A final repair to the Wabash Levee has just one more hurdle to clear before it can be let for bid, Kirk Bouchie, general manager of Vincennes Water Utilities, told members of the Utilities Service Board this week.

Bouchie said the team of engineers working on the final repair project has “finalized their (design) plans.”

What needs to happen next, he said, is for CSX Transportation to look at those plans and achieve “concurrence” in that the city shares some areas of right-of-way with the railroad company.

Wabash levee superintendent Hunter Pinnell said getting CSX's blessing is the “the next big hurtle” in seeing the project let for bid.

“We share right-of-way within that corridor,” Bouchie said of the space in which the project will be done. “We want them to be cooperative participants in what we're going to be doing.”

Bouchie has been working with a team from Banning Engineering, the U.S. Corps of Engineers, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and Federal Emergency Management Agency in developing a plan to replace about 30 aged relief wells along the levee wall at Vincennes University.

Originally, the plan engineers most looked to was the installation of a steel cut-off wall that would be erected underground on the wet side of the levee in an effort to block seepage.

Engineers eventually abandoned that plan for one seemingly more simple.

Instead, crews will look to bury a long trench-style relief well — essentially a pipe that will run from near Vincennes University's Robert E. Green Activities Center north to the parking lot behind the Van Eaton Indiana Center for Applied Technology.

The pipe, buried 7-10 feet deep, would collect seepage during high rivers or heavy rain events, divert it to pump stations and, ultimately, into the Wabash River.

The current 30 seepage relief wells were installed in the 1950s and are long past their lifespans. New federal rules associated with levee construction, however, no longer allow for those to simply be replaced.

The trench-style continuous drain is necessary to adhere to new FEMA standards.

But it's also like "threading a needle," Bouchie has said, as the line will need to be buried in the narrow space between the flood wall and the railroad tracks that run along next to it.

In areas where that space becomes too narrow, it will be located between the tracks and campus.

Such a busy corridor, he said long ago, would require extensive coordination, hence the cooperation with CSX being sought now.

“But our goal is to put this project out for bid as early as late April, early May,” Bouchie said. “That would (allow for) construction during the summer, fall season, and that's good because that tends to be the driest part of the year.

“That's the window we're trying to hit with this,” he said.

And as many questions that have been answered in the last several months, Bouchie said one big one remains — how much will this all cost?

Early estimates — when crews were looking at the steel wall — engineers thought it could be upwards of $5 million.

Mayor Joe Yochum, in just a few weeks, raised just over $4.7 million with contributions of $2 million from Vincennes University and other amounts from the utility itself, the city and the Redevelopment Commission.

Bouchie said an exact cost is difficult to pinpoint due to the “uniqueness” of the work.

“It's going to take a bid sheet with all the (proposed) contracts and what they actually bid before we really know where we're at with this project,” Bouchie told the USB. “But my feeling is that we should be less than the original estimates because there has been a paring down of the area as well as a change in the methods that should lend themselves to more traditional construction even though it is a very tight corridor that could come with a lot of extenuating circumstances.

“We'll see,” Bouchie said, “but that's where we are.”

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