Enyart Visits Grand Tower to Discuss Levee Problem

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By Evie Allen
By Randy Livingston

GRAND TOWER -- Congressman Bill Enyart spent Thurday morning in Grand Tower meeting with local leaders and touring the levee.

Last June, a pipe inside it collapsed leaving the berm in desperate need of repair. But the community can't afford the fix.

Enyart has written a letter to President Obama for support. He thinks the Army Corps of Engineers should pay for the repairs. And with flood season fast approaching, the sooner, the better.   

Grand Tower Levee District Chairman Roger Cavness hopes Enyart's visit will pay off.

"He understands our needs and he's trying to help," says Cavness.

Enyart spent Thursday morning discussing his plans to help fix the Big Muddy Levee.

"My goal in Grand Tower is that we get these repairs made before there's a catastrophic failure," notes Enyart.

Last June a 60-inch pipe collapsed, creating a massive hole in the levee. Since then the village has been raising money for repairs and doing a temporary fix.  Leaders wanted to tap into money from a 1994 county bond referendum but unknowingly, that expired after seven years.

"We're all hoping for this county referendum to be reinstated. We got a lot of people working on it," says Cavness.

Earlier this month the state Senate approved a bill that would let Jackson County sell bonds to pay for the work. The bill would allow up to $1.7 million in bonding authority. Now it's up to the Illinois House.

"That's what we're waiting on right now," says Cavness. He adds, "this will fix pretty well all of our problems in these bottoms if we can get this pushed through." 

With no timeline on when the House will consider the bill, Enyart is working to gain authority for the Army Corps of Engineers to pick up the tab.

"Currently the Corps is talking about doing it as a cost share, 65% to be done by the Corps and 35 percent to be done by the local authorities," explains Enyart.

He says the problems stem from inappropriate design. And points outs out the levee has outlived it's projected 50 year lifespan. He believes it's the Corps responsibility to fix it.

"Rather than there having to be a local share provided, it should be entirely payed for by the Corps," he says.

In the meantime it's a waiting game.

"I'm not sure at this point where we'll stand if this don't go through," says Cavness.

Enyart insists it's better to pay for repairs now than risk bigger problems later. Those bigger problems could cost tax payers thousands of dollars.

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