Engineer firm will review causes of river bank erosion

Published 9:16 pm Thursday, July 16, 2015

The city of Selma will pay an engineering firm $78,000 to study erosion along the Alabama River.

The city of Selma will pay an engineering firm $78,000 to study erosion along the Alabama River.

The Selma City Council approved a contract Tuesday for an engineering firm to study the bank of the Alabama River and find what is causing it to erode.

According to Mayor George Evans, Volkert Inc. will do the study, which will be paid for through gas tax funds, for an estimated $78,000.

“It is going to be [Volkert’s] job to make connections and set up contacts so that we’ll have the right people at the table, to find answers and also to find funding to get rid of this problem,” Evans said.

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The study could take up to a year to complete, but it is something the city needs to have done with its aging infrastructure.

“It is not something that we can take lightly. You never know when some building could collapse or something like that,” Evans said. “We’ve got to stop it somehow. If we do nothing, then we’re definitely going to lose a lot of soil and grass on the river where our buildings are and the amphitheater is.”

According to Ray Hogg, the city’s engineering consultant, the problem is not something that happened over night.

“The river is in a big curve, and this has been going on for years, decades and maybe hundreds of years,” Hogg said.

According to Hogg, the erosion happens when the river rises due to heavy rainfall in the winter and spring.

“Under normal flow conditions, where it is now, the water level is down below the soapstone level. The soapstone doesn’t really effect it, but when we have the rains and the river gets up above the soapstone, the higher the river gets the faster it gets and the greater the velocity the river is flowing,” Hogg said. “The water is literally running into the earth and banks, and over time it will erode them out, especially when there is a change in the vegetation along the banks.”

Hogg said he isn’t sure what it would take to fix the problem, but he is interested in seeing the results of Volkert’s study.

“I would love to see when the study is completed what they came up with and what their thoughts are. They may be totally different from mine, but that is a good dialogue to get different opinions,” Hogg said. “It is a good thing that it is going to be studied just to come up with a plan because you need a plan before you go ask somebody for help.”

According to Evans, Volkert will also be responsible for helping them find funding from federal grants that could help pay for the work that needs to be done to fix the problem.

Ward 3 Councilman Greg Bjelke, whose ward goes along part of the bank, said he didn’t feel like the problem was something that had to be fixed immediately, but it is something that needs to be addressed.

“I don’t feel like it is something that needs to be done tomorrow, but we need to have it on the burner and start simmering that pot because the sooner the better,” Bjelke said. “We’re going to wake up one morning and there goes another bank, and then we’ll go ‘oh, we’ve got to do something about this,’ so we might as well start now.”

Bjelke said the city is open to ideas from citizens, but he also urges them to be patient while Volkert does the study over the next several months.

“Everybody needs to be patient with us. We’ve got sewers out, storm drains out and roads sinking,” Bjelke said. “We’re going to work and try to figure out what is going on and fix it for good. If they have another idea, they are welcome to share it with me or the mayor or anybody.”