Sunday, March 9, 1997
Flood walls lived up
to promise in this city

BY LAURA GOLDBERG
The Cincinnati Enquirer

LOUISVILLE - The Great Ohio River Flood of 1997 is not so great in the city of Louisville.

Unlike the city of Cincinnati's riverfront neighborhoods, the vast majority of Louisville residents do not have muddy river water running through their streets and taking up residence in their homes.

The reason: A comprehensive flood protection system that includes walls, gates, pumps and earthen levees.

''In the city of Louisville itself, the flood protection that's in place has stopped the river from coming,'' said Bud Schardein Jr., spokesman for Louisville and Jefferson County Metropolitan Sewer District.

Said Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson: ''We have walls. We have flood walls, fortunately.''

29-mile system

And as in Cincinnati, the officials responsible for handling the flood gates do regular drills and were ready as the river rose. Each city had its gates in place in time, officials said.

This city's flood wall and levee system is an impressive 29 miles. It starts in eastern Louisville and winds around the city and into southwestern Jefferson County. It protects about 100 square miles and includes 15 pumping stations and 45 gates, 24 of which were put up for the swollen river.

The last 13 miles in the county were not finished until 1988.

Without the flood wall, Mr. Abramson estimated the flood would have been ''10 to 20 times worse.''

Cincinnati's flood wall system is much smaller. It runs 1.5 miles from Fort Washington Way to the railroad tracks in Lower Price Hill and includes 14 flood gates, eight of which were put up for the flood.

It also includes the Barrier Dam at the end of the Mill Creek that protects the entire Mill Creek Valley from the Ohio.

Some damage suffered

Louisville city residents did suffer some effects of last weekend's torrential downpour that brought parts of Jefferson County 12 inches of rain in 24 hours. There were a few evacuations and thousands of backed-up basements.

Flash flooding on Beargrass Creek damaged the building where the city stores public works vehicles, 46 of which were damaged.

The Ohio River crested in Louisville Friday at 38.7 feet, 15.7 feet above flood stage, at the city's upper gauge. At its lower gauge, it crested 70.6 feet, 15.6 feet above flood stage.

Like Cincinnati's Pete Rose Way, Louisville's River Road has been shut down. Water is still three-quarters of the way up sign posts along River Road.

A new waterfront development that will include a park, marina and plaza has been damaged, as have a half-dozen industrial businesses, said Mary Russell, the mayor's spokeswoman.

Flood measures in both cities were prompted by the flood of 1937.

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