By John Sharp
A groundbreaking that didn’t get near as much attention as it deserved from the metropolitan media was conducted October 13 for a massive $453 million project by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to complete the final phase of strengthening flood protection from the Missouri and Kansas Rivers in the metropolitan area.
The project will include raising levees and flood walls, making improvements to increase their stability and reduce seepage, and repairing existing pump stations. River flooding here in 1993 crested near the top of levees and floodwalls at several locations.
Such improvements are considered even more urgent now due to the increasing severity of weather related events such as prolonged heavy rain storms that cause flooding to worsen.
The metro area’s flood protection system includes over 60 miles of levees and floodwalls along both banks of the Missouri and Kansas Rivers designed to protect approximately 32 square miles of commercial, industrial and residential areas containing thousands of buildings and supporting tens of thousands of jobs.
The Corps of Engineers is responsible for the design and construction of the project and is covering nearly 100% of the cost, according to the Missouri & Associated Rivers Coalition (MOARC), a multistate nonprofit organization based in KCMO that was created here in 1952 after the disastrous 1951 flood to promote effective flood control and better water management.
MOARC which has pushed for completion of the flood protection project for years, noted in an announcement about the groundbreaking that the only cost to the local partners in the project – KCMO, the Kaw Valley Drainage District and the Unified Government of Wyandotte County & Kansas City, Kansas – will be the cost of acquiring any additional land that is needed and utility relocations.
Initial stages of the project that cost nearly $30 million and were completed from 2009 through 2017 strengthened levees and floodwalls along the Missouri River in both Kansas and Missouri, according to MOARC.