Sunday, November 7, 2010

Gaylord may spend up to $10 million for better levee

Frustrated by what CEO Colin Reed called the "very slow pace" to develop a communitywide flood prevention plan, Gaylord Entertainment Co. may soon spend up to $10 million to improve the levee surrounding its resort to a standard of 500-year protection.
That is a level that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which oversees flood protection, has urged the hotel operator to build throughout years of discussions about the company's private levees on the Cumberland River.

Those disagreements predate the May 2010 flood, although tens of millions of dollars in damage caused when the Cumberland topped its banks six months ago raise the urgency of taking some action.

In a conference call with stock analysts on Tuesday, Reed said he plans to brief the hotel company's board on potential plans to spend $7 million to $10 million on a levee high enough and strong enough to prevent another catastrophic flood of Gaylord's resort.

The Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center has been closed for six months after the flood, but it is scheduled to reopen within two weeks after a multimillion-dollar renovation and redesign.

"Over the course of the next two, three or four months, if we see the broader plan for the community (levee) moving forward, we will probably put our shoulders behind (it) to try and get that moving," Reed said. "But if it doesn't move quickly, we will move expeditiously … on building a 500-year-levee to protect our building here in Nashville."

The Federal Emergency Management Agency "will support it from all the conversations we've had with this agency, which has really been trying to help us protect our business," Reed said.

The Army Corps of Engineers and Gaylord have been publicly at odds, at times, since the May flooding caused more than $250 million in damage at Gaylord properties — from its hotel complex to the nearby Grand Ole Opry House and the Wildhorse Saloon downtown.

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