Building for the Future: The Construction of a Levee Setback on the Missouri River
Presentation by Barbara Charry, The Nature Conservancy, Chris Hamilton, Natural Resources Conservation Service and Corina Zhang, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Charry and Hamilton shared the story of the Atchison County Levee Setback, bringing together the Atchison County Levee District, The Nature Conservancy, NRCS, the Corps of Engineers and others to create more space for the flooding Missouri River by moving a levee back away from the Missouri River.
Published: April 13, 2021
The devastating floods of 2019 left much of northwest Missouri underwater for months. In Atchison County, the very northwest corner of Missouri, the levee breached in 5 locations causing millions of dollars in damage. Homes, businesses, roads and farm fields were flooded, and some were destroyed. Members of the Atchison County Levee District knew they had to do something different to lessen the impacts of repetitive flooding on their communities.
As a partner on the project, Barbara Charry, Floodplains and Nature-based Solutions Strategy Manager for The Nature Conservancy in Missouri convened partners to successfully complete a levee setback or realignment on the Missouri River. Another key partner was the Natural Resources Conservation Service, with Asst. State Conservationist Chris Hamilton leading his team.
Levee setbacks involve a trade-off. Unprotected land will likely flood more often, while the design gives more room for a flooding river to avoid levee breaches in extreme floods.
Construction began in August of 2020 and will be completed in Spring of 2021. The new levee reconnects over 1,000 acres of floodplain to the river corridor and will provide flood relief benefits for communities up and down the river.
Barbara Charry leads The Nature Conservancy in Missouri’s floodplains and nature-based solutions team, developing strategies and partnerships to benefit nature and help communities adapt to and increase resilience from flooding due to climate change. An experienced conservation leader with expertise in aquatic and terrestrial habitat connectivity and impacts of roads and development on wildlife and habitat, Barbara moved to Saint Louis from Maine to work for TNC Missouri in 2016.
Corina Zhang is currently the Resident Engineer for the Flood Recovery Construction Office for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha District, helping coordinate several levee reconstruction projects. Her experience is primarily in construction and contract administration, most recently in time-sensitive related work. Prior to moving to Omaha, Corina worked for the Portland, Oregon USACE District as a Project Engineer. She is an outdoor enthusiast and loves cooking.
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Resources & Links
Dig deeper for more info on this topic
- “Reconnecting the Missouri River Floodplain” – The Nature Conservancy
- VIDEO – “Building for the Future – Levee Setback on the Missouri River” – Route 3 Films with The Nature Conservancy (17:44)
- RESEARCH – “Levee Setbacks: An Innovative, Cost-Effective, and Sustainable Solution for Improved Flood Risk Management” – U.S. Army Corps of Engineers 2017
- ARTICLE – “New 536 levee setback project underway” – Atchison County Mail, Sept. 8, 2020
- ARTICLE – “The Uncertain Future of Missouri’s Levees” – by Mikayla Easley, Columbia Missourian, Jan. 20, 2020.
- ARTICLE – “Group wants feds to consider innovative anti-flooding projects, including in Missouri” – by Brent Martin, Missourinet, June 10, 2020
- MULTIMEDIA – “To See How Levees Cause Flooding, We Built Our Own” – By Al Shaw, Lisa Song, Katie Campbell and Ranjani Chakrabortyac, ProPublica, August 6, 2018.
- OPINION – “From Atchison County to Maryland Heights, to ease flooding, give rivers room to roam” by Tony Messenger, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Jan. 2, 2020.
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Special thanks to Les Bourgeois Vineyards for giving us the opportunity to use their beautiful space overlooking the Missouri River. All speakers are presenting for free! Thank you all for sharing your knowledge with us!
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