City Quotient: How Does the Franklinton Floodwall Work?

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

If the Scioto River ever overflowed as catastrophically as it did in 1913, the new floodwall would protect Franklinton. But how are the gates closed, and whose job is it to close them?

The deadly 1913 flood devastated Franklinton but triggered a response from Columbus: the Civic Center, which beautified the riverfront and tripled the Scioto's width as a flood control measure. Unfortunately, the flood of 1959 showed this still wasn't enough. It took a long time, but in 2004 the 7.14-mile Franklinton Floodwall was dedicated. The Huntington (West Virginia) District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers designed and built the floodwall, which it calls the Columbus Local Protection Project. The federal government paid about 70 percent of the $139 million final cost, and the city covered the rest. It's designed to withstand a 500-year flood (the worst flood expected over a 500-year period, which is big). Maintenance and operation is the responsibility of the city's Department of Public Utilities, in the Sewer Maintenance Operations Center. The wall is a combination of earth levees and concrete and sheet pile walls and has 14 "gatewells," openings that allow highway and rail traffic to move freely during dry spells. So far, there hasn't been a need to close any gates, but they are tested on a regular schedule. The system includes three types of gate: a "roller" that slides closed like barn doors, a "stop log," in which heavy-duty beams are stacked in steel slots, and "sandbag" gates, filled with traditional sandbags. Investment in Franklinton was stymied for decades by the threat of floods; its budding rebirth is thanks to the floodwall.

Jeff Darbee is a preservationist, historian and author in Columbus. Send your questions to, and the answer might appear in a future column.