HANNIBAL | Hannibal's downtown flood levee will be a less colorful place from which to view the Mississippi River after some of the flower planters on top of the floodwall are taken out by the city.
The removal request came from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers following its annual inspection late last fall of Hannibal's flood levee, which is 3,650 feet long and 12 feet high.
“The planters on the river side of the levee they would like to see gone,” said John Hark, the city's emergency management director. The presence of the planters created challenges in 2019 when the city was adding flood protection items to the top of the levee.
“The issue that came up this past year was with the putting up of the Jersey barriers, trying to get a tight seal in the area where it zigzags. There were concerns about potential issues if the water got up that high,” said Andy Dorian, the city's director of central services.
Hark said removing some of the planters does not just have the corps' support.
“I think it is a mutual thing,” Hark said. “I personally would like to see them gone. They are nice and are attractive, but my concern is the safety of the city. I would like to be able to line my sandbags up in a straight line. It works a lot better if I don't have to work around the planters. They all don't have to go, just those on the eastern side of the levee.”
According to Dorian, this marks the first time that the corps has officially requested the removal of some planters. However, it has been a talking point previously at Hannibal City Hall.
“It has been discussed ever since I have been here and I have been here for 13 years,” he said. “There was some discussion just because nobody was maintaining them and some of it was because of the levee.”
Courier-Post archives from April 2011 quote then-City Engineer Mark Rees as stressing that the corps was not mandating that the railroad tie planters on the section of the levee between Center Street and Broadway be removed. However, in 2010 Rees told the Courier-Post that there was sentiment among some city departments to remove the wooden planters so that it would be easier to place sandbags on top of the levee when major floods were forecast with a projected crest which could come near the levee's top.
Dorian, who acknowledges there will likely be some negative public reaction to the removal of a few planters, would like to move forward with their removal sooner than later.
“If we are going to do it we would like to do it when the ground is frozen so we don't tear up the levee. We have got to get big equipment on there so you don't really want to do it when it is saturated in the spring,” he said.
This is not the first time the corps has requested the city take action to protect the downtown flood levee. Following a November 2009 inspection the corps indicated that trees of a certain size would have to be removed that were growing on top of the flood levee and near it. According to the inspection report the city needed to take out all trees greater than 2 inches in diameter from the crown, slope and within 15 feet of the toe of the levee system.
Hark said that overall the most recent levee inspection went “very well.”
“The corps was very satisfied with the levee,” he said.