Gulf Coast Intracoastal Waterway Levees Wash Out After Heavy Rains

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PANAMA CITY -- Last summer's heavy rains washed out an Intracoastal Waterway levee near the Bay and Walton County line. It took the Army Corps of Engineers months to repair the break, but it didn't last.

The Army Corps and the Coast Guard spent Thursday and Friday surveying the channel. They're just trying to get the waterway reopened.

The excess water has carried sand into the channel, reducing the depth to about seven feet, closing it to most vessels. That's bad news for barge traffic. Most of the area's gasoline and a lot of manufactured goods pass through this particular section of the Intracoastal Waterway, also known as the West Bay Canal.

US Army Corps of Engineers Site Manager Waylon Register said, "We have crews out there who are continuously surveying the area to monitor conditions. The rainfall we've had for the past few days has been you know, so severe that it's overwhelmed our temporary repair and caused that area to fail again."

The levee first washed out after heavy rains last July and August. The Army Corps made some temporary repairs but it didn't hold.
Now the Coast Guard says the situation is worse than last year.

US Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Patrick Haney said "A lot of just landslides and things that have caused significant shoaling to where there's not a safe available water depth for commercial mariners."

"The best method is to go back and rebuild the levies. It’s an expensive process as far as a lot of heavy earth moving equipment and takes a lot of time,” said Register.

Dredging crews are scheduled to start repairs this weekend.
Authorities say these temporary repairs will cost about $500,00. A permanent fix will cost up to $5 million.