The Southeastern Colorado Heritage Center held an event Feb. 18 to discuss the Pueblo Levee Project and provide the public with an opportunity to discuss its history and future.
The event, which took place 7 p.m. at the Southeastern Colorado Heritage Center on B Street, was free and open to the public.
Rick Kidd, an engineer from the Pueblo Conservancy District and Cynthia Ramu, local artist and artwork coordinator for the levee project collaborated on the levee project presentation.
The levee was built in 1921 to protect Pueblo from floodwaters after the city was hit by a huge flood in 1920. This flood took hundreds of lives, damaged several homes and covered the downtown area in 25 feet of water.
The levee has finally begun to show its age 94 years later. Parts of the wall are cracked and there are places where the foundation has slipped. Concerns about Pueblo’s flood safety began to raise issues for city officials.
The combination of an aging foundation and requirements to meet Federal Emergency Management Agency standards made the need to repair Pueblo’s levee apparent.
In 2014, the Pueblo Conservancy District got approval to begin repairs to the levee.
Repairs began in fall 2014. It is expected that the repairs will cost $15 million and take as long as three years to complete. The levee, which currently stands 65 feet high and stretches 3 1/2 miles long, will have to drop to 13 feet in height to meet FEMA standards.
The length of the levee is expected to stay the same.
Artwork on the levee begin in 1978 when a couple of artists called the TEE HEE’s painted “Fish in the Bathtub,” the very first mural on the levee. It is commonly said that the group worked illegally under cover of night for close to three months to complete the piece.
“Fish in the Bathtub” can be seen from the Fourth Street Bridge.
It didn’t take long after the first piece of art went up on the levee wall before other artist began to add to the wall. Hundreds of pieces from various artists can be found along the 3 1/2 mile levee.
In 1995, the levee mural made it into the Guinness World Book of Records as “The Largest Mural in the World.”
While Pueblo Conservancy District is working to repair and develop the new levee, Ramu is working to preserve the artwork on the levee.
The majority of the artwork on the levee will not be affected until fall 2015. It is unknown at this time whether any of the current artwork on the levee will be replicated on the new levee. It is also unknown whether artwork will be permitted on the new levee at all.
Ramu currently has a website and Facebook page that are both entitled Pueblo Levee Mural Project. These pages are dedicated to preserving the artwork on the levee and encourage members of the community to share stories and pictures about the artwork on the mural.