Grand Tower bonds for levee repairs rejected

GRAND TOWER, IL (KFVS) - Only months away from flood season, Grand Tower officials recently got some potentially devastating news.

Bonds they were banking on for levee repairs will not happen after all.

The small river community tried to tap into a bond referendum passed by Jackson County voters back in 1994, but were recently informed that the referendum had a time limit of seven years.

Water that sits inset of the levee shouldn't be there, but without the $1.7 million in bonds for repairs, the levee, farmland and homes around it, are in jeopardy. Roger Cavness is the President of the Grand Tower Levee and Drainage District and he said he hopes for help, but is not sure where it will come from.

"So where we go from here we don't know yet," he said.

The 17.2 miles of levy system Grand Tower is responsible for is more than 50 years old.

"They've done what they're designed to do," explained Cavness. "The whole system needs updated."

According to Cavness, the levy is so bad, parts of the system are collapsing. In fact, officials cannot seek federal aid because, like many across southern Illinois, the Grand Tower levee system failed its 2011 Corps of Engineers inspection.

Cavness said it's not really a question of if, but more a question of when.

"If the levy don't hold, it will be flooded," he said.

Mary Libbert has lived in Grand Tower for 15 years and said she and many others are very worried about the town's future.

"It's very important to all of us," Libbert said. "There's quite a few people who live here, and a lot of these people are older. They've been here forever and it would be so hard for them to uproot themselves, to just get up and move. I mean, not only is it expensive, but they're elderly. It's just sad that no one wants to pitch in and help."

Cavness said he and other Grand Tower officials will be meeting with Illinois Department of Transportation officials on Friday. Meanwhile, the mayor, his wife and other residents are planning even more fundraisers.

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