Grand Tower Faces More Levee Costs

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By Fanna Haile-Selassie
By Randy Livingston

GRAND TOWER -- Spring flood season is not far away and Grand Tower finds itself in a desperate situation that's only getting worse. The community had to get money from Jackson County to deal with a broken pipe in the levee. It needs $1million dollars to fully fix the problem.

Now, there's another potentially huge expense: levee slides. They're something the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says must be addressed, and it's going to cost even more money.
 
"We'll get something fixed and they just keep adding more," says Grand Tower Mayor Mike Ellet.
 
Embankment slides have been a problem not just for Grand Tower, but for much of southern Illinois's Mississippi shoreline. Mike Petersen with the St. Louis district corps of engineers says those slides are happening because of a flawed design back in the 1940's.
 
"Right now, there is a draft report at Corps headquarters that is addressing a permanent fix for the problem with levee slides on the Grand Tower, Dagonia, and other levees on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River within our district," says Petersen.
 
Because of tight federal budgets, that permanent fix requires a cost-sharing plan: the feds pay 65 percent, local municipalities pay 35 percent.
 
It's news that Ellet can't stomach.
 
"We've got people here that are doing the best they can, people on fixed incomes come up there and donate money. And it just seems like they keep feeding us fish heads."
 
Petersen insists the Corps is doing all it can to help Grand Tower, even with its pipe repair, by helping with a new design and providing an engineer to watch over construction. He says the last thing they want to see this spring is flooding.
 
"We'll be on that levee, we will be flood-fighting, we'll be there to support the community. They are not on their own," says Petersen.
 
Another fundraiser in Grand Tower this weekend brought in about $7,300. Ellet says they've raised roughly $45,000 all together.
 
So far, the Army Corps of Engineers have been able to fix the levee slides because of federal grants, like through the levee repair program. Grand Tower will meet the requirements of that program once the temporary repairs are made.
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