Floodwall

Flood Control System

The City of Paducah operates and maintains the concrete and earthen levee system that extends 12.25 miles (9.25 miles of earthen levee and 3.0 miles of concrete).  The concrete wall in downtown Paducah is 14 feet in height.  The system includes 12 pump stations and several pipe gates, pipes, and 47 vehicular openings.  The floodwall was constructed between August 1939 and July 1949.  The City took over operation and maintenance of the floodwall from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) in 1949.  

The floodwall provides a level of protection equal to the record 1937 flood plus three feet.  The floodwall protects and minimizes the flood risk for 11,000 acres and more than 20,000 people.  The City sets aside an annual budget of approximately $600,000 for the floodwall maintenance and operations.  According to the USACE, an estimated $1.2 billion of City and County assets are protected by Paducah’s floodwall protection system.

Floodwall Rehabilitation 

Announcement by Sen. McConnell of Federal Appropriation (July 2017):  At a news conference held July 5, 2017, at the Carson Center in Paducah, U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced significant federal funding for the rehabilitation of the City of Paducah’s floodwall.  News Conference Video >>  Sen. McConnell said, “This wonderful city has done a great job taking advantage of the opportunities presented by the river which is, of course, why the city is here in the first place.  But with all the water comes interesting challenges.  Today it’s my pleasure to announce the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is directing more than $19 million for critical repairs and upgrade to the flood protection system.”  In 1998, the City of Paducah began working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to have the City’s floodwall authorized for a cost-sharing program with the federal government.  The authorization process has taken several years with the Project Partnership Agreement for the reconstruction project authorized earlier this year.  Today’s announcement is another step forward since it appropriates more than $19 million of federal funds to Paducah.  City Engineer & Public Works Director Rick Murphy who has been working with USACE since 1998 thanked Sen. McConnell for his support in this project including his efforts to increase the project’s maximum funding cap and his support in moving the project authorization and appropriation forward.  Murphy said, “It’s [the floodwall rehabilitation and reconstruction project] a $32 million project which will be cost-shared between the federal government and the local government, 65 percent with the federal government.”   The City of Paducah’s funding responsibility will be 35 percent which can be satisfied by a combination of in-kind and cash funds.  Murphy stresses that the floodwall is structurally sound; however, many of the mechanical components such as valves and pumps are in need of replacement. 

Signing of Project Partnership Agreement for Ohio River Shoreline Reconstruction Project (May 2017):  At its May 9, 2017 meeting, the Paducah Board of Commissioners approved an ordinance for a Project Partnership (PPA) Agreement between the Department of the Army and the City of Paducah for the floodwall reconstruction project.  Col. Christopher Beck who serves as Commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Louisville District signed the agreement with Mayor Harless.  This agreement establishes the financial cost sharing between the federal government and the City of Paducah.  Col. Beck says, “We’re excited because what this project partnership agreement allows us to do is compete favorably for federal funding and move this project forward which it is in desperate need of for the community of Paducah.”  Rehabilitating the City’s floodwall is projected to cost millions of dollars with a maximum federal authorization amount of slightly more than $32.5 million.  This agreement outlines that the federal government is responsible for 65% of that possible maximum cost (approximately $21.1 million) with the City of Paducah’s portion at 35% (approximately $11.4 million).  The City’s portion can be a combination of in-kind and cash funds.  The floodwall projects will require federal legislation and appropriations to fund the project needs.  This agreement outlines the cost sharing; however, it does not appropriate funding. 

Reconstruction of Floodwall and Pump Station Renovations Presentation (2016):  At the March 15, 2016, meeting of the Paducah Board of Commissioners, City Engineer & Public Works Director Rick Murphy and Deputy District Engineer Linda Murphy with the Louisville District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) presented a history of the floodwall in Paducah, the work that has been done to rehabilitate it, and the projects that need to be completed to extend the life of the vital structure.  Linda Murphy complimented the City of Paducah on its care of the floodwall saying, “To us, you are one of the best sponsors in the Louisville District for operation and maintaining your flood control structures.”

Floodwall Powerpoint Slide Presentation >>
March 2016 Commission Meeting Video >>

Several years ago the USACE completed a feasibility report to determine the floodwall components that need to be rehabilitated, reconstructed, or replaced.  The study which was completed in 2011 outlined approximately $20 million in projects.  Upon federal authorization and appropriation, the projects in the report would be cost-shared with the government.  In other words, the federal government would pay 65% with the City paying 35% of the project costs.  However, due to extreme corrosion found on some of the corrugated metal pipes, the City in 2010 completed a project to slipline several of the pipes.  The City was able to receive a $2.1 million credit for that work.  In addition to the sliplining project, the City has completed since 1994 approximately $900,000 in rehabilitation work on several of the floodwall components.

Regarding the projects outlined in the 2011 feasibility report, the USACE has been completing the preconstruction engineering and design (PED).  The design is nearly complete, and the hope was for construction on the first phase of projects to begin in the summer of 2016.  However, at this time the City has not received authorization and appropriations for those projects due to a cost estimation error.  In reviewing the project plans last year, it was determined that the USACE failed to include in the feasibility report an estimated rehabilitation cost for several of the pipes.  USACE Deputy District Engineer Linda Murphy says, “It was a substantial error that had to do with discharge pipes.”  That omission increases the project cost more than $5 million bring the total project cost closer to $25.5 million (with a project limit of $32.55 million).  This change in total project cost has led to the need for the USACE to submit a Post Authorization Change Request (PACR).  Linda Murphy says the report has been expedited with the hope that authorization for the projects will occur in 2016.  Nevertheless, the federal appropriation of funding could be at least two to three years in the future.

However, several of the floodwall components are in need of attention as soon as possible especially the rehabilitation of pump stations #2 and #9.  Rick Murphy showed images of scaffolding being used to hold deteriorated pump station pipes in place.  Currently, the City of Paducah is working with the USACE on a memorandum of understanding that would authorize the City to use the USACE designs and move forward on the most critical projects.  The USACE also is working to get an agreement so that the City would receive cost-sharing credit for work completed prior to federal authorization and appropriation.  The City anticipates working on the pump station projects in the next fiscal year, and staff will be preparing a budget proposal for the Paducah Board of Commissioners to review during the upcoming Fiscal Year 2017 budget process.

Design Agreement (2013):  On February 26, 2013, the Mayor and Commissioners approved a design agreement with the USACE for projects to rehabilitate the floodwall.  The 2013 agreement consisted of the Preconstruction Engineering and Design activities for the top priority project which is the rehabilitation of the floodwall pump stations. The development of the rehabilitation plans and specifications for the pump stations are underway. This agreement was amended March 31, 2015 to include the remaining priority projects for Paducah’s floodwall system. The next priorities are flap gates; seal closures; gate wells; T-wall, toe drain, water stops, and other miscellaneous items; a new pump station; and I-wall investigation, analysis, and remediation. This amended agreement estimates the total design costs associated with these projects at $2.28 million. The City’s obligation is 35% or $798,674 which can be funded through in-kind services and funding from budget cycles. Construction to rehabilitate the City’s floodwall pump stations is expected to start in August 2017.

In the 2010 feasibility report, USACE outlined projects including the rehabilitation of the City's 12 pump stations to improve the reliability and restore the system performance of the City’s floodwall.  In 2012, the USACE Chief’s report recommended to the U.S. Congress the implementation of the projects outlined in the feasibility report.  A portion of the City’s share can be credited by in-kind services.  Rehabilitating the floodwall is an approximately $20 million endeavor which will involve several project phases.   

Ohio River Flooding (2011):  Floodwall Presentation from June 28, 2011 Commission Meeting >>     This is a 20 minute presentation by City Engineer-Public Works Director Rick Murphy about the 2011 Ohio River flooding and how the City of Paducah floodwall protects an estimated $1.2 billion in assets.      

Feasibility Report (2011):  On November 8, 2010, USACE held a public meeting regarding the feasibility study for the rehabilitation of the floodwall including the pumps.  USACE recommends upgrades including a new pump plant at station 111+67a (North 8th Street behind Smoke Shop) and a permanent discharge pipe to be installed under the road at station 19+11b (2049 4th Street, Woodward Hollow).  The estimated cost for the upgrades and rehabilitation to items such as pumps and gates totals $19.5 million (2012 estimate).  Upon approval and appropriation, the projects would be cost-shared with the government.  In other words, the federal government will pay 65% with the City paying 35% of the project costs.  Based on the estimated cost of $19.5 million (Note: This estimated cost has been revised to approximately $25.5 million), the City of Paducah would be responsible for approximately 35 percent.  The city has a $2.1 million credit for the work it completed in 2010 for the sliplining of the corrugated metal pipes.  Requirements include the approval from the Assistant Secretary of the Army, the authorization of the final design and construction, and the funding appropriations.  

Feasibility Study News Release >>
November 2010 Meeting Video >>
Feasibility Study Slide Presentation >>

Corrugated Metal Pipes (2010):  The corrugated metal pipes (CMPs) under Paducah’s floodwall were the first elements installed when the floodwall was constructed between 1939 and 1949.  The design life of a CMP is typically about 50 years depending upon the thickness of the pipe, coating, exposure to elements, and the weight of material above it.  At the October 9, 2007 City Commission Meeting, the Commission approved an ordinance for a contract between the City of Paducah and Florence & Hutcheson, Inc. for an assessment of all of the corrugated metal pipes (CMPs) that cross through the floodwall.  The engineering assessment included a video assessment of each pipe, the rehabilitation work required, the preparation of design plans and specifications, and construction observation of the work required to rehabilitate the pipes. The pipes were rehabilitated through the slip-lining process with the project completed in January 2010 (37 out of the 60 pipes in the floodwall were slip-lined). 

Floodwall Presentation (2008):  Click Floodwall Powerpoint Presentation for a pdf version of the Powerpoint presentation about the history of the floodwall, status of floodwall repairs, and the quest for Paducah to get federal funding for repairs.  City Engineer Rick Murphy made the presentation to the Commission at its October 7, 2008 meeting.  Click 2008 Commission Meeting Video to watch the presentation.