County kicks in $4 million for Big Ditch repairs

111-061507bigditch_fs3_standalone_prod_affiliate_801 Sedgwick County commissioners agreed Wednesday to kick in $4 million toward the cost of repairing the Big Ditch, which provides flood protection for much of the area.

About $10 million in repairs need to be made so the levees can be certified by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Additional repairs will be required later. The county is splitting the cost with the city. The county will pay an additional $1 million next year.

The city and county missed a Feb. 2 deadline to have the Big Ditch certified.

Decertification could require thousands of homeowners to buy flood insurance or pay higher rates for existing policies.

FEMA is drawing new flood maps. Local leaders say they hope they can make the necessary repairs to the project so it can be certified before the new maps could put more properties in flood zones.

The Big Ditch is the first levee system in the country to undergo accreditation, part of stricter guidelines put in force since Hurricane Katrina decimated parts of New Orleans, where levees broke.