Members of the Illinois Congressional Delegation urged the Army Corps of Engineers to use a portion of the approximately $200 million in funding appropriated for construction of high priority projects as part of the Omnibus Appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2014 to fix the portions of the Wood River Levee that have been negatively impacted by a design deficiency in the construction of the Melvin Price Dam.
The legislation, which now must be voted on by both the House and the Senate, elevates this local Metro East issue to a national priority with report language encouraging the Army Corps of Engineers to fix the problem as soon as possible and a legislative provision allowing the levee improvements to be 100% federally funded.
Today’s letter to the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, Jo-Ellen Darcy, was signed by U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) and U.S. Representatives John Shimkus (R-IL), Bill Enyart (D-IL) and Rodney Davis (R-IL).
“We are writing to request the Army Corps of Engineers intensify its efforts to fix a critical problem impacting the safety of the levees in the Metro East St. Louis region of Illinois…The Army Corps has found this situation puts the levee at an “unacceptable level of risk” and we respectfully ask you take action to mitigate this risk now,” wrote the Illinois members. “We believe the discretionary funding [included in the Omnibus Appropriations bill] should be used to fix the portions of the Wood River Levee impacted by the Mel Price Lock and Dam.”
Today’s announcement comes as the Illinois members continue to work to protect two important provisions related to flood prevention efforts in the Metro East region as a House-Senate Conference Committee – which includes both Davis and U.S. Representative Cheri Bustos (D-IL) – works 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. The following two provisions, included in the Senate’s version of the bill, would support the Metro East region’s effort to repair and recertify the levees that protect residents in southwest Illinois:
– A fix that would make the Metro East levee projects 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 Metro East projects does not qualify for such in-kind credits because the law requires the projects to be authorized after 1986.
– A requirement to combine the several separately authorized Metro East 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.
Press Release, January 15, 2014