PITTSBURGH – U.S. Army Corps of Engineers representatives met with Benwood, West Virginia officials recently to inform them that the Benwood levee system is ineligible for federal rehabilitation assistance after an agency inspection found the project failed to meet federal safety standards.
As the local sponsor, the city operates and maintains the project which must meet federal standards to remain eligible in the Army Corps’ Rehabilitation and Inspection Program under Public Law 84-99.
Under current policy guidelines, an ineligible project may not receive federal rehabilitation assistance to partially fund repairs to project features damaged during flooding. The Corps will, however, continue to offer flood fighting assistance and will re-inspect the levee, channel and/or floodwall system when the local sponsor corrects the deficiencies.
Benwood’s non-federal levee system includes about 0.4 miles of earthen levee embankment, concrete floodwalls, three pump stations and two railroad gate closures along the Ohio River. It was constructed in 1982 to reduce the risks to the City of Benwood associated with flooding from the Ohio River.
“Public safety will always be the number one goal of the Army Corps’ Levee Safety Program,” said Maj. Cornelius Batts, the Corps’ deputy district engineer in Pittsburgh. “We want to ensure that projects are reliable and do not create unacceptable risks to the public, economy or environment.”
The Corps conducts both annual routine and periodic inspections as part of its National Levee Safety Program. Routine inspections consider encroachments, vegetation, pump operations, animal burrows and other potential issues that may compromise a levee system’s ability to perform as designed.
Periodic inspections are conducted every five to ten years and are more detailed, comprehensive evaluations of a project’s condition. These inspections consider structural stability, safety, and operations and maintenance while also comparing current design and construction criteria with those in place when the project was built.
While no levee system can eliminate flooding, the Benwood levee system has performed well under flood loading. Water rose to 50% of the levee height during the January 1996 flood of record. Apart from clear seepage under the levee during that event, the levee did not experience any issues and has continued to provide flood risk reduction to the City of Benwood.
Levee safety is a shared responsibility among federal, state, local and private partners. Communicating risk associated with a flood risk management system is crucial so that individuals can make well informed public safety decisions and take appropriate action. The Corps’ Levee Safety Program leverages the latest technology and changes to the engineering profession to provide continuous feedback about levee systems and their reliability through consistent and comprehensive inspections and assessments.