Oneida levee called 'microcosm' of bigger national problem

Since devestating floods swept through the City of Oneida in June, some neighbors have raised questions about the integrity of the city's levee, asking if the levee could have prevented the flooding.

City of Oneida Engineer Jon Rauscher says the city maintains the levee annually, patching holes, sandbagging and mowing as needed. Seventeen-foot flood waters overtopped the levee, which stands 11-feet high. The flooding caused erosion, which the city patched with large rocks.

Despite the annual maintanence, Dean Laura Steinberg of Syracuse University's College of Engineering and Computer Science says the situation in Oneida is indicative of a nationwide problem.

"What we've seen in Oneida is just a microcosm of what's going on in other parts of the country," explained Dean Steinberg.

Steinberg says there is no national database or organization overseeing our country's approximately 100,000 miles of levees. This makes it hard to tell how levees should be maintained.

"We do not have a good analysis, we do not have a good database in this country of levees, where they are even, how they're inspected, how they're maintained," said Steinberg.

Steinberg says that the American Society of Civil Engineers published a report card documenting the quality and state of our country's infrastructure, and gave levees a D+.

Steinberg argues that more needs to be done to maintain levees, since they protect 10 million Americans from flooding every day.

"There are recommendations that have been sent to Congress for Congress to create a national levee safety program. And such a program would require the registration of each and every levee, would require inspection every year," Steinberg explained.

For now, Rauscher says the City of Oneida is working with the Army Corps of Engineers to make technical fixes to the levees in an effort to prevent future flooding disaster.