High Water Means High Cost for City

On Tuesday night the Manhattan city commission received a briefing form the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on a new proposed project to raise the levee currently protecting part of the city.

The project would include a length of around 14,000 feet, and raise the structure 3.5 feet in sections. The price of the improvements is estimated to be 26.4 million dollars. Construction would be conducted in three phases over five years.

The impetus behind the study was the dangerous water levels seen in the 1993 flood. At that time the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and city officials noted that the levee system was full even though water flow was just above half of the rated protection.

On Tuesday the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers explained the construction and estimates made during levee construction were based off of theoretical numbers given without the actual dam system being completed. This led to the levee being unable to sustain protection at the required levels.

The new project (dubbed n300 for the 300 flood year plan it is designed to protect against) would continue through the process of local and federal approval before construction would begin around 2016.

One of the first steps was realized on Tuesday as the commission endorsed the project with an official letter of intent. The motion passed with many of the commissioners saying they really had no choice to do so due to the alternative damages from a projected flood.

Commissioner Rich Jankovich says the project had to go forward, but the blame for the current situation lies firmly at the feet of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers initial design.

Commissioner Wynn Butler warns the cost for the city will have to be planned for, and couldn’t be paid with just by storm water fees.

Commissioner Usha Reddi says she is worried about the project costs inflating, and funding.

Commissioner Karen McCulloh says she believes the 1993 flood was in large part due to outdated policies, and wonders if this project is just following the same 1950’s plan to manage water drainage.

Seeing no alternatives the commission unanimously passed the motion, and plans on tackling the funding issue in later sessions.