IL lawmaker finds solution to Len Small Levee repairs

Hope for Len Small Levee

ALEXANDER COUNTY, IL (KFVS) - A new effort in Washington could help protect millions of dollars in Heartland crops.

House members passed legislation that would provide the money needed to rebuild the Len Small Levee in Alexander County.

U.S. Representative Mike Bost introduced the provision that’s included in the Water Resources Development Act.

“This vitally important legislation helps local communities, like those in Alexander County, recover from flood disasters," Bost said.

Illinois Farmer Kenton Thomas is worried about losing millions of dollars in his crop because of the broken Len Small Levee.

“It’s very just can’t continue this way,” Thomas said.

With the rain last week, Thomas and other farmers had to protect their wallet by building a temporary levee.

“Last week the Mississippi crested and we had to go down and build temporary levees to hold it out and when you have that much of your livelihood there and this time of year, you have everything invested in it...all the money is in your crop and it’s very stressful,” he said.

A stress that lawmakers like Congressman Bost aim to fix. Bost said southern Illinois families suffered and “this legislation gives a lifeline to rural communities struggling to rebuild after a disaster.”

Two years ago, the New Years Day Flood caused water to breach the levee, destroying thousands of acres of farmland.

“We have no protection…and that’s what the levee protected us,” said Thomas.

Alexander County Engineer Jeff Denny said this broken levee is their biggest problem.

“It’s an economic impact on the farmers every year...I mean there’s an economic impact on the county because our roads keep flooding and washing out. it’s an unsustainable thing to not have that levee in place,” he said.

Back on his farm, Thomas said lawmakers have promised to fix the levee before and it hasn’t happened, so he’s cautiously optimistic.

“It’s a light at the end of tunnel. it’s hope. whether its happens or not, I don’t know. we have to get it through the senate...," he said.

According to Bost’s Office, “Under current law, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers can only repair a non-federal levee if the flood protection benefits outweigh the costs.”

So Bost’s Amendment allows local sponsors to pay the difference between the cost of repairing the levee and its protection benefits from the US Army Corps of Engineers.

Denny said the Army Corps estimates the repairs to be about $14 million.

Copyright 2018 KFVS. All rights reserved.