Study is first step for future repairs to Paducah levee, floodwall

Published Dec. 15, 2010

On Nov. 8 the Louisville District Corps of Engineers and the City of Paducah, the non-Federal sponsor, hosted a public meeting on the reconstruction of the Ohio River Shoreline, Paducah, Ky., Reconstruction Project.

The public meeting was held to explain the Corps’ recommendations of the feasibility study on the rehabilitation of the local flood protection project. Public review of the draft feasibility report was completed Nov. 30. Headquarters review of the document was complete Dec. 3.

"Your voice will be heard," Project Manager Theresa Beckham assured attendees. "All of the public comments will be addressed in the report."

The $19 million project will consist primarily of rehabilitation and upgrades of a more than 60-year-old project including reconstruction of deteriorated components that are beyond their service life and a new pump plant to address interior flooding. The reconstruction project will be within the existing footprint of the original flood protection project requiring minimal acquisition of property, primarily for access easements. Construction of the original project was completed in 1949.

The existing 12.2-mile flood protection project minimizes flood risk for more than 11,000 acres in the City of Paducah and helps to minimize risk for more than 20,000 people who live behind the levee system, as well as 65,000 people who would be affected economically due to industry and residences located in this area. Risk of flooding can’t be totally eliminated, according to Beckham, however, the Corps mission is to minimize risk as much as possible.

"This levee system is so important," Beckham said. "What you’re doing as a community is partnering with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to repair the levee system and to bring it up to current design criteria. This will provide continued and improved flood risk management for your community."

Beckham briefed the attendees on the project scope, benefits, cost and schedule and the Corps’ recommendations. The Corps suggests the reconstruction of the existing project to include replacement and/or repair of pumps and pump motors, slip-lining of corrugated metal pipes, bank stabilization, construction of a permanent discharge pipe at the Woodward Hollow site, and the addition of pump plant No. 14 on Eighth St.

"We have to get authorization and appropriation so we can get the work done," District Commander Col. Keith Landry said. "What you see presented today is just sort of the first stage."

Paducah City Engineer Rick Murphy who was in attendance referred to a photo of a severely corroded corrugated discharge pipe and said that the justification for the reconstruction is all in one picture.

Additionally, Landry praised the City of Paducah for being a responsible and diligent sponsor by maintaining and supporting the project. "We’re very happy that the City of Paducah is a great partner," Landry said.

The sponsor spent an average of $73,000 a year, between 1994 and 2006, for necessary replacement of system components to improve the reliability of the system. These expenditures were in addition to the annual average of $500,000 for normal operations and maintenance of the levee system.

The city had previously completed the slip-lining of 37 severely corroded discharge pipes throughout the levee system. Without the proposed reconstruction project, the cost of the pipe slip-lining would be the sole responsibility of the City of Paducah at a cost of $2.1 million.

"We have to put our best foot forward so we can move forward," Murphy said.

Prior to the meeting, Louisville District staff visited ten locations along the levee system including underground canned pump plants; sections of the floodwall with deteriorated water stops; slip-lined discharge pipes in the levee; Bee Branch sluice gate structure; several closures in the floodwall proposed to be permanently sealed; antiquated components in pumping plants; and the largest pump plant in the system, pump plant No. 2, where Landry was lowered 21-feet by a hand-cranked hoist into a confined space entry wet-well to see first-hand the condition of the deteriorating components.