Receding floodwaters reveal damaged levees

Public levees will get access to federal grants for repairs.
Tuesday, May 22, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 3:18 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

KANSAS CITY — As floodwaters recede along the Missouri River bottoms, some areas remain at risk because their levees are broken.

“The flood is not over for me if there’s still a hole in the levee,” said Tom Waters, chairman of the Missouri Levee and Drainage District Association. “More rain could bring more high water.”

The dollar damage remains to be calculated, he said, as inspectors from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers wait to see how many levees were affected. Some were eroded by waves or washed down by currents, while others were breached entirely.

“There’s a significant amount of damage,” Waters said. “As soon as the water is back down, the corps will send their inspectors out, and we’ll get going on repairs.”

The corps is expected to provide millions of dollars in federal grants to local levee districts.

But others will be left out.

In the Jackson County town of Levasy, for example, a dozen homes were flooded when a levee broke. But because the levee was built to protect farmland and is privately owned and maintained, it is not eligible for the repair grants.

Glen Dieckman, the city’s flood plain manager, said property owners will have to pursue aid through other agencies.

Jud Kneuvean, who manages the corps’ Levee Rehabilitation and Inspection Program, said several levees in the Kansas City area have serious flood damage.

Most of those districts are eligible for corps grants, which pay 80 percent of repair costs.

The corps’ maintenance and repair program covers levees built and maintained by local levee districts. They must be inspected for proper maintenance and meet certain structural requirements.

The state levee association has reports of a dozen major breaches, Waters said, with numerous others eroded on their tops or sides.

Repairs are costly, he said, because of the heavy equipment required to push dirt into place or haul it to make repairs.

“It will be in the millions of dollars,” Waters said.

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