The flood of 2011 has been declared over, but work continues for the Corps of Engineers to assess and eventually repair levee systems damaged in that event. The Corps has said it will not be able to repair all structures damaged by the event.

Commander of the Kansas City District, Colonel Anthony Hoffman, says natural disasters nationwide have drained the federal dollars available for response. While the Corps waits on Congress to approve more money, repairs will be prioritized based primarily on safety and protection of lives.

Preliminary estimates say another $1 billion will be needed for repairs throughout the Missouri River Basin. Colonel Hoffman says now that the River is back within its banks, assessments are underway to refine estimates. About 56 of the 156 levee systems in his district that fall under certain federal guidelines are being looked at now.

Internally, the Corps has reallocated $27.7 million to jumpstart the repair process. In the Kansas City District, the “top five” levee systems needing repair have been identified, and those will be the subject of the first repair projects. They are the Union Township Number One, Holt County, Rushville-Sugar Lake, Bean Lake and Wakenda. Three others have been approved for funding, but none has been allocated to those.

Hoffman says the Corps has little part to play in deciding where federal money will be allocated, but as priorities are identified information will be shared with Washington D.C. about what needs to be done before the 2012 runoff season. He adds, risks will be high going into that season in the Missouri and Mississippi River Basins, as well as the East Coast.

Weather seems to be working in the Corps’ favor, however. Long-term forecasts indicate another flood event is unlikely on the Missouri before work can take place. The biggest risk, the Colonel says, is whether funding will be available before the window the Corps has to do work closes.

He anticipates levees to be built back to where they were prior to the flood, rather than to greater or lesser heights. Construction is expected to begin as early as mid November.

AUDIO:  Hear Mike Lear’s interview with Colonel Anthony Hoffman with the Corps of Engineers – 11:32