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The Des Moines/ Mississippi Levee District #1 Prepares For New Pump

The Des Moines/ Mississippi Levee District #1 Prepares For
New Pump

By Kevin Fox

Man has been battling rain and flooding since…well, since
God closed the door on Noah’s ark. It’s an ongoing fight that only seems get to
worse each year, for a variety of reasons and we in Clark County are no
strangers to it. The Des Moines/ Mississippi Levee District #1 is making some
major strides in their battle.

Last year, when 22
inches of rain fell in Clark County the District was faced with more runoff
than they could possibly deal with. So the decision was made to go to Florida
and rent four pumps. Those pumps were rented for 30 days at a cost to the
District of $125,000. Presently, the District has two 42-inch diesel pumps. The
District, after passing a bond issue, has purchased a new electric pump and is
currently constructing a sump for the new pump. This sump will be large enough
to accommodate two pumps, if that would ever be a possibility down the road.
But presently there is only one pipe and one electrical service.

Prior to the Flood
of 1993, the District had two very old pumps that had 30-inch discharge pipes.
These were transfer pumps and not lift pumps and were not made to function as
they were required to do. In 1994, the District purchased the two 42-inch pumps
that it currently operates. With the installment of the new electric pump, the
District will convert one of the diesel pumps to also be electric. There is a
50% cost savings in operating the pumps via electricity over diesel. The new
pump when installed is also a 42 inch pump, but it has a variable rate on it, which
will vary the pumping capacity from roughly 45,000 gallons a minute to 65,000
gallons dependent upon the RPMs that it is being run at. Once the bid was awarded back in November,
the contractor had 300 days for installation, so by this fall it will be in
place and operational. This new pump will also operate much the same way as a
sump pump would in a basement, in that when the water reaches a certain level
it will automatically begin pumping. This means that although the pumps are
continually being checked on, there will no longer be the need to have someone
watching the pumps 24/7, as was the case when someone had to be present to
start the pumps. Once both pumps are electric it will be possible for them to
communicate with each other and if the level gets too high for one pump to
handle it, the other pump will automatically start pumping. Of course, during
high water or a large rain, the District will still have someone at the station

According to the
District Vice-President David Bryant, “The Des Moines/ Mississippi Levee
District #1 drains just under 12, 000 acres. McGuire’s Hole is near our very
northwest corner and the District’s southeast edge is down to here at the
pumping station just west of Alexandria. We also follow the Fox River Levee to
the west. There is 17 foot of fall from McGuire’s hole to the pumping station.
We have levees on three sides and the sand hill is our west boundary. We also
have 17 miles of levee that must be maintained in order to be in compliance.
The reason for the new pump is that prior to the 1993 Flood, we were way under
staffed on pumps. In 1994, we saw some improvement. But that improvement was
not enough to handle the water that we are now getting. So we have always been
undersized for our pumping capacity. We have been talking about making these
improvements for years, but after last spring’s rain, we had to do something.
The District has a two types of ditches: one is gravity and it handles about
60% of the water that enters the district. The other type of ditch we have is
handled by pumping the water out and it handles the remaining 40%. The problem is, when we get an excessive
amount of water in either system, one runs into the other and what normally
happens is that the gravity ditches run over into the ditches that are pumped
out. When this occurs, we have to pump all the water. That’s what really gives
us problems. If we could keep them separated at all times it would be easier,
but it is simply impossible on the western edge of our district. When the river
gets up then the gravity ditches slow down and when it reaches a certain point
with the level of the Mississippi, they simply quit flowing. When it reaches
that point those gravity ditches back up and overflow out into fields and into
our pumping ditches. But it’s not just rain runoff that we deal with as during
high water we also pump out the seep water. We also have two holding ponds or
diversions that hold that water, but when it gets too high it simply overflows
the levels on those holding pools, such as it did last June of 2011, when it
simply blew out the overflows. The last four years have really been wet and the
last three years we have had over 60 inches of rain. And I have figured up our
fuel bills for the past four years and we have averaged over $80,000 a year.
That is just fuel and does not include labor or electricity. When we were
running those six pumps (this includes the four temporary pumps) during last
year when the water got so high we were burning somewhere close to 1500 gallons
of diesel every 24 hours. And that was when the National Guard was hauling fuel
to us everyday. Now we were very fortunate in that FEMA picked up the rental of
the four pumps and also picked up a portion of the fuel that we used. This
occurs after the county is declared a Disaster Area and we apply for that
emergency money.”

The bond issue to pay for the new pump was $1.435 million.
To pay for that pump, there is a tax on all utilities and highways within the
District. The assessment for agricultural ground is $12.80 per acre and that is pro-rated to the value of the
commercial entities within the District. To do this bond issue for the new
pump, a special assessment tax was created and it was for 20 years with a
10-year balloon. So at the end of ten years the remainder of the bond issue
will be renegotiated. All landowners and commercial entities had the option to
pay their share (the ten years) up front, which would exclude them from any
interest payments. Some took advantage of that and others didn’t. The remainder
of what is left will be a special assessment tax just like the normal drainage
tax, but there will be an increased assessment. The District received $130,00
worth of pre-paid assessment tax up front. Those prepaid payments cut down the
overall special assessment for everyone.
The District is also working on meeting requirement of the PAL Agreement
with FEMA, which is a self-imposed mandate where the district pays to meet
special requirements. It will cost the
Des Monies Levee District #1 in the neighborhood of $60,000 to meet those
requirements. Among the requirements hiring a registered / certified
engineering company, who will come in and be presented a map of the District
and how much capacity they have for pumping, how much the District can handle,
and how much water it takes to put them in a flood condition. Inspection must
also be made on ditches and tubes. The District has built 11 weirs (a rock wing
dam) out in the Des Moines River to keep the Des Monies River from cutting into
the levees. They are designed to leave sediment in behind those wing dams. The
cost was $125,00 for the District.

Currently serving
on the Board of the Des Moines / Mississippi Levee District #1 are: John
Winkelman – President, David Bryant – Vice-President, Jeff Arnold, Brett
Arnold, and David Pullins. The District was organized in 1903 and was
reorganized in 2003 as it had a hundred year charter. It was reorganized with a
500-year charter. The Corp of Engineers has advised the District that there is
a 10% chance of flooding this year and the reason for this encouraging
statement is that there is no snow pack up north, but who can guess how much
rain we will get this spring, but be advised and take heart, that the Levee
Districts in our area are preparing.