U.S. lawmakers call for protection of levee project

Billie Kettler of Columbia greases bearings in one of three large electric turbine pumps at the Palmer Creek Pumping Station of the Fish Lake Levee District this summer when the river reached major flood stage. The pumps push water flowing from inland down the creek back into the flood area outside the levee. (Alan Dooley photo)

U.S. Senator Mark Kirk, U.S. Representative Bill Enyart and U.S. Representative John Shimkus called for members of a House-Senate Conference Committee to protect legislative language that will support the region’s effort to repair and recertify the levees that protect residents in southwestern Illinois.

The Conference Committee is tasked with working out the differences between the Senate passed Water Resources Development Act of 2013 and the House passed Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2013.

“Communities in the metro east have been working to improve their levee system since it was decertified by FEMA in 2007.  The local residents have taxed themselves to raise money to make repairs to the system,” the lawmakers wrote. “These flood prevention projects have bipartisan, bicameral support in the Illinois Congressional Delegation.”

The senate’s version of the bill contains two important provisions related to flood prevention efforts in the region:

•A fix that would make the levee project eligible for work-in-kind credits, which will greatly assist local efforts to correct deficiencies to the levees and prevent flooding.  Currently, work performed by the local non-federal sponsor on the project does not qualify for such in-kind credits because the law requires the project to be authorized after 1986.

•A requirement to combine the Prairie du Pont, East St. Louis and Wood River levee projects into one project authority to allow the Army Corps of Engineers greater flexibility and efficiency in using federal funding to complete the projects.

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