Corps: City flood system saved millions

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 17, 2005

Irontonians got their money's worth - and a whole lot more - out of the floodwall system, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

In its annual report to the city of Ironton, Corp representatives estimated that the city's floodwall system of levees, pump stations and flood gates has prevented more than $250 million in damages over the years and more than $25 million last year alone by keeping the Ohio River at bay.

"When you spend $165,000 to protect $25 million worth of assets, that is a good return on your investment," Mayor John Elam said. "It tells me the city workers are doing a real good job and are to be commended. It also tells me the Corp of Engineers is proud of the service we provide to the citizens of Ironton and recognize the cost benefit of providing these services."

Email newsletter signup

The floodwall system was commissioned after the 1937 flood and completed in 1941. Paying to maintain these services has been, and likely will be, a hot topic in the city. Voters nixed the longstanding floodwall tax levy in November leaving the city with a gaping financial hole.

Some leaders have proposed passing a temporary fee and placing the levy back on the ballot. Others have indicated the city should just take the financial burden and hope voters have a change of heart.

One way or another, flood superintendent Mike Pemberton said they will find a way to protect the citizens until the money is there.

"Regardless of whether I have to ask for volunteers, it will get done," Pemberton said. "Even if the city can't pay the workers to do it, federal code says it is the superintendent's responsibility to keep the local project active."

The flood system includes 18 flood gate closures, 10 pump stations that remove internal city water

after the system is sealed and more than 5 miles of earthen and concrete levees. Much of the equipment needs to be upgraded, Pemberton said, adding that he will give anyone who would like a tour of the system.

"I have to commend the workers in what they have done," he said. "Even shorthanded, they got the gates up."