RED OAK, Iowa – Iowa’s U.S. Senators Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley are pressing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to follow through on its commitment to rebuild a levee near Hamburg, Iowa, following the floods that devastated the area earlier this year.
Following previous floods in 2011, the Corps mandated that the “Ditch 6 Levee” be lowered 8 feet. That levee was overrun earlier this year, contributing to the destructive flooding that left two-thirds of the city of Hamburg under water. After discussions with the City of Hamburg and the State of Iowa, the Corps committed to rebuilding the levee to its original height. It has not yet made good on that promise.
Full text of the senators’ letter to the Corps follows:
Dear Assistant Secretary James and Lieutenant General Semonite:
We are very concerned about a recent development regarding the Ditch 6 Levee in the City of Hamburg, Iowa. We request that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers immediately begin construction of the Ditch 6 Levee as the Corps designed and to the level of the signed agreement it has with the City of Hamburg and the State of Iowa in June 2019.
During the flood of 2019, almost two-thirds of the City of Hamburg was underwater. A key factor was Ditch 6 levee, which the Corps required to be taken down post the 2011 Missouri River flooding. This levee was overrun in 2019 causing significant loss and damage in Hamburg.
In June 2019, the City of Hamburg signed an agreement with the Corps to rebuild Ditch 6 Levee to a 919 foot-level. This was the levee height in 2011 prior to being required to be taken down by the Corps.
Community and businesses moved forward with repairs and recovery based on the Corps commitment and plan to rebuild the Ditch 6 levee this year to the 919 foot-level. Businesses have spent close to $20 million in clean-up and repairs for reopening.
City and state officials have had numerous conversations with the Corps Omaha District in June, July, and August about the start of the work for the Ditch 6 Levee. The Corps confirmed it had funding for its portion of the levee build and that the work could begin once the worksite was dry.
On Wednesday, August 14, 2019, the city and state were notified by Colonel John Hudson that the Corps no longer had “authority” to rebuild the Ditch 6 Levee to the 919 foot-level and that it will only be built to 911 foot-level, which would be lowering the levee from its current height, as it was no longer an emergency measure.
In May and June, the Corps executed work to build a HESCO barrier in Hamburg to protect it against flooding. The HESCO barrier was built to a 921 foot-level height. While the breach of the L-575-B Levee has been closed, much work remains to restore that levee and the hundreds of miles of levees on the lower Missouri River to its full protective levels. With high flows continuing on the river, Hamburg is a heavy rain away from being flooded again. As a result, the City of Hamburg needs to have the Ditch-6 levee built to 919 foot-level immediately as a first line of defense to a compromised levee system, which the Corps refers to as “delicate” at best.
Building the Ditch 6 Levee to the 919 foot-level is critical to local businesses and the safety of the community. We expect the Corps to honor the commitment and agreement it made with the community in June 2019.