Cape Girardeau could receive funds to help sinkhole problem

Tuesday, August 6, 2013
ADAM VOGLER ~ avogler@semissourian.com
One of two sinkholes located in the 2300 block of South Sprigg Street
Friday, June 7, in Cape Girardeau. The sinkholes, which have caused the street to be closed, are getting worse according to Cape Girardeau public service director Tim Gamling.

Cape Girardeau soon could receive federal assistance in its search for a solution to the sinkhole problem.

Cape Girardeau County was one of many in the state to qualify for federal reimbursement after a federal emergency declaration was approved July 19. Missouri State Emergency Management Agency officials already have met once with public entities in the county to help them identify projects that would repair damage caused in June by major flooding.

Although flooding and fluctuating Mississippi River levels can aggravate sinkholes, Cape Girardeau public works director Tim Gramling said nothing seems to have changed in the past couple of months.

"They seem to be, at this point, holding kind of steady," he said. "We still keep an eye on them to make sure they haven't changed, especially the one under the [South Sprigg Street] bridge ..."

The other known sinkholes are in the road on South Sprigg Street, which forced the city to shut down the street, and near LaCroix Creek.

At this point, he said, the city still is waiting for the federal disaster process to "play out" before making its next move.

He said last week's meeting with SEMA officials was "more of a formality" to explain the process of identifying a project and to determine if it qualifies for reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Association. Gramling said more meetings would be held in the next two weeks to begin the planning process for the projects.

Before a project can be proposed to "fix" the sinkholes, he said the city first needs to find a viable solution.

"It's a large undertaking. It's a rare occurrence," Gramling said. "Everyone that's looked at it so far has said they've seen similarities to other occurrences, but there are all these other characteristics that are unique, so nobody's really got an exact idea of what to do."

He said he would like to find someone familiar with sinkhole systems that are more similar to those in Cape Girardeau and discuss possible solutions. Until they have a better idea of what's going on underground, he said, it's unlikely an answer can be found.

"I would like to find someone with cameras and specialized equipment that could go deep down in the sinkholes and map out some of the holes and crevices," Gramling said. "Obviously, you can't just send people down there; it's too dangerous. The problem is, you can't just find someone around any corner with the equipment to do that."

Whatever solution the city finds, he said the city "definitely" wants to open South Sprigg Street again.

"If worst comes to worst, we'll do like we did before and just fill in the holes and pave over them," Gramling said.

He admits the solution would likely be only temporary, but is hopeful a more long-term solution will present itself as the city continues to work with emergency management officials.

srinehart@semissourian.com

388-3641

Pertinent address:

2350 S. Sprigg St., Cape Girardeau, Mo.

Map of pertinent addresses

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