Update: Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin has declared a statewide emergency in response to heavy rain and flooding. Among other things, the declaration allows state resources to be mobilized if needed, and puts consumer protections into effect. The State Emergency Operations Center in Frankfort has also been activated to respond to weather and flood conditions.
As Louisville prepares for more rain and flooding, the Metropolitan Sewer District began assembling its flood gates Friday.
MSD installed two of the flood gates Friday at 10th and 26th streets, as the Ohio River’s water level rose above 28 feet. It’s expected to crest early next week. Flood gates at 2nd Street and on Bingham Way will be activated Saturday.
MSD officials said they’ll place more gates as the water rises, but right now the agency is using all 16 of its flood pumping stations to stem that. Combined, those stations pump 11.52 billion gallons of water back to the Ohio River daily.
It’s not the first time MSD’s used all its pumping stations at once, and Flood Protection Supervisor JP Carsone said they’re prepared for flooding.
“We are constantly making adjustments to how we operate our system to deal with our changing circumstances,” Carsone said. “As we make changes, it does impact our system. But we make changes operationally to meet those demands.”
But an aging infrastructure could create problems.
Flood pump stations and structures were built in the 1940’s, and many companies which built parts for them are no longer around. MSD has identified $638 million in improvements needed for the city’s Ohio River flood protection system, but so far, lawmakers haven’t approved the significant rate increases the agency has requested to fund the infrastructure. Carsone said updates are necessary.
“All these things need to be addressed to protect the city,” Carsone said. “If you don’t update the infrastructure, eventually it’s going to come to its service life. And that’s when you start having problems.”
In a press release, MSD estimated its Ohio River flood protection system protects 200,000 people and $24 billion in Louisville property.