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New Levee to Better Guard Des Moines Neighborhood

Thu March 31, 2011 - Midwest Edition
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DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) A new levee protecting a Des Moines neighborhood that flooded twice since 1993 should be more reliable than previous ones, but it still doesn’t eliminate the risk of flooding, an official with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said.

“We want people to still keep their eyes on the river and be vigilant even if they have a higher level of protection,” Tim Heinold, a flood engineer of the corps, told the Des Moines Register. The corps is in charge of the project.

Reconstruction work on the Birdland levee along the Des Moines River is on pace to be finished this summer. Once completed, the $11 million levee will provide the best defense against flooding the neighborhood has ever had.

In many places, it will be wider and about 2 to 4 ft. (.6 to 1.2 m) taller than before.

“It will protect this area just as well as City Hall is protected,” said Des Moines’ Public Works Director, Bill Stowe.

The levee was added to the corps’ waiting list for major upgrades after the 1993 flood. The Birdland neighborhood, on the city’s north side, was flooded again in 2008, and had multiple scares last summer.

Work on the levee is about three-fourths complete, Heinold said. Reconstructed areas include a stretch where a breach occurred in 2008.

Most of the snowpack in the Des Moines River basin has already melted, decreasing the likelihood of heavy spring flooding in Des Moines.

“We’re headed for a more typical year,” Heinold said.

Farther downstream from the Birdland area, major work on the Central Place levee has yet to start. The contract for the project was awarded last September, but it came in too late to start construction. If weather and river levels permit, construction would begin this spring.

The Central Place levee project will cost about $7.5 million. It will protect 110 businesses in the Central Place Business Park. The levee was damaged during the floods of 1993, and the corps determined it needs to be replaced.

Both levees will be easier to maintain, Stowe said. Trees were allowed to grow on the levees, which weakened them and contributed to the 2008 failure of the Birdland levee, he said.

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