Levee concerns addressed at summit in Southern Illinois

By Arnold Wyrick - bio | email

WOLF LAKE, IL (KFVS) - Students at Shawnee High School in Wolf Lake started out writing letters to state and federal leaders about the levee problems in their area.

Now those leaders are listening, and the Delta Regional Authority is getting involved to help find a solution.

"The reality is that we have to do something. We recognize the impact to economic development and public safety," said Chris Masingill Federal Co-Chairman, Delta Regional Authority. "we have to continue to move forward on this issue."

It's an issue that didn't happen overnight, and it's one that is plaguing many of the decades old levees lining the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers.

"Many of these levees were built in the 40's and 50's, over time they have deteriorated," said Colonel Tom O'Hara Commander, St. Louis Corps District. "Their current condition poses a higher than normal risk that they will not be able to perform at the level they were designed for."

The levees are designed to keep flood waters out of homes and communities, because the rising water knows no boundaries. The risks are high.

"The Mississippi River Levee System currently protects more than 4 million citizens, 1.5 million homes, 33,000 farms and countless vital transportation routes from destructive floods," said Colonel Vernie Riechling Commander, Memphis Corps District.

Now, fixing the problems are far more than the local levee and drainage districts can bear. Which is why the students called upon state and federal leaders to get involved.

"It's not just a local problem. It's a state problem and a national problem that we are facing all over the country," said U.S. Congressman Jerry Costello, D-Illinois.

"So it will take the combined resources of all of us to try and come up with the solution to make the necessary repairs."

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