City may have to upfront costs for portions of Paducah’s floodwall renovations

It’s a wall that helps provide moments of fun when it’s open and keeps us safe when it’s closed. Now, Paducah City Engineer Rick Murphy says the floodwall design is 22 years past its life expectancy.

“We are living on borrowed time,” Murphy said.

The floodwall looks intact. It’s what we don’t see that’s in need of renovations.

“Our pump stations are our No. 1 concern,” Murphy said.

There are 12 pump stations needing work. The next concern is 39 flap gates that close to keep river water out, followed by 47 seal closures or vehicular openings.

The Louisville District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers created a feasibility report to determine repairs needed in 2011. The costs came out to $20 million. Upon federal authorization and appropriation, the projects in the report would be cost-shared with the government. So, the federal government would pay 65 percent with the city paying 35 percent of the project costs. 

USACE Deputy District Engineer Linda Murphy said in a Tuesday night Paducah City Commission meeting that construction was expected to start this summer, but now with the costs adding up to $25.5 million, they can’t because it’s more than they’re authorized to do.

“It was a substantial error, which had to do with the discharge pipes, particularly out of station No. 2,” Linda Murphy said.

You have to look two years ahead to get federal funding. So, instead of starting over the process, they’ve submitted a Post Authorization Change Request, so they can try to start a portion of the project this summer.

Murphy’s recommendation is to have the city pay the cost upfront on their most pressing problems: pump stations 2 and 9. Most of the costs could be credited back by the federal government eventually if the PACR is approved.

“This is our design of how these pumps stations would be rehabbed. So, I can’t say it’s a slam dunk that we will get the approval, but it’s pretty much close that it would. We just have to go through the process,” Murphy said.

The next step is to determine the costs of the project and include it in next year’s budget, which is due July 1. The city would know by that point if they’re approved for cost-sharing credit from the federal government.

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.

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