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Days After Damaging Floods, Covington Announces Funds for Detention Ponds

$650,000 is on the way to help ease the sewer backups and flooding in Covington's Peaselburg neighborhood, a spot long challenged by the aftermaths of heavy rain storms and their increased frequency.

The City of Covington said the long-anticipated next phase of a multi-million dollar project and decade-long plan "cleared its last financial hurdle this week", days after the neighborhood was hammered yet again, and after the city commission got an earful from angry citizens whose basements flooded yet again. That means new detention basins are on the way.

The City of Covington applied for a federal grant in 2016 to contribute $412,500 to the project, but "only recently", according to a news release, learned that it had been awarded the funds.

The board of directors at Sanitation District 1, a partner in the project, approved on Tuesday a plan to pay the required local match of $137,500 and roughly $100,000 for design work. Construction will begin next year, the city said in a news release.

"This project is indicative of the cost, the complexity, and the time it takes to fix a problem as massive as storm drainage," Covington City Manager David Johnston said. "Consider that this is just one phase of a large project that would help one neighborhood, and it took three years just to obtain the funding."

The detention basins would be built on either end of Pointe Benton, with one basin located near where Benton Road runs down from the Monte Casino neighborhood into Highland Avenue. Over the last decade, the City and SD1 have partnered to build four new detention basins on the hillside below Monte Casio to hold back and temporarily store water during heavy storms that would otherwise run toward Peaselburg.

Collectively the four detention basins built recently below Monte Casino hold over 3.2 million gallons of rainwater - but even that capacity still wasn't enough in the storm that dumped five inches of water on already saturated ground in a matter of hours.

"To date those basins have made a huge difference during smaller rain events, but during the storm overnight Saturday into Sunday, they were not only full but overflowing," Covington public works director Rick Davis said. "That was an insane amount of water. It's hard to believe, but without the major improvements to date, the flooding and sewer backups would have been exponentially worse. Obviously we have to keep building."

Before the $650,000 newest phase can begin, the city and SD1 have to complete the legal task of drawing up required documents and agreements related to the project. SD1 will oversee the design phase and the city will oversee construction.

The project will include detention basins on either end of Pointe Benton and, along the street, new catch basins and underground pipes.

"We want to design it wherever we can build the biggest basins and collect the most water," Davis said.

Once a consultant draws up engineers' plans, the city will find a contractor to build the project. Construction is scheduled to begin next year.

"We wish we could start tomorrow, but the unfortunate reality is that projects of this size and complexity simply take time," Davis said.

Mayor Joe Meyer said the city had been unable to announce that the project was going forward until it received word of the federal grant allocation and then the local match this week.

"The timing of this, while coincidental, could not be more fortuitous," Meyer said. "The flooding and backups in this area that our residents suffered a few days ago demonstrates the need for continuing work on such projects, phase after phase after phase."

Meanwhile, another storm water project and detention pond is planned for the area further west, where Henry Clay Avenue runs into Highland Avenue on the Fort Wright-Covington border, Davis said. That's still in the pre-design phase, and more property has to be acquired.

And in another part of Covington, still another detention project is in the works in the hills above the Lewisburg neighborhood.

"The needs are everywhere, and every little piece takes a lot of time and money," said Johnston, who became City Manager less than two years ago. "Slowly we're making progress."

-Michael Monks, editor & publisher

Photo: Flooding in Peaselburg in 2013 (RCN file)