Bipartisan Illinois Congressional Delegation Announces Funding For Metro East Levee Project, Flood Prevention Efforts In Water Resources Reform and Development Act

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL and Mark Kirk (R-IL) and U.S Representatives Bill Enyart (D-IL), Rodney Davis (R-IL), and John Shimkus (R-IL) announced that the Conference Report of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 – released earlier today – includes provisions to continue and help streamline the Metro East region’s effort to repair and recertify the levees that protect residents in southwest Illinois from flooding and storm damage.


“Communities along the Mississippi River in Southwestern Illinois know well the potentially devastating impact of flooding on their homes and businesses. They also know the importance of strong infrastructure in preventing such damage,” Durbin said. “This legislation will make much needed improvements to our nation’s entire waterways infrastructure network. I am especially pleased that it also contains provisions that will greatly assist local efforts that are underway in in the Metro East and Southwestern Illinois to improve their levees.”


“The Mississippi River is an economic powerhouse for our state, and it is crucial that the communities nearby who rely on the river's resources and transportation systems are protected from environmental threats,” Kirk said. “I applaud the inclusion of these important flood prevention measures in the WRRDA bill and support the ongoing levee repair efforts throughout the Metro East region.”


“As the Commander of the Illinois National Guard, I saw all too often the need for our service men and women to respond to flood prone areas and sandbagging needs. Since my first day in office, I’ve been fighting for funds to fix the Wood River Levee system, so those services aren’t needed again. I’m elated to see that our concerns were heeded and the WRRDA bill includes funds for the federal government to fully cover the repair costs,” Enyart said.


“This bipartisan Conference Report is how Congress is supposed to work,” said Davis. “As a conferee tasked with ironing out the final details of the WRRDA legislation, I am pleased we were able to include policies that would treat Metro East levee projects as one system. Flood prevention is a critical issue and it is vital to get these levees recertified. Our goal was to provide the Army Corps with more flexibility to get the needed repairs done on Metro East projects and we achieved that in this WRRDA bill.”


“WRRDA is important to the Metro-East not only for the repairs to Metro-East levees, but for the many jobs reliant on our river transportation system,” Shimkus said. “The local residents behind these levees as well as the businesses that employee thousands will benefit from the continued improvement of the levee system.”


The Conference Report released today includes the following provisions that will support the Metro East region’s efforts to repair and recertify its levees system:


  • Combine the several separately authorized Metro East levee projects into one project authority, giving the Army Corps of Engineers greater flexibility and efficiency in using federal funding to complete the projects;


  • Allow communities working on projects like the Metro East Levees to receive work-in-kind credit, which can assist local efforts to rebuild the levees to the authorized level of protection;


  • Authorize $25.66 million in funding to continue necessary upgrades on the Wood River Levee; and


  • Ensure that efforts to fix the portions of the Wood River Levee that have been negatively impacted by a design deficiency in the construction of the Melvin Price Dam are completed at 100 percent federal cost.


In March, the same Members announced that the Army Corps of Engineers would allocate $3.4 million in Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 funding to fix the portions of the Wood River Levee that have been negatively impacted by a design deficiency in the construction of the Melvin Price Dam. The funding was included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014 that was signed into law by President Obama in January. As part of his FY 2015 Budget, President Obama included an additional $3.8 million for the Army Corps of Engineers to continue the work next year. The FY2015 funding must now be appropriated by Congress.


Earlier this year, Durbin and Kirk – both members of the Senate Appropriations Committee – and Enyart, Davis, and Shimkus elevated this local Metro East issue to a national priority by writing the Army Corps of Engineers urging the Corps to use a portion of the funding appropriated for construction of high priority projects to fix the critical problem impacting the safety of the levees in the Metro East St. Louis region of Illinois. The members also including report language in the Omnibus Appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2014 encouraging the Army Corps of Engineers to fix the problem as soon as possible.