(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) The Missouri Corps of Engineers is only a few days away from completing the first phase of renovations to the levee system along the Missouri River.
“Phase one, which involved the gateway structure, that project is buttoning up even now. They should probably be demobilizing here very shortly,” St. Joseph Director of Public Works Andrew Clements said.
The new gateway system on the Kansas side of the river will act as an irrigation device. The gate will filter out water from behind the levees post- flooding and push remaining water into the river, after water levels have returned to normal. The Corps broke ground on the $1.8million project in November 2016, as the first of four phases to repair protective levees surrounding the Missouri river.
Clements said he was living in Kansas with his wife and newborn daughter during the floods in 1993 and said the levees have been in desperate need of repair ever since.
“The levee was over topped just north of the airport in 1993, and it’s taken until know to see some construction. So, 25 years to move things forward. It’s taken some time, but in the past two years there has really been some traction and momentum, and now it’s really moving quickly,” Clements said.
Buchanan County Presiding Commissioner Harry Roberts said both the physical repairs for the levees and the quarter cent sales tax to fund the levee repair are slightly ahead of schedule.
“Right now, as far as the revenues that are coming in for the quarter cent for the levy, we are ahead of projections right now,” Roberts said.
The levee repair project is a collaborative effort between several communities that place an emphasis on protecting residential homes as well as the 139th Airlift at Rosecrans Memorial Airport.
“It protects the 139th airlift. We have 1,200 folks that work over there with the guard. It’s the biggest base in northwest Missouri, obviously a large part of those people that live in Buchanan County,” Roberts said.
Rising river levels have also threatened a large portion of St. Joseph's industrial hub along the Stockyards Expressway.
“The lower stockyard, which is down by the Browns Branch. We have over 5,000 jobs down there with roughly $2 billion dollars worth of business investment,” Roberts said.
The four phases are expected to stretch across approximately 15 miles along the river and cost $70 million total, over the course of the next three years.
According to Clements, the next phase of construction is currently under bid, but the renovations will take place in the south end near Brown’s Branch along the Stockyards Expressway. Construction is expected to begin later this year and conclude in May 2019.