Missouri River flooding

An ongoing project to raise and repair levees in the St. Joseph area is making progress despite delays.

On Thursday, Army Corps of Engineers project leaders met with city and county officials to update them on the work.

Project Manager with the Corps Craig Weltig said about 20% of the total project budget of $70.7 million has been spent so far and only one payment remains from the entities involved in funding the improvements.

M Con LLC has been working to raise levees by about an average of a foot and create underground seepage berms on the east bank of the river, which serves to protect St. Joseph.

“There’s been some delays, obviously, due to the flooding that occurred last year,” Weltig said. “They were hit right in the middle of all the water and the issues that occurred with that.”

Weltig said the left bank project is about 43% complete and is benefiting from the fair weather that the area has seen this winter.

“With the community’s support, we’re actually making lots of good progress and I really commend the local sponsors for providing such and being such a good partner,” Weltig said.

He said the next phase will involve work on the west bank of the river where two projects, separated by the U.S. Highway 36 bridge, will see raises.

Weltig said the Corps is looking to award a contract for the southern section of that split within the next two months. That area will see a increase of around 3.5 feet. He hopes to see construction start in the early summer.

Col. William Hannan, Commander of the Kansas City District of the Corps, said that the main focus right now is levee repair across the state. He said projects are moving along more quickly than they have in the past.

“Right now our priority effort is moving out to repair those. That’s about a two-year effort,” Hannan said. “The good news is, as I’m a new commander, I did the history on the 1993 and 2011 floods and we are moving way faster than we did with each of those two floods.”

He said out of the approximate 65 damaged levees, the Corps already has approval for 56, many of which are already in the engineering and design phase.

The majority of Missouri’s levees, according to Hannan, are not federal but fall under federal jurisdiction when they are damaged. When that happens, the federal government handles 80% of the costs and local entities cover 20%.

The projects being done in the St. Joseph area have seen funding from federal, state and local sources. A Buchanan County quarter-cent sales tax supports the projects locally. Presiding County Commissioner Lee Sawyer said the county is prepared to make the final payment.

Hannan said this project is different than many others due to the efforts made by so many different entities.

“We see a lot of projects with the Corps of Engineers, the exceptional thing about this one is the partnership,” Hannan said. “Everybody is working together on this, from our congressional representatives, to the local leadership, to the levee district, to the county. We have really come together to solve this.”

More flooding is being predicted for this year, and the Corps said it will have to watch it carefully in order to be prepared. If another flood occurs, it would affect the progress of the levee work.

Brendan Welch can be reached

at brendan.welch@newspressnow.com. Follow him on Twitter: @SJNPWelch.