Floodwall certification will be costly

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Mayor complains about federal mandates

By Kevin Koelling, Managing Editor

CANNELTON - The Federal Emergency Management Agency wants Cannelton's floodwall to be "accredited," Sanitation Supervisor Jerry Ball said at a board of public works and safety meeting Feb. 9. The city's mayor called the requirement another example of the federal government "nickel-and-diming us on that levy."

Ball said he can submit paperwork to get the wall "provisionally accredited," a designation that would last for two years and "would make flood insurance mandatory for everyone with a mortgage."

He reported last month he'd attended a levee-safety conference and learned about requirements imposed after levees failed in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. Among them is one that will have the city perform camera inspections of sewer lines that run under the floodwall.

If that and other actions aren't completed, the federal government won't help with funding for projects such as floodwall repairs, Ball said at the recent meeting.

The city must provide a progress report within a year and have the work done within two years, he told the board. And "we have to find an engineer who'll certify it," he said, "but what firm would do it? "If someone certifies Cannelton's floodwall and levy, and either fails, "who's responsible?" he asked.

The Army Corps of Engineers will perform the work, but won't provide the funding, he explained.

"Is this above and beyond the $30,000 we already have to spend to fix the floodwall?" Councilman Adam Goffinet asked.

"Yes," Mayor Smokey Graves replied.

Ball said at a November 2007 meeting he'd found four cracks in the wall two years earlier. He was advised to seal them to prevent water from entering, freezing and expanding.

He wasn't worried the cracks would put anyone in danger, noting that in the 1997 flood, water didn't reach high enough on the wall to touch the bottom of any of them, but the Corps wants them fixed. The Corps didn't require the city to do much, Ball said at the time, "but in what there is, some of it is expensive."

He said at this month's meeting Hawesville is nearing the end of its provisional accreditation, and Covington, Ky., secured federal Housing and Urban Development funding to bring its flood-protection system up to snuff. "Lawrenceburg is the only community that did this (type of work) with their own money, but they have the boat," he added, referring to casino-derived revenues.

Noting the city is looking at a costly project, Graves complained the city has to "appease the federal government on a levee they dropped in our laps many years ago."

Ball said flood insurance could cost approximately $900 per year for a $50,000 home, and that most of the city would be rated "the same as the other side of the floodwall" if the work isn't performed.

He also said a $45,000 loan from the state Department of Natural Resources to repair the floodwall may not be necessary because the project was included in work submitted for federal stimulus funding.