Corps honors city, Puckett

By Frank Lewis -

A surprise can be a positive thing if that surprise is good, and it was a good surprise when, at a Levee Safety Meeting, held by the Huntington District of the Corps of Engineers, the city of Portsmouth was recognized by Army Corps of Engineers, for “Outstanding Improvements in Maintenance” to the Portsmouth Local Protection Project and Flood Defense. Supervisor Mark Puckett was given the “2015 Most Improved Award.”

“It was a surprise,” Portsmouth Wastewater Director Rick Duncan said. “They didn’t tell us they were going to do that at that meeting (July 19), and it was very nice.”

The Huntington District oversees 28 locally operated levee systems in Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, and Kentucky, including Columbus, Chillicothe, Huntington, Maysville, and Portsmouth/New Boston, and many others. Corps of Engineers personnel inspect flood defense systems annually for maintenance of levees, flood walls, pump stations, flood gates, and other issues.

Puckett has been the City’s Flood Defense supervisor for 18 months and under his supervision, Duncan said the city made significant improvements.

According to the Corps of Engineers: “Puckett has been diligent and thoughtful in his efforts to advance the Portsmouth system to Corps maintenance standards intended to maximize the flood risk reduction the system provides the community. Thanks to his efforts and that of his staff, the residents and businesses of Portsmouth live and operate under a reduced flood risk due to an effort to adhere to proper maintenance and the exercising of the system’s closure structures.”

“I’m just proud of Mark for all the work he has done on the levee system and the improvements that he has made,” Duncan said. “This is just a recognition of the efforts that we’ve put into maintaining the flood system.”

All 14 levee-related drainage pipes, ranging from 18 inches to eight feet in diameter, were inspected according to Corps of Engineers standards in 2015. Also, eight of 11 flood gates were erected in 2015. Three flood gates, which could not be erected due to traffic or railroad issues, were covered by means of a “table top exercise” under Corps of Engineers direction. Some of the other improvements in 2015 recognized by the Corps were vegetation control, pumps station improvements, and implementation of an effective animal control program (to control groundhogs which burrow into levees and cause damage).

“We’ve had a lot of interaction with them (Corps of Engineers) from when Mark came on board a-year-and-a-half ago,” Duncan said. “He has really put his heart into keeping in touch with the Corps and they have given us a lot of guidance.”

Also in 2015, the city discovered that a 48-inch diameter corrugated metal pipe under the levee north of 12th Street near OSCO had deteriorated. The 280-foot long pipe was repaired with a polyethylene liner in October 2015. The award also recognized this improvement. Similar repairs of other large outfall pipes are planned for 2016 and upcoming years.

The subjects covered at the meeting include Risk Assessment, Review of Levee Modifications, Pipe Maintenance and Rehabilitation, the new National Levee Database, and Emergency Preparedness, among other levee safety related topics.

In addition to Puckett, the meeting was attended by Duncan and Phil Smith, Heavy Equipment Operator, who has worked in the City’s Flood Defense Division for four years. Steve Hamilton, New Boston Village Administrator, also attended.

By Frank Lewis

Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.

Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.