COLUMBIA, Mo. — Only $6,708 of simple design improvements made in 2008 to a retaining wall in Ellington, MO saved the town from damage after even heavier flooding this summer.
In 2008, heavy storms washed out an existing retaining wall and flooded most of the town. The water rushed behind the straight retaining wall, caused the foundation to cave and the walls washed away, leaving the town under three feet of water.
In 2011, Ellington received 30 inches of rain in 30 days and flood water remained elevated for almost 10 days, yet the wall held.
Hazard mitigation is an effort to break the disaster cycle of damage and repair by attempting to reduce repeated loss of life and property and the financial burden of rebuilding over and over. In a nutshell, mitigation efforts attempt to make a facility more disaster resistant.
On a hot, sticky August afternoon Mayor Ben Pickett met with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) employees to proudly show off the town’s retaining wall. As a working mayor, Pickett had been in the dirt fixing city water lines and was dressed for the job in boots and work jeans. He explained the city’s former flooding and how FEMA mitigation helped save the city considerable damage this year.
Previously, the 4-foot high wall had stretched in a straight line 106 feet. In an attempt to reduce future wash outs mitigation engineers extended the wall an additional 151 feet to angle with the creek bed and prevent high water from pushing behind it. The wall was also made three feet higher and one foot thicker for stability. Additionally, new, larger footings were poured to make the wall more stable and steel rods were drilled to connect the old and new foundations.
“This is definitely a success story,” Pickett said. “If we hadn’t had the wall, the water would have come right up and flooded the town again.”
Pickett also expressed gratitude for the federal assistance and mitigation effort the town received: “This is a big wall. Small cities like ours just don’t have the revenue that big cities do. We’re very grateful for everything that FEMA did for us. We wouldn’t have been able to do this without them; we just didn’t have the money.”
In addition to the $6, 708 improvements, $18,400 was required to repair the wall to pre-disaster conditions. The project, totaling $25,108, was one of two sites federally renovated in Ellington during the 2008 flooding and was 75 percent funded by FEMA and 25 percent funded by State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA).
FEMA Public Assistance (PA) program reimburses local government and certain non-profits for disaster related costs for debris removal, emergency protective measures and repair or restorations of public infrastructure.
Generally the PA program restores disaster-damaged infrastructure to pre-disaster conditions. However, where it is cost-effective and technically feasible, additional funding can be approved to restore the structure to a new, higher standard and make it more disaster resistant.
The United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) also granted the City of Ellington a permit to clear brush from Dixon Creek in an attempt to reduce future threat of high water.
FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.