Grand Tower Residents concerned about levee void due to unfinished repairs

By Carly O'Keefe - bio | email

JACKSON COUNTY, IL (KFVS) – A low spot in the Big Muddy River levee near Grand Tower has some nearby businesses and residents concerned over what will happen if the water comes up.

The area in question is a segment of the levee that has been excavated to replace an aging gravity drain that failed during the 2008 flood event.

According to Army Corps of Engineers spokesman George Stringham, recent rains created muddy conditions that hampered efforts to repair the drain. Then the Big Muddy River water level rose, putting the area where the drain was to be installed under water.

Charlie Ticer, owner of Charlie T's Bar and Grill in Grand Tower, worries if the river level rises much more, it could put his new business under water.

"That river comes up like we're expecting it to, this is going to be marsh land," Ticer said.

Charlie T's has only been open four months. Now Ticer wonders if the new watering hole and his investment will be washed away.

"We don't have flood insurance down here. We can't buy flood insurance," Ticer said. "We figured if the levee could stand '93, we ought to be good to go, but now they've chopped a big hole in it."

The Army Corps has put in what's called a cofferdam, which is essentially a smaller levee around the void to hold back the water. It's an earthen structure about half as tall as the actual levee.

It's held back the water so far, but Grand Tower resident June Morgan wonders what will happen if the water gets high on the temporary levee.

"It's a concern that the levee they've got protecting the hole could cave in, wash away, then where are we at? Right in the path."

Morgan and son are the closest residents to the levee void. Her home survived the flood of '93 with water in the basement, but this time she says, a levee breech could take a much higher toll on her family.

"Our youngest son lives over there, we live here, our oldest son lives up here, and our daughter lives up there. So within a mile and a half – our entire family lives here," said Morgan. "So now, go to bed at night and think about that, with the water high and a hole in the levee."

The Army Corps of Engineers is monitoring the Big Muddy's water level and has an emergency plan in place to protect those nearby homes and businesses should a flood occur. If the water level passes a point, Stringham says the Corps will fill the void with rock before the water tops the cofferdam.

Stringham says there's no sure way to completely eliminate the possibility of a breech, but the measures put in place should limit the likelihood of property damage due to the unfinished levee project.

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