Trees removal from levee upsets neighbors

The mature trees need to go to strengthen the levee and meet increasingly strict federal safety guidelines, said Kurt Rinehart, the district’s chief engineer. The district is also removing 0ne set of stairs on the street side of the levee near Main Street because they are getting crooked and deteriorating. Other stairs along that section of levee will remain.

The district, which owns and maintains the levees as part of its flood protection system, said it’s been removing trees from levees for the past several years. Tree removal is part of an ongoing program to strengthen levees and improve maintenance, Rinehart said Tuesday. Trees in the past several years have been removed on levees from Piqua to Hamilton, he added.

“Removing trees from the levee is not something we like to do, but something we need to do,” Rinehart said. “Since Hurricane Katrina, there is increased federal scrutiny of levees, and federal guidelines prohibit trees on levees. Also, the Ohio Administrative Code states that trees are not acceptable vegetation for earthen levee embankments. But primarily, it’s about the integrity and maintainability of the levees.”

Tree roots can allow seepage paths for water. When trees die or topple over, they can leave large holes in the embankment surface that weaken the levee.

That’s no comfort for neighbors who are used to enjoying the shade and scenery the trees provide.

David Dominic, 54, said neighbors are angry they were not fully consulted.

“They didn’t do all they could to engage the neighborhood,” he said, adding that the neighborhood group the McPherson Town Historical Society wants to work to help fund more beautification of the levee area.

“We often get criticized for removing trees from levees, but it is the right thing to do,” Rinehart said. “Every tree on a levee slope introduces an unacceptable level of risk to the community.”

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