Officials watch Des Moines levee, weather

July 2, 2010 at 8:04 AM
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DES MOINES, Iowa, July 2 (UPI) -- Des Moines, Iowa, officials closely watched a leaking levee Friday and rain was in the forecast, but an engineer said a "catastrophic failure" was not expected.

City public works officials said the levee had held despite a small leak, the Des Moines Register reported.

"It's good to see sort of a slow leak, as opposed to a section coming out," Mayor Frank Cownie said.

Water seeped through the Birdland levee Thursday near where the it breached and flooded surrounding neighborhoods in 1993 and 2008, the Register said. However, officials held off ordering the evacuation of homes and businesses.

The seepage started about 15 hours after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lowered the crest gates at Saylorville Lake's emergency spillway Wednesday. Corps officials lowered the gates sooner than planned with the forecast calling for up to 3 inches of rain Sunday and Monday.

National Weather Service meteorologist Jacob Beitlich said 3 inches of rain would be "on the high end" of what's forecast. If a system moves through quickly, the area should get about 1 or 1 1/2 inches, he said.

The seepage doesn't mean the levee will fail, Tom Heinold, a Corps flood engineer, said.

"We're going to be keeping a close eye on it," he said. "But I don't think a catastrophic failure is imminent."

A secondary berm behind the levee would protect homes from the river even if the levee failed, Des Moines City Manager Rick Clark said.

"We know it's a bad levee," Clark said, "but the sand-filled berms provide very good backup protection."

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