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 Solution may be to divide the Macon levee

By John Wilson

Posted on Wed, May. 01, 2002     http://www.macon.com/mld/telegraph/news/editorial/letters/3169009.htm

The Army Corps of Engineers is seeking $260,000 to conduct another study of the Macon Levee. Other studies were in 1993, 1995 and 1997. The goal is to certify the levee as providing 100-year flood protection to the 500 acres of semi-developed land and 2,500 acres of undeveloped land located behind it. Taking this area out of the "100-year floodplain" (on paper) and running the proposed Eisenhower Parkway Extension through this "former" floodplain area would promote investment and development behind the levee. Quoting the Corps, "Without this, investors would be more inclined to expand or establish new facilities somewhere else." Maybe that would be wise?

Macon/Bibb paid about $360,000 for Corps studies from 1990 to 1996. They never received the Corps 1997 study which was advertised for public comment, but then withdrawn and never released because the Corps' belated economic analysis showed their levee-raising project to be unjustified.

The Corps never surveyed the economic damage from the '94 Flood either behind or outside of the levee. They didn't do hydrologic studies to model the '94 Flood to see what impact the levee and its failure had on flood levels. Their 1995 study (p.14) stated that "the levee has never been overtopped" and their 1997 study said, "Since there are no historical damages to use at Macon." The Corps said the Flood of '94 never happened so they could increase the cost/benefits by using standardized, rather than lower actual damages. They used new FEMA guidelines which allowed them to reduce their levee-raising plan by three feet and still certify it as providing 100-year protection (on paper). Still, they couldn't justify raising the levee economically.

Now, the Corps says the levee is deteriorating due to trees growing on it and water flowing under it. Yet, a 1997 Corp memo says "The public has presented strong evidence that trees have not been a detriment to the structural integrity of the levee systems in California. And they are winning many casesÉ" A 1998 memo says portions of the Macon Levee are "underlain by exceptionally pervious sands that are very efficient at transmitting hydraulic head" under the levee creating boils and seepage during floods. The Corps even believes the levee would have failed at the breach site in 1994 from water flowing under it even if the levee had not been overtopped. Do we need to dig up and pack clay under the levee now?

The point is that no matter how much we do or spend on the levee, we can't stop the river from reclaiming its floodplain some day.

We can offer false hope and encourage people to invest their money in the floodplain. We can even bail them out with federal funds when they get flooded, but why? Why strengthen the levee so it will stand while our interstates and and existing businesses and neighborhoods flood, as happened in 1994?

The Macon Levee was and is a bad idea. The solution may be to divide the levee, strengthening the upper portion to protect existing development and breaking the lower end to restore the original floodplain, thus reducing flood levels all along the river. The problem is I wouldn't trust the Corps' study of anything.

John Wilson is a resident of Macon.


The Georgia Department of Transportation used to consider this a section of what is commonly referred to as the Fall Line Freeway or EPE.  

And the DOT "prefered route" has always been drawn through the legislated boundaries of the Ocmulgee National Monument. 


The DOT "prefered route" has always been through the legislated boundaries of the Ocmulgee National Monument.

Proposed Penetration of ONM

Proponents of this "Prefered Route" insist that Columbus-Macon-Agusta can ONLY be connected for commercial traffic through the Eisenhower Parkway Extension.  

But, GA 96 has always been considered the superior East-West route by truckers in the Midstate.  


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