Plymouth County officials order levee repairs

Posted April 11, 2019 at 5:00 am

By Julie Ann Madden

“It’s a matter of who wants to predict when water is going to come up next and how long is (the Big Sioux River levee) going to last,” said Plymouth County Emergency Management Coordinator Duane Walhof. “We’re in an emergency situation — what are we going to do to fix that levee?”

That’s what Walhof, and Plymouth County Engineer Tom Rohe asked Plymouth County Supervisors at their April 2 meeting.

When the Big Sioux River rises, it floods its old oxbow, just west of Westfield’s sewage lagoons in Section 27 of Westfield Township, said Walhof, explaining this causes flood waters to hit the north side of the levee. “The theory is if the levee blows out, it’s going to run over the top of (Westfield’s) sewage lagoons and eventually blow them out — making a mess for the City of Westfield that will be a long time trying to fix.”

Both properties of Westfield residents and those who live downstream could be inundated with sewage, they said.

“We have to get it fixed,” said Supervisor Craig Anderson.

“Yes,” agreed Supervisor Chairman Don Kass. “How close is the water now?”

“The river is down but one 4-inch rain –,” said Walhof.

The county has two problems in repairing it: finding fill dirt material and the time to fix it, said Rohe, noting one of the three breached areas washed out last year and the county crews fixed it.

According to Rohe, it could take about 25 loads or more of material to fix the three breached areas and the county has no materials on this side of the county.

Their gravel pit at Chatsworth was saturated and its access may be still be underwater, Rohe told supervisors.

Any dirt that the levee lost has been washed away so material will have to be hauled in and possibly purchased, he said.

“We can fix it,” said Rohe. “It’s just a matter of when. We’d like to get our roads (damaged by flooding) fixed first.”

“It’s a coin flip of when is it going to flood again,” said Walhof.

“If you need it done in two weeks, it would be best (to hire a contractor to do it),” said Rohe.

Supervisor John Meis asked if this would be covered by Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) disaster assistance.

Walhof wasn’t sure, noting county officials were meeting privately with FEMA officials on April 4.

If it would be, Meis was concerned about what FEMA requirements would be for repairing the levee.

“It doesn’t really matter,” said Kass. “It has to be done.”

Anderson made a motion to direct Rohe to get materials and hire a contractor if necessary to fix the levee as soon as possible. Supervisor Gary Horton seconded the motion, and the vote was 5-0.

It was noted the county’s Procurement Policy’s emergency clause covered this action.

Rohe estimated levee repairs would cost about $15,000 to $20,000. However, it won’t cause property owners in the Westfield Drainage District No. 3 to pay more. The Drainage District’s coffers have about $90,000 at this time.

In addition, county officials hope to be reimbursed with FEMA disaster funds.

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