WASHINGTON, D. C.–(ENEWSPF)–October 14, 2010. U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Congressmen Jerry Costello (D-IL) and John Shimkus (R-IL) announced today that they will convene a meeting to develop a regional plan to address upgrading Southern Illinois levees. Age and uneven maintenance have raised concerns about their future ability to withstand a major flood.
“With more than 85% of the nation’s 100,000 miles of levees locally owned and maintained, recent budget shortfalls and shifting priorities have made it difficult for local governments to keep levees in good condition,” said Durbin. “Several years ago in Congress, we identified problems with levees and have been working to help communities upgrade and reconstruct their first line of defense against flooding that seems to be occurring more often, especially along the Mississippi. It is important that all community members – from the students at Shawnee high school to the region’s elected officials – are involved in this process and understand their risk. So we are not only calling for this regional levee summit today, but we’ve also asked the Army Corps of Engineers and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to come into the classroom and educate students about the levees and the risk of flooding in the Southern Illinois area.” On September 7, Senator Durbin sent a letter to President Obama asking him to make levees a central part of his recent $50 billion infrastructure spending plan.
“We have been working on levee reconstruction issues for years – it is a $100 billion national problem and there are a lot of regional issues that need to be addressed in a comprehensive way,” said Costello. “The economic downturn continues to make raising revenue extremely difficult. Southern Illinois is divided between three U.S. Army Corps of Engineers districts. Some levees are federally owned, others are privately owned. Local levee districts need to come up with local matches to help pay for the work, which is also difficult. The FEMA flood remapping process has added another layer of issues to levee work. We recently had a meeting to discuss the issues in Alexander County, and we think it is best to have a regional meeting to hear from the Corps districts how they plan to prioritize their current funding, and what available resources local, state and federal officials have to address all of these needs as quickly as possible. I have been a strong advocate for additional water infrastructure investments, and urged President Obama to make levees a priority in his $50 billion infrastructure spending plan.”
“We have been dealing with levee issues in on a bipartisan, multi-jurisdictional basis for some time,” said Shimkus. “Federally, I supported Congressman Costello’s legislation that was incorporated into national flood insurance legislation that passed the House. We have all worked individually with affected communities, and this meeting will provide a chance for us to work together as a region. It will also allow all the local officials to hear the agencies’ plans directly from them and to everyone at once.”