Thursday, January 17, 2013

Feds find many poor levees; repairs are up to locals

Hundreds of flood-control systems overseen by the federal government are at risk of failing and endangering people and property in 37 states, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers inspectors have found. Deficient levees are in every region, in large cities and small towns, Cain Burdeau and John Flesher of The Associated Press report. The corps hasn't yet issued ratings for more than 40 percent of the 2,487 federally-inspected levees; of those it has rated, 326 covering more than 2,000 miles were deemed in urgent need of repair.

"The problems are myriad: earthen walls weakened by trees, shrubs and burrowing animal holes; houses built dangerously close to or even on top of levees; and decayed pipes and pumping stations," Burdeau and Flesher report. The Corps denied to give AP details about specific levees, saying such information could heighten terrorism risks. But the reporters did find some specifics from federal and state records, and through interviews with officials in more than a dozen cities and towns. The most widespread deficiencies were design and construction flaws, inadequate or crumbling infrastructure, failure to control vegetation and invasive species, and building encroachment.

Localities are responsible for upgrading deficient levees, and some local officials told AP that the corps is exaggerating the danger. They said some deficiencies were approved or not objected to by the federal government, and repairs would likely be too costly for them to make. "It's just not right to tell a little town like this to spend millions of dollars that we can't raise," said Judy Askew, mayor of Brookport, Ill., population 1,000. (Read more)

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