Levee work suspended in Alexander Co; federal aid appeal denied

Levee work suspended in Alexander Co; federal aid appeal denied
(Source: Mike Mohundr/KFVS)
(Source: Mike Mohundr/KFVS)
(Source: Mike Mohundr/KFVS)
(Source: Mike Mohundr/KFVS)
(Source: Mike Mohundr/KFVS)
(Source: Mike Mohundr/KFVS)
(Source: Mike Mohundr/KFVS)
(Source: Mike Mohundr/KFVS)

ALEXANDER COUNTY, IL (KFVS) - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is evaluating three alternatives for repairing the Len Small Levee in Alexander County, Illinois.

According to Amanda Kruse, public affairs specialist with the corps, under PL 84-99, the corps may help, pending the availability of funding, with the rehabilitation of flood risk management systems, to include levees that have been damaged during a flood event.

Kruse said for the Len Small Levee, the corps is evaluating three alternatives that incorporate three factors: constructability, acres of protection and project costs.

She said all three alternatives will include a sand core levee capped with a minimum of 5 feet of clay.

According to Kruse, the Len Small Levee is a non-federal levee, so the repair will require an 80/20 cost share, or 80 percent federal government/20 percent local sponsor, and the local sponsor would have to contribute all necessary lands, easements and rights-of-way; as well as 100 percent of all of the material (sand and clay) to repair the levee.

"Being here in Alexander County, we get left out a lot when it comes to things like that, and we could really use the assistance," Heather Miller, a resident, said. "So sometimes it angers people in the community, and also makes us sad."

Now there seems to be more bad news for Alexander County, which seems to be the theme of late for the county after it was ravaged by major flooding earlier this year.

The county was recently denied federal funding after the Mississippi River damaged millions of dollars worth of land, streets, homes, sewers and more during the New Year Flood.

"Everyone in the community is angry," Miller said. "It's happened over and over again and denied and Alexander County feeling left out as well as other small counties here in Illinois that the flood was affected by."

On top of the bad news, residents have also learned that the Corps of Engineers has suspended operations of rebuilding the Lens Small Levee until October, according to Alexander County EMA Coordinator Mike Turner.

"They said it wasn't an emergency," Turner said.

Miller said this is another major concern of hers, just adding to the already existing list.

"That's worrisome because with it not being fixed it could cause more problems," Miller said. "More water and more damage. The longer it's postponed, the bigger risk we are."

Many residents said they feel hopeless now after continuing to get bad news on top of bad news when it comes to flood relief aid.

"It's saddening and it's angry and we just all try to pitch in together and help each other out because we're not getting it from anywhere else," Miller said.

If you look around Alexander County, it won't take long to realize the damage caused by the New Year Flood is still very visible.

"Everything is just a mess," Miller said. "It's going to take a lot of work and a lot of money to fix it."

Sand covers a very large portion of the county. Damaged trees pepper the land. Parts of homes and barns are completely demolished, scoured land and many roads are still in desperate need of repair.

Turner said at first they estimated the damages at $3.5 million when first applying for federal aid. After that was rejected, they found another $3.4 million in damages, for a total of nearly $8 million.

More than $3 million of the $3.4 million that was added on was denied during the federal aid appeal. That $3.3 million in damages was for Cairo, which had major damage to their sewers and city streets.

So for many residents, the thought of any outside aid or relief is lost.

They feel they will have to settle with the help of their neighbors.

"We're a close knit community, and we always help each other out in the time of need," Miller said. "So even though everyone else wants to turn their back in the state and not offer money, we always try to help each other out."

However, over the last few months, some of the damaged areas have been temporarily fixed. Some of the roads are smoothed out and rebuilt with dirt, rock and debris cleaned up from the residents pitching in. But that is a very small amount compared to what needs fixed up. And Alexander County will likely not recover in a long time.

In fact, the county is still trying to recover from the flood in 2011.

According to Turner, 140 homes were damaged and bought out or not lived in anymore.

Turner said that is tax money the county isn't getting every year, which they relied on.

But the damage caused by the New Year Flood will have a long lasting effect. Plus, with the Len Small Levee still broke, many residents feel this nightmare of flooding will inevitably happen again, causing more damage and more grief.

"Anyone losing their home is scary," Miller said. "But the thought of a problem that could be resolved, not being resolved till later, I mean that of course opens a worry. That's your home and not fixing the levee opens up more problems for more chances to be flooded again."

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