Finding funds to repair Alexander County’s levee breach

Alexander County, Illinois, leaders worry the Army Corps of Engineers will not cover repairs for the Len Small Levee. A breach three-fourths of a mile long developed in the levee in January that’s estimated to cost $16 million to repair.

The Army Corps of Engineers has not said no, but county leaders are now reaching out to U.S. Rep. Mike Bost and both U.S. senators to appropriate money.

Alexander County Board Chairman Chalen Tatum says the Army Corps of Engineers has a formula that calculated the $16 million cost to repair the levee outweighs the economic benefit.

“I don’t think they understand what all it does protect. They’re just looking close to the levee. They’re not reaching out to other communities that it does back water up into,” Tatum said.

He says they’re only counting homes and not farmland.

“To us, that’s businesses, businesses for our county,” Tatum said.

He says people stick around because they love the area. It’s why Jennifer Korte keeps a man made levee up at her home. She says her family isn’t going anywhere.

“You have to do what you have to do to survive. This is the one way that we know we can survive, is to have our levee,” Korte said.   

The man made levee in Miller City protects two homes and the two families inside.

Korte and her neighbors put the levee up in December before major flooding in Alexander County. They’re going to keep it up, because the outlook on fixing the Len Small Levee anytime soon doesn’t look very promising.

“If we would not have had this levee here, it would’ve got our homes,” Korte said.

“Every time someone puts a crop in, every time somebody fixes their house back up, there’s potential it’ll flood back again. We don’t want that,” Tatum said.

Tatum hopes to hear a final decision from the Army Corps of Engineers on covering levee repair costs in the next two weeks. He says its sounds like they could help cover repair costs if funding becomes available.

Tatum says if the Army Corps of Engineers agrees to cover costs they would most likely help with 80 percent. He says then they would try to scrounge up some state and local money to help the levee district come up with 20 percent of the $16 million. He says that could be tough with no state budget.

Tatum says if they say no, he’s talked to Bost and U.S. senators Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk, who say now is the time they work on appropriations. He says they want help if there’s money to do it. The appropriations would be federal money, not from the state.

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