Corps: Levee contract to be awarded soon

Friday, July 27, 2012

A contract to begin rebuilding the lower crevasse in the Birds Point-New Madrid levee system should be awarded next week, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The corps released an update July 20 that said overall rebuilding efforts in the confluence area of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers are proceeding on time or are ahead of schedule, due in part to the weather.

"Although the current drought has presented us with a number of challenges related to river navigation, it has provided us with some great weather for construction. With favorable weather conditions on our side, we are continuing the critical work of restoring the system as quickly as possible to improve its resiliency and strength for the next flood event," said Col. Vernie Reichling, commander of the Memphis District.

Record river levels and rainfall last spring spurred the activation of a 70-year-old emergency plan to activate the Birds Point-New Madrid Floodway. The corps used explosives to blast three segments totaling nearly four miles along the length the levee system, flooding more than 130,000 acres in Mississippi and New Madrid counties, to prevent greater damage to other areas of Missouri, Illinois and Kentucky.

In May, private contractors were brought in to complete phase one of reconstruction, with the goal of restoring the levee to 55 feet and to its full width, which varies along the system.

Repairs were delayed in June due to protests over how repair contracts were awarded, but work resumed earlier this month. The upper and center crevasses should reach 55 feet by September and October, respectively, the corps reported.

Construction companies vying to complete phase one on the lower crevasse had a deadline of Wednesday to submit proposals, and corps spokesman Jim Pogue said an award is expected to to be announced "sometime next week."

The corps met with property owners and county officials July 18 and 19 and attendees agreed that the project is moving forward in a timely manner, he said.

"We feel like we have a much higher level of confidence about getting to a state of completion by the end of the year," Pogue said.

Mississippi County Presiding Commissioner Carlin Bennett said he was glad to have the opportunity to meet contractors that will be involved in the project and that he is pleased with the progress that has been made recently, but said things have taken a long time to get started.

Most heartening, Bennett said, was the news that the levee is still on track to be fully restored by the end of the year. Farmers have already gone two growing seasons without full protection, he said.

Two updates released by the corps this month did not specify the full height that will be reached during the second and final phase of reconstruction, but Pogue said plans to restore the levee to its original height of 62.5 feet remains unchanged.

"The bottom line is, we're putting it back the way it was," Pogue said.

The update also announced that the corps has opened a location in East Prairie, Mo., to oversee the remainder of the project. Reichling said current information can be gathered from Mark Broughton or Bobby Carlyle in that office.

salderman@semissourian.com

388-3648

Pertinent address:

Wyatt, MO

East Prairie, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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