The Hamburg, Iowa, levee is being partially torn down.
Tuesday morning, Hendrickson Transportation of Hamburg began removing dirt from the nearly two-mile long levee that lines the west side of town.
The levee, at 11 feet high, was built in the late 1990s to protect the southwest Iowa town from flooding from a drainage ditch.
But in June 2011, volunteers and the Army Corps of Engineers piled dirt on top, raising it 8 feet, amid concerns about another levee protecting the area from the rapidly swelling Missouri River.
After that levee broke, the Hamburg levee held off the surging floodwaters of the Missouri for 120 days. At times, the levee was within only a few feet of being overtopped until the river finally returned to its banks.
Locals wanted to keep the levee at its new height. But federal officials said new metal closure gates and tests for stability and dirt compaction would be required.
Hamburg tried to raise the $5.5 million to get that done. It even posted a video of townspeople dancing to bring attention to their plight. But the city was only able to raise a fraction of the needed funds.
On March 22, the City Council voted 3-0 in a somber meeting to reduce the levee to its pre-flood height. A month later, the council selected Hendrickson to do the job, at a cost of $649,000. The levee should be back to 8 feet by July 1.