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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • City to appeal FEMA decision

  • Leavenworth officials plan to appeal a Federal Emergency Management Agency's decision to deny a grant for a flood protection wall behind the Riverfront Community Center.
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  • Leavenworth officials plan to appeal a Federal Emergency Management Agency's decision to deny a grant for a flood protection wall behind the Riverfront Community Center.
    The city received word March 13 that FEMA had denied the application for a concrete flood wall. There's a May 13 deadline for making an appeal.
    "This has been a real tug of war," City Manager Scott Miller said Tuesday when city commissioners were briefed on the issue.
    Miller said state officials have been supportive of the city's plans for a flood wall, which would be 3 feet tall and about 775 feet in length. But he doesn't feel FEMA has given the city a fair shake.
    The grant application requested $389,332 in federal funds as part of the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program. This amount was based on a total cost of $519,410 for the project with the city providing a 25 percent match.
    Paul Kramer, assistant city manager, said the application initially had to be submitted to the Kansas Division of Emergency Management. This was done in August 2011.
    The application followed the second-worst flood on record for the Missouri River at Leavenworth. On June 30, 2011, the river crested at 30.8 feet. The river's flood stage at Leavenworth is 20 feet.
    Once OK'd by the state, the application was forwarded to FEMA. Kramer said the application was sent to FEMA in January 2012.
    The decision to deny the application came from a regional FEMA office in Kansas City, Mo. Kramer said the decision first will have to be appealed to that office. But the matter then can be appealed to FEMA's national headquarters.
    Kramer said the application was denied primarily because some sandbagging would be required at the north and south ends of the wall during a flood and city officials would rely on temporary pumps instead of installing a permanent pump station.
    The firm that has worked on the design of the wall estimates it would cost an additional $200,995 to address the issues raised by FEMA. There also would be an additional $9,000 fee for extra design work.
    And there's apparently no guarantee the grant would be increased to help offset the additional cost.
    According to Kramer, the Kansas Division of Emergency Management does not feel FEMA's denial was valid.
    One of the issues raised by FEMA is a 10-feet gap between what would be the north end of the concrete flood wall and an existing limestone wall. Kramer said the city doesn't have drawings or engineering plans for the existing limestone wall that may be the same age as the Riverfront Community Center, which was built in 1888. Officials don't believe it would be prudent to connect the new flood wall to the existing wall.
    Page 2 of 2 - Kramer said city officials can use sandbags to fill the gap between the two walls during a flood.
    Another issue concerns how far the wall would extend on its south end. FEMA apparently wants the wall to extend farther than what was proposed, with it turning west at the south end of the Riverfront Community Center.
    Kramer said one of the problems this would cause is the blocking of vehicle traffic to that area. He said city officials could put up sandbags at the south end of the wall if needed.
    During Tuesday's City Commission meeting, Commissioner Larry Dedeke said FEMA officials apparently think the river will flood overnight.
    Miller said the river rises slowly, allowing officials enough time to plan.
    Commissioners supported appealing the FEMA decision.

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