Repairs begin on Len Small Levee, locals worry it won’t stop spring flooding

For the first time, we’re getting a look at the Len Small Levee breach in Alexander County, Illinois, that caused a lot of damage to the area. 

Crews with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources took me on a tour of the levee breach, showing the extent of the damage that destroyed homes, burying farmland under sand and debris.

While the water is retreating, people in the area say the worst may be yet to come.

When Kenton Thomas puts his feet in the sand and looks out at his property, he sees water and debris from flooding where he should see his green fields.

"We’re not even trying to clean any of it up right now, because we know it’s going to run back through again, or the odds are it will," said Thomas.

Thomas says these fields will likely never see a seed this year, something true for many farmers in the area.  Even if the sand is removed in time to plant, spring flooding could easily destroy things all over again.

What looks like a hill or even a cliff near Kenton’s home is the Len Small Levee breach. The giant rip down the side of the hill is what let the water pour in from the Mississippi, destroying homes and land along with it.

Ed Rodriguez with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says they have boats out spraying rock to rebuild the bank along the Mississippi. They’ll be out there until the end of February. When that’s done, they’ll then look for funds to fix the levee itself.

"We will be requiring a supplemental appropriation from Congress that allows us to move forward with our recovery efforts," said Rodriguez.

"That’s great, it’s a first step. It excites everybody," Kenton said.

But until the levee is fully fixed, Kenton says he and others are stuck in limbo, waiting to see what the spring flooding will bring and how much devastation it holds for the area.

Representatives from IEMA and FEMA will be in Alexander County Tuesday to assess the damage to the levee and surrounding areas.

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