Saturday, November 26, 2011

When A Levee Needs Repaired Fast, the USACE Turns To Schultz and Summers Engineering

SSE was selected by the Memphis Corps of Engineers District to perform all the
testing for Operation “Make Safe,” the emergency repair work on the Birds Point Levee. 

Crops ready to be harvested behind the new levee

EAST PRARIE, MO- Last May the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) intentionally blew up the Birds Point- New Madrid Floodway levee, flooding over 130,000 acres with up to 23 feet of water and damaging hundreds of buildings and homes in the floodplain.  In addition to the property damage, the blast and ensuing floodwaters left three giant crevasses that totaled nearly three miles in length. This left those same homes and millions of dollars worth of crops vulnerable to the mighty Mississippi River this fall. “If the area were to flood again it would put many people out of business”, stated Carlin Bennett, the Mississippi County Presiding Commissioner.

Additionally, the raging waters left several huge scour holes up to three stories deep and four football fields wide.  SSE owner Stan Schultz said, “The amount of soil needed to repair these breeches and sand to fill in the scour holes is massive.  Helping the USACE accomplish this task before the fall rains could harm this year’s harvest has been very satisfying.”
Mark Ritter in the bottom of a scour hole that is almost filled in

When the Memphis corps district went looking for a material testing company to help with Operation “Make Safe”, they called the Army corps district that has the most experience in repairing levees-New Orleans. Because of the stellar performance by Schultz and Summers in New Orleans, they have quickly become known as a company that can perform fast and reliable soil tests when called upon. It wasn’t long before SSE received a call asking if they would be interested in providing testing services for the corps on the Birds Point Levee Floodway. Said Schultz, “Of course we were excited about working on such an important project, and helping repair a critical levee right here in our own backyard was very appealing. I immediately sent them my top soil technician, Mark Ritter, because I knew he would help to keep the project moving.”  

With such a tight schedule the corps didn’t have time to solicit design and construction bids, so they decided to do this job themselves.  They quickly designed the interim levee, brought 41 pieces of dirt moving equipment and 43 corps personnel from several different districts to southeast Missouri, and began work.  There were only two outside contractors involved in the project, Schultz and Summers Engineering for testing and J.W. Transport for trucks to haul the needed soil and sand.

One item of contention has been the height of the interim levee.  The current design is the same as the 51 foot river gauge at Cairo, IL.  Once funding is approved, the plan is to take the levee back up to its original height of 62.5 feet.  The interim repairs are projected to cost $15 million and it will cost another $21 million to raise it back to the original height. But corps spokesman Jim Pogue said, “Corps officials are evaluating the whole Mississippi River flood protection system before ranking projects, but where there is a potential for loss of life, that’s always going to be at the top of the list. The floodway is important. It’s going to happen. It’s not an if, it’s just a when.”  

Amazingly, this project started June 16, 2011 and is on track to be completed by November 30, 2011. Currently they have completed 95% of the work at the upper crevasse, 56% at the center crevasse and 100% at the lower crevasse.  “We’re still on target to meet the deadline,” said Pouge.

The follow-on project to Operation “Make Safe”, called Operation “Restore”, will reconstruct the floodway system to the pre-operational level of protection. The construction schedule is contingent on the availability of funding.  Clearly, the gridlock in Washington has slowed the appropriations process down. But earlier this year Jo Ann Emerson led the charge to get $589 million for levee repairs pushed through the House Appropriations Committee and recently the U.S. Senate passed Senator Blunt’s amendment and included it in the FY2012 spending bill for Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies.

Blunt said, “We must work to provide communities with short term and long term recovery and disaster mitigation, which is why I recently introduced an amendment that was passed by the Senate Appropriations Committee to add $400 million to Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) — funding that picks up where FEMA leaves off.”

Many farmers gambled that the fall flooding wouldn’t come and planted crops after the flood waters receded.  Memphis Corps District employee Mark Broughton reports that about 90% of the flood way had crops planted.  He said most of it was in beans and they were planted late, but some farmers have gotten 50 to 60 bushes per an acre. Of course those farmers who owned land in the 10% that was totally destroyed, didn’t fare so well.     

Until the funding is approved for the higher levee, the threat of spring flooding has most farmers apprehensive about planting more crops in the floodway.  Many farmers are seeing crop insurance rates twice as high as 2010. With the Mississippi River staying at record summer levels along with a levee that is 11 feet shorter than the old one, residents are worried that even normal flooding could breach the interim levee.  KFVS News reported that county officials told them the data shows the river has been over 51 feet seven times in the last 12 years.

 Bobby Carlisle USACE, Mark Ritter SSE and Mark Broughton USACE
Schultz and Summers Engineering has played a major role in assisting the corps personnel in keeping the project on schedule.  Making sure the soil has the right amount of moisture and compaction is important to the long term strength of any levee.  SSE soil technician Mark Ritter said, “We have done over 300 tests so far on the project.  The results have been outstanding and everything has come in within the standards.  It’s been a bit hard to keep up with the fast pace of the corps, but we have done whatever it takes to support their efforts and keep things moving.”     

To read the most up to date info on the Birds Point Levee repairs go to:    

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


We want to wish all of our customers and friends a wonderful Thanksgiving!  We very much appreciate your business and look forward to working with you more in the future. 

Friday, November 11, 2011


C&M Contractors & SSE finished the project ahead of schedule and within budget!

Melinda of C&M and Doug of Ridge Hill pose for a photo.

President Obama
JOPLIN, MO- On May 22, 2011 Joplin Missouri was devastated by an F5 tornado that killed 156 people and left the city of Joplin in ruins.  The high school, along with several of the athletic fields, was totally destroyed.  Soon after the event President Obama said, "Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to the families of all those who lost their lives in the tornadoes and severe weather that struck Joplin, Missouri. We commend the heroic efforts by those who have responded and who are working to help their friends and neighbors at this very difficult time. At my direction, FEMA is working with the affected areas' state and local officials to support response and recovery efforts, and the federal government stands ready to help our fellow Americans as needed."

With the presidents orders in hand FEMA jumped into action.  They put contracts in place to begin the cleanup effort, and build the needed temporary housing.  Another project they put a priority on was building new High School Athletic fields.  Working through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE)-Kansas City District, they hoped to design, build and complete new soccer, softball, baseball and football fields that the students could use by October 15th.  Time was of the essence so they moved fast to find a reliable contractor that could quickly design and construct these fields. Owner Charlie Bass said, “The damage to Joplin was indescribable, and losing so many people in a town that side was a tragedy.  Being picked to help the rebuild was a real honor and we did everything we could to finish this job on time and within the budget!” 

The Missouri Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTAC) had provided C&M Contractors as well as SSE the help they needed to be registered as a small business with the federal government.  Because of that help the USACE was able to identify that C&M Contractors had the background and experience to handle a design build project for the Joplin ball fields.  SSE owner Stan Schultz added, “Once C&M told us the schedule for this project we quickly gave them the support and staff they needed to begin the design process.  Melinda and Charlie may be new to the 8a program, but their 15 year track record of working in the private sector on demanding construction schedules was perfect for this project.” 

Melinda Vaughn
Charlie Bass
On July 13th the USACE contacted C&M Contractors about this project and on July14th owners Melinda Vaughn and Charlie Bass made their first visit to the site.  They were chosen for a design/build negotiated contract by the USACE- Kansas City District and Melinda Vaughn quickly assembled an experienced team including Schultz & Summers Engineering as well as Ridge Hill Contractors.  On July23rd, only nine days later, SSE successfully completed the design which allowed C&M Contractors to successfully negotiate the contract for the temporary athletic fields located at the Joplin South Middle School.   These included a baseball, softball, soccer, and a football field.  The contracting authority was the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; however, the project was funded by FEMA through their critical infrastructure program as part of the disaster relief effort after the tornado. Heather Morgan a landscape architect for the USACE said, “There was a lot of pressure on this project with people saying I need this now, along with me pushing and calling Brad Allbritton on the weekend because SSE had to come out and site plan the project, grade it, do all the permitting and prepare the construction documents at the speed of light.  C&M Contracting and SSE did that! We had a full site with all these existing conditions and SSE had to come up with deliverables that normally take months on end to create, to get earth moving and get everything correct as far as cost estimating.  On a large site that is not easy to do, but it saves time.”    

Heather Morgan goes over the plans
Typically, design build contracts are awarded to large construction and engineering firms, but because of the tornado and emergency situation FEMA wanted to find a small business that could begin work immediately.  Rarely do small companies like C&M Contractors have an opportunity to do this kind of project.  C&M owner Melinda Vaughn said, “Even though we are new to the 8a program working on design build projects is not new to us.  Charlie and our project managers all understand the importance of doing quality work on projects that have demanding timelines.  We also have some very capable and reliable partners in Schultz and Summers Engineering & Ridge Hill Contractors. A good team makes successfully completing a project like this easy” Charlie Bass added, “Having quality local subcontractors helped us complete the project on time.  Bill’s Electric placed the lights for two fields and Anchor Fence built the fencing around the softball and baseball fields. Their hard work was invaluable.”

On September 1st the final sod was laid down which completed the project 45 days ahead of schedule.  The grading was complete, the grass was growing, the bleachers were in place, and the lights were shining the night the students took the field for the first time.  While some may say ball fields are not that important, the folks in Joplin do not agree.  Mike Johnson, Director of Maintenance  added, “We lost several students in that storm and anything that can help bring some normalcy back into these kids lives is a wonderful thing.  What FEMA the USACE, C&M, SSE and all the workers have done for our school is truly a blessing.” 
One of the finished ball fields.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


LAKE OZARK, MO- November 9, 2011. The Bagnell Dam realtors held their first of four workshops to help the members better understand the recent Shoreline Management Plan (SMP) the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) introduced this summer.   They invited a few local experts including Bryan Vance from Ameren Missouri, Christine Cisar from Arrowhead Title and Stan Schultz from Schultz and Summers Engineering.  Stan said, “This forum provided us a great opportunity to better understand what FERC is requiring in the SMP, how it is impacting lake property owners, as well as giving me a chance to explain how our surveying services can help homeowners protect their property.” 

Vance began the meeting with a very informative presentation on the history of land acquisition at the lake and how Ameren Missouri came to be in charge of shoreline management.  He said, “Until 1982 the US Army Corps of Engineers managed the shoreline. Since that time Ameren has taken over the lead role in permitting and trying to get an SMP approved.” 

He had several slides showing how elevation lines conflicted with the assumed property boundaries and gave examples of homes that were on the project property and not even on the property owned by their owner.  Vance added, “Many of these structures have been there for years and these owners have no recourse.  We are asking FERC to allow us to move the project boundary line down to the shoreline so that these encroaching structures ownership questions can be cleared up.”
Bryan Vance explains how Ameren is trying to fix the problem.

While Ameren is working with FERC to adopt a reasonable SMP and get these ownership issues resolved it seems that the bureaucrats in Washington DC have other plans.  Despite strong opposition from Missouri’s congressional delegation, FERC seems determined to force homeowners to remove these structures from below the project boundary line.  Senator Blunt recently said, “This is ridiculous. An example of another federal agency acting as if common sense has been thrown out the window,”     

Ameren took over the permitting role in 1983 and in 2001 they began working re-licensing.  They held countless meeting with lake residents to come up with a workable SMP and were issued a new license in 2007 with the caveat that a revised SMP be submitted in 1 year.  Vance pointed out that in 2008 FERC posted the revised SMP and made no mention of nonconforming structures.  He added, “FERC still has to render a final order on the SMP, and we have no idea when that will be.  Right now we have already started working to move the project boundary line down to the lake and avoid causing the effected home owner any more problems.”

After Mr. Vance finished, Christine Cisar from Arrowhead Title and Stan Schultz from Schultz and Summers Engineering each gave short presentations explaining how title insurance and surveys could help homeowners deal with these boundary issues.  Christine went through several examples of lake front property deeds and the problems the old legal descriptions are causing today.  She mentioned, “Legal descriptions have a hard time following contour lines.  Contour lines are not flat and can intersect adjoining properties at different levels.  At the lake these lines are causing some serious problems and the only way to know for sure where a contour line crosses a property is to hire a surveyor.”

Stan reiterated some of the points others speakers had made and he explained why some areas of the lake have different project boundary lines.  “Just under 30% of the lake front deeds use the metes and bounds description and the others use an elevation number.  To make it even more confusing there are 14 separate elevation levels used in those deeds,” mentioned Schultz.  He continued, “Elevation levels on a property can dramatically change over time because of issues like erosion and fill being added.  These things can change the contour of property, which only complicates the boundary disputes.”

Stan explains how a survey can help deal with boundary issues.
All the speakers emphasized how import surveys will be as the lake area works through this process with FERC.  One participant asked Schultz what a survey like this would cost?  Stan replied, “We have worked hard to reasonably price our survey services at the lake.  We charge $400 for a flood elevation; $150 to mark the project boundary line and a boundary survey for an average lake lot would be around $1000.”  He added, “If you have a unique need or a large property we would have to look at the project and give you a specific bid for the survey work.”

Dee Dee Jacobs
At one point in the seminar the participants were asked if anyone had come across skittish buyers over this issue.  Almost every hand in the class went up.  When asked if any transactions had fallen through two hands went up.  Most agreed that it was impacting lake front property.  Dee Dee Jacobs with Jacobs Real Estate Partners RE/MAX, said she has definitely been dealing with the issue, “FERC’s ruling is having a devastating effect on lake front properties and we have added new discloser language to our contract to make sure everyone is informed of the situation.  The seminar was very useful in helping me better understand the problem and Stan did a great job of explaining how the elevation levels affect ownership and how a survey can help property owner’s deal with where the contour line crosses their property.”

While the FERC issue has become a huge issue locally and has even garnered national attention, many in our area are just learning the details about what property owners can do.  Legislation has been introduced in Washington to fix this problem, but for now Ameren and homeowners are in limbo.  Schultz concluded, “We want to do whatever we can to fix this problem as quickly as possible.  This is negatively affecting my business and the longer it takes the damage just grows.  Providing property owners with accurate and reasonably priced surveys is just one thing we can do to help!”