Measure addresses repair of area levee
Bipartisan legislation to better protect inland waterway navigation and address a gap in current law that has stymied efforts to rebuild the Len Small Levee in Alexander County has been introduced in Congress.
The Levee Rehabilitation Improvements Act was introduced July 23 by U.S. Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, and U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer, D-Iowa.
Bost said in a news release that the legislation would require the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to weigh navigational benefits when calculating whether or not a levee is worthy of repair.
Such a consideration is seen as “an important change in the law that should help Len Small Levee meet the threshold necessary to receive federal rehabilitation funds,” Bost stated.
“For years, I and others have warned that the breach at the Len Small Levee presents a hazard to commercial navigation along the Mississippi River,” Bost said. “Following the most recent floods, we have unfortunately been proven right,” he said.
“It makes no sense for the federal government to ignore the clear navigational benefits of rebuilding the Len Small Levee.
“The costs of repair would be paid for many times over when considering the homes, farms and millions of tons of cargo that are at stake if the river cuts further inland.
“But in order to fix the levee, we first have to fix the law; and that’s exactly what my legislation will do.”
The Len Small Levee, located along the Mississippi River in Alexander County, breached in the winter floods of 2015 and 2016.
However, it did not qualify for rehabilitation because it did not present a positive benefit-cost ratio under the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ flood protection criteria alone, the news release explained.
The news release said that since the breach, the Army Corps of Engineers has spent substantial sums at the site for the purpose of maintaining commercial navigation, but these measures proved ineffective during the most recent floods.
Several barges and tows were sucked inland at the Len Small breach site, a hazard that will only grow more dangerous with future flooding.
The addition of navigation benefits to the Army Corps of Engineers’ ratio for determining non-federal levee’s worthiness of repair will better reflect the critical role that Len Small Levee plays in ensuring safe commercial navigation up and down the Mississippi River.