Montevideo approves $2.7 million levee upgrade
MONTEVIDEO -- Montevideo is on the verge of making the floods of 1997 and 2001 the stuff of history and putting behind it the need to ever again call up volunteers to protect lives and property when floodwaters rise.
MONTEVIDEO - Montevideo is on the verge of making the floods of 1997 and 2001 the stuff of history and putting behind it the need to ever again call up volunteers to protect lives and property when floodwaters rise.
City Council members approved action this week to accept $2.7 million in state bonding funds intended to allow the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to complete the third and final phase of a project to upgrade the city’s levee system.
“At least you can see some light at the end of the tunnel,’’ said Steve Jones, Montevideo city manager, also pointing out that there’s plenty of work yet to do. He hopes the funds will allow for final construction to get underway in 2015, with expectations for actual completion in 2016.
The city has been working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to develop the levee system to protect against a 100-year-flood event, with a three-foot level of freeboard protection above that.
The city had already committed more than
$1.1 million in funds towards the levee project. Federal funds totaling more than $7 million allowed the Corps of Engineers to complete the first two phases of the work, but not the third. Jones said city officials are now hoping the recent $2.7 million appropriation from the state will be sufficient for the final work.
This fall, the Corps is expected to award a bid to fund an archaeological excavation at a site near the confluence of the Chippewa and Minnesota Rivers. Previous archaeological work revealed that the site was occupied by the area’s indigenous people. The excavation will allow for the study and protection of artifacts at the site before it is disturbed for the levee project.
Next spring, the Corps should be able to award bids to upgrade what is known as the 1969 levee on the north side of the Trailways Café near the junction of U.S. Highway 212 and Minnesota Highway 7/U.S. Highway 59.
Later next year, it could award bids to upgrade the final stretch of the 1969 levee along the Gravel Road.
The last major portion of the project - estimated to cost $400,000 - will involve closing the railroad passage in the area of U.S. Highway 212 and Minnesota Highway 7.
In between all of this, there’s survey and property acquisition work to complete.
The levee upgrade will provide immediate benefits to many. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is waiting until its completion to upgrade flood maps in the community.
Were those maps to be revised prior to the levee’s completion, another one-third of the city would likely be placed within the highest flood risk zone, Jones said. The designation would greatly increase flood insurance costs in the area and make it more difficult to sell or upgrade properties.
With the levee’s completion, some areas currently designated as being in the highest flood risk area will see their risk designation lowered. They should see a decrease in insurance costs and construction and mortgage restrictions that are placed on properties in the area.
Of course, the most important benefit will be the lasting flood protection the upgraded levee will provide. Since the 1997 flood, the city has been working aggressively to reduce the flood threat, much of it through mitigation.
The city has purchased and removed more than 100 homes from the most flood-prone area of the community. It has replaced flood-vulnerable city infrastructure, such as the water treatment plant, and added pumps to protect low-lying areas.
It’s been a 16-year-long process to both mitigate the flood risk and to bolster the levee system, far longer than many had expected when it was launched in the wake of the 1997 flood, Jones said.