Fixing "unacceptable situations" in Decorah's levee system could cost the city up to $400,000, according to City Engineer Lindsay Erdman.

The Decorah City Council approved an initial plan for levee improvements during its meeting Monday night. The action also means the Council understands the potential costs for the repairs, according to City Administrator Chad Bird.

The United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) gave the city a deadline of May 3 to confirm its intent to make the improvements. Failure to comply could mean the city's flood hazard area would be mapped as if the city did not have a levee, which would have implications for homeowners' insurance, or federal emergency money would not be available to the city if the levees were damaged in a flood, Erdman said.

The levee is inspected annually by the USACE. Some problems cited already have been addressed by city crews, including the removal of vegetation and maintenance work on culverts, Erdman said. Power poles located too close to the levee are in the process of being relocated by Alliant Energy.

A remaining problem that must be dealt with is flood diversion through the channel on the west edge of town at "The Cut." The USACE has called for cleaning the bottom of the channel of sediment and restoring the rock floor that caps the underlying erosive materials, which could cost more than $200,000.

"It's not that simple," Erdman said.

City officials plan to question why that work is necessary since the channel has been working properly.

Erdman said he also would be appealing the USACE's objection that the city water department building at 800 W. Water St. is too close to the levee. Bird said the city is waiting for a determination on why it's necessary to remove the cement block building, which has a well, and hasn't caused any problems in the past.

Erdman said he'd attempt to find more "efficient" ways to remedy levee problems to save the city money. Bird said the work would be budgeted for when the firmer cost estimates are available.

The city has two years to finalize the levee correction plan and two years after that to complete the work.