Tuesday, November 20, 2012

City Engineer Gordon Dobler

Next steps in levee renewal
Council to address issue Dec. 4 

The city of Coeur d’Alene is a step closer to recertifying the Dike Road levee, a process that has involved a series of repairs and maintenance to the 1.5-mile stretch between Harbor Center and Independence Point. One sticking point has been the 500 trees that line a portion of the levee. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says the trees must go. City officials and an ad hoc steering committee, however, have been working to find a way to keep at least some of the mature ones. City Engineer Gordon Dobler updates the effort and the city’s next steps.

What is the status of the recertification effort? We will seek a third-party to re-evaluate the levee and the trees in front of North Idaho College. The issue will go before City Council Dec. 4. Once approved, we’ll put out bids for an engineering consultant.

Why seek a third-party? Isn’t the Army Corps overseeing the recertification? The Corps began its evaluation two years ago and identified several maintenance issues for the city to address. It also required 500 trees along Rosenberry Drive to be removed. We addressed the maintenance issues, but before we remove trees we want to be absolutely certain no other options exist. That’s why we formed the ad hoc steering committee, to study ways to receive certification and keep our trees. As it turns out, the Corps ended its involvement in the recertification program. Now cities will have to go elsewhere for recertification.

Will the city have to pay for the third-party evaluation? Yes, we will have to pay a consultant. But the good news is we will split the cost with NIC. Our share will be about $125,000.

What is the deadline? Our certification in 2007 expires next summer, but the Federal Emergency Management Agency will extend a two-year provisional certification to allow a third party to complete its evaluation and us to address any issues.
Why is recertification important, anyway? Certification removes the requirement for property owners behind the levee to purchase flood insurance.  Without the certification, property owners would be required by their mortgage lenders to purchase flood insurance.

What changes has the city made to the levee, so far? In the last two years, since the Corps did its initial evaluation, we have done a lot to improve that stretch of waterfront. We cleared debris and brush, installed pedestrian trails, repaired concrete deficiencies and hauled in 10 tons of sand to improve the public beach. We created a sizable amount of accessible public waterfront.

Can you really save the trees on Rosenberry Drive? We will do everything we can to save as many mature trees as we can. But we have to be prepared for the worst. A third party may agree with the Corps’ evaluation. We may have to clear the trees. But we haven’t given up hope nor have we stopped trying to make a case for keeping the trees.