, echoing comments made by many officials since the spring flood.

"It would basically eliminate the washout from ever happening again," Polk said. "This may not ever happen again in our lifetimes, but this is twice it has happened now."

A less costly and less time-consuming solution may be a low-water crossing, said MoDOT district engineer Mark Shelton. If this is approved, construction would begin in the summer of 2012 and be completed by late fall.

The road MoDOT is considering would be located between the existing Route T and the bypass road constructed after the flooding, Shelton said. It would be constructed to survive an overflow from the emergency spillway like that seen in May, which he believes would be the only time the road would be underwater.

A low-water crossing would cost a little over $1 million, while a bridge would be closer to $2 million, Shelton said. The new location is being considered because rebuilding in the same location would cost between $1.5 and $1.7 million, according to Shelton.

Polk questioned if it was possible to construct something to withstand the force of an overflow, which tore out a 400-foot section of Route T and left a large crater 50 feet deep in places below the emergency spillway.

Jackson reminded everyone a 4-inch think concrete slab walkway constructed by volunteers at the former Blue Hole fishing area did.

"We think it is reasonable to investigate and look at a low water crossing," Shelton said. "Bridges also come with higher maintenance costs and higher replacement costs. That is a lot of money for an extremely low frequency event."

The emergency spillway has overflowed twice in the lake's approximately 70-year history.

No decisions have been made at this time and public meetings will be scheduled to hear from residents and other concerned parties, Shelton said.

He added the good news is some funding has already been allotted for this project. Approximately $1.4 million was awarded by the U.S. Department of Transportation to repair flood damage in the Birds Point/New Madrid Floodway and on Route T in Wayne County. Shelton could not say how the money would be split between these projects, or the total amount of road damage for the two areas.

"It sounds like we're trying to get this resolved in the most cost effective and reasonable way," Blunt said.

Hall, who has been with the district a little less than three months, praised the group for their efforts and ability to work together.

"It's groups like this that make stuff happen," Hall said. "This is the team, and the corps, we're in it for the long haul. It is greatly encouraging to me to know we're continuing to work through this issue."

Butler County Emergency Management Director Rick Sliger also questioned during the meeting if any other changes will occur at the Wappapello project as a result of this flood.

Jackson said they are looking now at changes that may need to be made to the water control and release plan. One potential difference may be beginning a 10,000 cfs. release at an earlier lake stage if continued rainfall is predicted.

There are no plans at this time to fill the crater carved out by the overflow of the emergency spillway, she said. There has been some discussion of creating an interpretive trail there, Jackson added.

The project has been stressed financially in trying to make flood repairs to roadways, eroded banks and other areas within its existing budget for this fiscal year, which had already been trimmed back. Work is happening as quickly as manpower and funding allows, the corps has said.

Pertinent address:

Wappapello Lake, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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