CAIRO, Ill. -- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has allocated $6.6 million to address seepage issues in the Cairo levee that was almost lost during this spring's flooding.
Construction of 28 relief wells for the seepage will begin sometime this week and will cost $1.2 million, Corps of Engineers spokesman Jim Pogue said. A relief well collects water from seepage, minimizing the water's effect on levees and the amount of water that collects on a levee's land side.
During the flooding last spring, three holes were blasted in the Birds Point-New Madrid Floodway levee to relieve flood pressure in Missouri, Kentucky and Illinois. The breaches were opened in part to protect Cairo, where the Mississippi and Ohio rivers were putting huge strain on the flood-protection system.
"We had tremendous problems with seepage this spring," Pogue said. "We came dangerously close to losing the levee."
To supplement the relief wells, the corps has allocated $5.4 million to build a slurry trench. The trenches are used to reinforce the wells and are filled with a thick suspension of solids in a liquid. Construction of the trenches will begin around Nov. 1, Pogue said.
Corps officials recently announced that another $3 million was authorized to pay for the work to reconstruct the levee along the floodway to a height equivalent to 55 feet on the Cairo river gauge. The upper and middle crevasses will be raised to 55 feet, while the lower crevasse will remain at 51 feet, due to a gap in the levee that already existed and lets backwater flooding in.
The corps has 91 percent of the upper crevasse completed, 48 percent of the middle and 96 percent of the lower. The middle breach was delayed until an endangered species of bird that was nesting in the area left.
The corps has already spent $8.4 million and has committed a total of $15 million to shore up the levee to 51 feet by Nov. 30, a goal the corps is still on target to meet, Pogue said.