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Vehicles trouble city’s flood wall

Taking a joy ride on any portion of Ironton’s flood wall could cause severe long-term damage and spell danger for Ironton residents, city officials said.

Saturday, August 28, 1999

Taking a joy ride on any portion of Ironton’s flood wall could cause severe long-term damage and spell danger for Ironton residents, city officials said.

Four reports were made to the Ironton Police Department last week, each one involving motorized vehicles traveling on the grassy areas of the city’s flood wall.

And, if motorized vehicles are not kept off the earthen structure, the city could face potential disaster, Ironton Mayor Bob Cleary said.

"The flood wall is governed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and from there it goes into municipal and state laws, but it is the Corps of Engineers that sets the rules down, visits for inspections and makes sure the city is in compliance in all areas," Cleary said. "When those inspections are done, they do look for wear and tear on the structure itself, just as they inspect the gates to make sure they are in working order, as well as the pump stations. It’s a very carefully watched system."

Tire tracks from four-wheel all-terrain vehicles, and in some cases cars, according to IPD reports, can cause more damage than one might initially consider, Cleary said.

"The tires cause ruts, and rain deepens the ruts and makes them wider," he explained. "When the vehicles are repeatedly tearing up the flood wall, before long, the integrity of the entire system is jeopardized."

For teenagers taking their four-wheel ATVs out for a quick spin on the flood wall, the worst-case scenario is likely not one they consider. But, damage done by tire tracks is not something the city can overlook, Cleary said.

"There are not supposed to be any type of unauthorized vehicles, not even bicycles, on the flood wall; only maintenance vehicles that mow the grass should be on there," he said. "It’s more of a recreational trail for residents to walk along for exercise, but it is completely illegal for any vehicle to be on the flood wall at any time."

When the ruts and similar damage build up, the system and the protection it provides are compromised, he added.

"All it takes on any system like this, whether it be a flood wall or an earthen damn, is one weak spot. That weakened spot actually weakens the entire structure," he said. "If that spot gives way during flood season, then you could be looking at devastating effects on the entire city."

Less frightening, but no less costly, are the day-to-day, general maintenance responsibilities that fall upon the city’s shoulders.

"The City of Ironton, by order of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, has to maintain the flood wall," he said. "So if there is any type of damage done to it at all, we are required to fix it, and it falls back onto the city engineer. It’s important that citizens understand that for safety reasons, they must keep vehicles off the flood wall and report to the Ironton Police Department any time they notice a vehicle on it."

To report vehicle or other harmful activity concerning Ironton’s flood wall, contact the IPD at 532-2338.