Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
In 2019, Sherman Army Airfield experienced two major floods revealing issues with the levee and other barriers around the airfield.
The Directorate of Public Works has contracted with Radmacher Brothers Excavating out of Pleasant Hill, Mo., to fight against future floods with the use of borrow pits — pits created to provide earth that can be used as fill dirt at another site — to fix the levy and raise the flood stage from 24 feet to more than 30 feet.
Using fill from borrow pits east of SAAF will save money, said Tom Dow, DPW master planner.
There are three main sections of the airfield that will be addressed. First is the north end by Chief Joseph Loop near the railroad tracks.
“One of the very first things that happened is that the water initially came in through the breech between our (north) levee and the railroad tracks,” Dow said. “We had a blowout there, which wiped out the railroad tracks.”
In the repair process, Dow said the road will be closed and pavement will be removed, and topsoil will be ripped out. Then, the levee will be built back up with common fill and dense clay from outside the levy to form a waterproof cap. Finally, topsoil will go on top to grow grass.
The second area will be a site south of the airfield where Dow said the goal is to fix erosion and use rock to put thickness back in the levee. This will help with overtopping, which happened in the 1993 flood, Dow said. Overtopping is when flood waters exceed the lower crest of a levee system.
The third area to be addressed is the southern railroad crossing, which connects Chief Joseph Loop to Riverside Ave. The crossing has been closed for several years because of safety concerns, Dow said.
“We’re … going to realign that railroad crossing to make it a 90-degree intersection to make it a safer crossing because of the issues that have been there in the past with safety,” Dow said. “There will be better sight distance, better approach angle and ability to look left and right through railroad tracks.”
Other smaller projects like repairing the railroad pump houses on the southside of the railroad and replacing the damaged concrete near Quarry Creek will also be tackled with in-house money, Dow said.
During the two years of the project, all civilian and military hangars will be open, including the hangar designated for the Army Combat Fitness Test and physical training. The rest of the airfield and Chief Joseph Loop is closed to car and foot traffic, as well as hunting and other recreational activities.
“That starts now,” said Bill Waugh, DPW director. “It is now the contractor’s site.”
Dale Cleland, DPW Environmental Division chief, said that the Kansas City Army Corps of Engineers office said there is no significant effect to the environment.
A statement from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Kansas City office states: “This $17 million project is an emergency action to prevent or reduce imminent risk of life or severe economic loss. Like most of the levee repair projects being undertaken in the Missouri River basin, this project is covered by a National Environmental Protection Act emergency waiver. A detailed environmental assessment is in progress and expected to be completed this calendar year.
“Preliminary coordination with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the State Historical Preservation Office indicate no significant issues and the repairs are not likely to have adverse effects upon wildlife or cultural resources.”