FOX19 Investigates: Tri-State's readiness for next "great flood"

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Federal inspectors consider all of the levees within a 25-mile radius of downtown Cincinnati barely acceptable, a FOX19 investigation has found. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers keeps a database showing how its inspectors rate levees across the country.

Cincinnati's levee, as well as levees across the river in Covington and Newport, are among those in the Tri-State listed as "minimally acceptable" in the database. The Dayton levee in Campbell County, Kentucky, and the Lawrenceburg levee in Dearborn County, Indiana, got the same ranking.

FOX19's investigative team also dug-up a report written by a high-ranking Cincinnati Fire Department official in 2006 which calls the city's flood preparedness "somewhat disjointed." The report criticizes the city's readiness to battle the next great flood because the author of the report discovered:

  • Floodplain maps were non-existent in the Building Department
  • Emergency responders didn't have access to detailed floodplain maps
  • New flood warning and notification technology was "cost prohibitive" to the city at that time

Responding to the findings of that 2006 report, a spokeswoman at City Hall tells FOX19 that Cincinnati is now much better prepared. She points out that the floodplain map is available online. You follow this link ( and click on the folder icon at the top. Then when the "map layers" box opens, scroll down until you see FEMA Floodplain Map Overlay and click on that.

The city spokeswoman also says the new technology referred to in the 2006 report was regarding a reverse 911 system, which Cincinnati now has. Combined with Facebook and Twitter, she says getting the word out about the next flood will be much faster.

In Toledo, federal inspectors are worried about the levee itself. 1,500 homes, patios, stairs, and other structures have been built on the levee that runs along Lake Erie's Maumee Bay, which could weaken it.

The problem is far different in Toledo. Federal inspectors worry that 1,500 homes, patios, stairs, and other structures that have been built on the levee that runs along Lake Erie's Maumee Bay may weaken the levee.

"You name it, it's out there," said Robert Remmers, who oversees Toledo's levee system for the Corps of Engineers.

That criticism strikes some local leaders as hypocritical, though. They note that in many cases the Corps allowed building on or near the levee – or didn't object to it.

It's not just a problem in the Tri-State. Flood control systems are in danger of failing in 37 states. 326 levees are in urgent need of repair. The Associated Press requested details under the Freedom of Information Act about why certain levees were judged unacceptable and how many people would be affected in a flood. However, the Corps refused to reveal the information on the grounds that it could heighten risks of terrorism and sabotage.

The strength of levees has become a real concern in flood-prone areas of the country, especially after Americans witnessed the heartbreaking images on television of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in August 2005.

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