The Macon Levee in 2008
Trees removed to strengthen Macon's leveeNovember 2008
A skidder pulls a load of trees Tuesday that were removed from within 4,000 feet of the Macon levee near the sewer treatment plant. Contractors have been removing trees from a wooded section of Macon’s levee for a week in an effort to bring it up to federal standards so property behind it can maintain federal flood insurance coverage.
Woody Marshall/The Telegraph
A skidder travels along the top of the Macon levee near the sewer treatment plant Tuesday. The Macon Water Authority is clearing trees from within 4,000 feet of the levee in an effort to bring it up to federal standards so property behind it can maintain federal flood insurance coverage.
Woody Marshall/The Telegraph
Randy Smith with the Macon Water Authority watches a skidder pull trees that were removed from within 4,000 feet of the Macon levee near the sewer treatment plant Tuesday. Contractors have been removing trees from a wooded section of Macon’s levee for a week in an effort to bring it up to federal standards so property behind it can maintain federal flood insurance coverage.
Tuesday, Nov. 04, 2008
removed to strengthen Macon's levee
| From: "John
To: "Joyce Bear" <email@example.com>
Cc: "Jim David" <Jim_David@nps.gov>,
Subject: Macon Levee Improvements
Date: Mon, 24 Nov 2008 12:17
I have gathered and attached some information to highlight the Corps'
ongoing involvement in strengthening the Macon Levee and its adverse impacts
on the Ocmulgee Old Fields' TCP, the Ocmulgee National Monument and Lamar
The whole focus of the Corps has been and continues to be the protection of
the western floodplain, behind the Macon Levee. The Ocmulgee Old Fields TCP
includes portions of the Macon Levee, including the tree removal area.
However, the Ocmulgee National Monument, Lamar Mounds and the majority of
the TCP are in the eastern floodplain. The Macon Levee increases the
magnitude and frequency of flooding in the eastern floodplain. Therefore,
any and all efforts to maintain and improve the Macon Levee negatively
impact the TCP and National Park properties. The Macon Levee is a federal
project and the Corps conducts routine inspections, which are federally
funded (see 2000 federal funding attachment). They review and approve local
modifications to the Levee, such as the shear escarpment repair (see Shear
Escarpment attachment), which was repaired through the construction of the
Heritage Trail alongside and on top of the levee. A pending second phase of
the Trail will pave the top of the Levee through Central City Park and I'll
bet there has been no consultation regarding this project, located in the
TCP either. The Corps has "required" the escarpment repair and tree removal
project under threat of "decertifying" the Macon Levee as a federal project.
So, although the Corps may not have an official Levee study at the present
time, the Corps is actively involved in this federal project. However, Corps
documents (see 2002 Sand Boils attachment) indicate that the Corps is still
operating under "the ongoing Section 205 study." This study could be the
1997 Section 205 Study, which the Corps had issued public notice of its
completion, but then withdrew it when the benefits/cost analysis proved to
be negative. The Sand Boils section of the Macon Levee is also located
within the TCP.
The attached 1998 letter to the Corps from former Macon Mayor (now
Congressman) Jim Marshall clearly states the case that the trees along the
levee are older than the levee, should not be considered a maintenance issue
and should not be removed. He also states their value for the future
Heritage Trail expansion. His letter also mentions that the Corps is
"rethinking its Levee Vegetation Regulations" to allow trees on levees. The
Corps sent the Mayor documents relating to this "rethinking," which I have seen.
A viable alternative to removing the trees was to widen the Macon Levee in
the tree area and this seemed to be an agreed upon solution, as referenced
in a 1999 Corps letter to Mayor Marshall. (see attachment "Widen instead of
remove trees"). This attachment also mentions that the Corps is developing a
Phase 1 Study Report.
In conclusion, the Macon Levee is a federal project, which receives ongoing
federal involvement, funding and permitting. The Corps did not update the
maintenance plan for the Macon Levee when the TCP was designated. The TCP
was designated national register eligible for the purpose of recognizing and
protecting its cultural and natural resources. These protections clearly
apply to any projects with federal involvement. Mowing grass and cutting
down trees are acceptable maintenance operations, but bulldozing mature
trees and digging up their roots should not be considered an acceptable
maintenance activity in the TCP. If this is acceptable, what is an
unacceptable activity in the TCP? This is especially unacceptable when two
alternatives have been proposed to eliminate the need for any tree removal
by heavy equipment - (1) widening the levee in the tree area and (2)
subdividing the levee. A couple of years ago, the City of Macon and
Congressman Marshall asked the Corps to investigate subdividing the Macon
Levee, as a Section 1135 (Floodplain Restoration) and Section 205 (build
subdivider levee & strengthen upper part of existing levee) project. This
"solution" would protect existing businesses behind the Macon Levee and
would reduce the excessive flooding in the Ocmulgee National Monument, Lamar
Mounds, the TCP and up- and down-stream homes, businesses and roads. The
$250,000 the MWA is spending on this tree removal project could have gone a
long way to providing the local match for this Section 1135/205 study.
Instead, it has strengthened the case against subdividing the Levee and a
news article stated the Corps had determined a ring levee around the
treatment plant was infeasible, which indicates a Corps study was performed.
This Section 1135/205 Study and Project could and should be funded through
the FHWA/DOT as cumulative mitigation for the current I-16/I75 Improvement
project, which includes I-16 through the Ocmulgee National Monument. (see
attachment "10 1996 get DOT or FHWA to fix it")
The Corps has determined that I-16 raised 100-year flood levels by 3 to 4 feet in the Ocmulgee National Monument (see attachment "Dredging alternative"). The Macon Levee was also raised by three feet, as part of the construction of 1-16, to offset its resultant increase in flood levels. There is a fundable solution.
According to the Corps and USGS flood data, the Macon Levee / I-16 has
raised 100-year flood levels in Macon by five feet or more at the 5th St.
Bridge. (see attachment "flood graph")
In fact, Macon now gets a 100-year flood every ten years (in frequency) due to I-16 and the Macon Levee. (see attachment "03 1996 100") Seventy percent of the Ocmulgee floodway, immediately below downtown Macon, has been impaired or completely blocked
off by levees. A Section 1135 project could reduce this from 70% to 24% and greatly relieve Macon's flooding problems, but the Corps sole focus is on maintaining this problem. (see "Full Flood Profile Map" and related "Floodway restoration" spreadsheet.)
1. Stop the tree removal project immediately. New maintenance guidelines
cannot be developed if the maintenance improves the chances of the Macon
Levee surviving a flood, at the expense of increased flooding to the
Monument and TCP.
2. Hold a meeting to discuss the Macon Levee & the I-16 project at the
Ocmulgee National Monument, with the public, the FHWA, DOT, Corps, NPS,
USF&W, DNR, Macon, Bibb, Jones, MWA, Muscogee Nation and other affiliated
Native American entities participating. There are viable solutions and
3. Until there is a change in Corps focus, I believe the Muscogee Nation
should oppose the tree removal project and seek compensatory mitigation,
should oppose the paving of the new Trail on the Levee in the TCP, oppose
any future "sand boils" repairs on the levee, ask the FHWA to mitigate for
the excessive flooding caused by I-16 in their current I-16\I-75 project and
request an EIS for the project. The Ocmulgee National Monument should also
be asked to support these efforts to protect the Monument and the TCP.