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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Good news coming for levee districts

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

After record flooding this summer, area Missouri River levee districts recently received good news from Washington, D.C. and Jefferson City.

On Friday, Jan. 6, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon announced more than $3.3 million in Community Block Development Grants would be available to assist seven districts along the Missouri River to rebuild damaged levees.

Carroll County's Wakenda Levee District will receive $172,983.

The announcement followed a federal bill signed by President Barack Obama on Dec. 23, 2011, which authorizes $388 million toward levee repairs nationwide. It also cut about $10 million in environmental studies from the corps' operating budget.

With original corps estimates placing levee damage at $253 million, it now appears the funding will be available to fix all the damaged levees along the Missouri River, according to Tom Waters, president of the Missouri River Levee and Drainage District Association.

"It will be up to the corps to determine how funds will be distributed to the many levees damaged by this year's extraordinary high releases from the reservoir system," Waters said, "but I am hopeful those in charge will see fit to fund all the projects needed to restore all levees back to their pre-flood condition."

However, he said the work probably wouldn't be completed before 2012 spring planting.

"I hope they have things rolling by early to mid-February," said Waters, "but regardless, I don't think they'll be fixed before farmers are planting corn."

In Saline County, all but one private levee near Malta Bend held up to the record flooding, but there are repairs needed on all the levees.

Most of those include reseeding levees and fixing erosion spots, according to area farmers.

In Grand Pass and Malta Bend, where the most damage occurred in Saline County, work is being done to fix the levees now, thanks to unseasonably warm weather.

Several local districts also have been approved for FEMA grants to pay for pump fuel and other expenses from this year's flood fights. However, they haven't yet received any funds.

The Wakenda district, just across the river from Saline County, protects 22,900 acres of prime farmland, dozens of homes and several businesses. It also protects an airport, 14 miles of railroad track, more than 80 miles of roads and four highway routes.

The other levees receiving CBDG funding are in Buchanan, Holt and Atchison counties.

The funding will cover either the 20 percent local cost share required under the Army Corps of Engineers' maintenance program, or for the entire cost if the levee district is not part of the corps' system.

Eleven levee districts applied for community development block grants, but one withdrew its request because it was able to get full funding. The remaining three applications are still pending approval but are expected to be awarded their requested funds after the approval process is complete.

The federal bill also included amendments to cut funding for two corps studies, the Missouri River Authorized Purposes Study and the Missouri River Environmental Restoration Project.

It is the second year funding has been cut for MRERP, a $25 million, five-year study of habitat for the pallid sturgeon.

Since the early 1990s, Congress authorized the corps to spend $612 million to buy, develop and study natural habitats on roughly 66,000 acres of farmland, with plans to buy and develop 166,750 acres of fish and wildlife habitat total.

"While spending the equivalent of nickels and dimes on flood control, the corps has spent over half a billion dollars on fish and birds," Waters testified during a recent congressional hearing.

He said he hopes the recent bill will put the corps' focus back on flood control.

"Right now the corps is using the funds for fish and birds because that is where the money is," he said. "The only way to change their focus is to change the money."

Contact Marcia Gorrell at


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