EAST ST. LOUIS — Concerns over delays in the $150 million effort to upgrade more than 70 miles of metro-east flood protection levees became an issue in the 12th and 13th U.S. House district contests Wednesday, when both districts' GOP nominees vowed to cut regulatory barriers impeding progress on the project.
Jason Plummer, the 12th District Republican nominee, joined Rodney Davis, the 13th District GOP nominee, at Malcolm W. Martin Memorial Park, on the East St. Louis riverfront for a news conference.
The nominees spotlighted the negative economic consequences of levee repair delays, which stem from a long-running dispute involving the Army Corps of Engineers and the local agency overseeing the repairs concerning the permitting process.
The repair delays are preventing capital investments in both districts because businesses that create jobs "don't know what's going to happen here," Plummer said. "Once we win this race, we look forward to going to Washington to work with people to make sure that we continue moving the ball down the field."
Les Sterman, Southwestern Illinois Flood Prevention District's chief supervisor of construction, a month ago told the district's board of directors they should explore their legal options in regard to the stalemate between the district and the Corps over the design for the improvements.
Sterman declined to elaborate on what those options may be for the district, which comprises Madison, Monroe and St. Clair counties. The stalemate, which centers on the Corps' willingness to issue required permits to the district and its contractors, has been a source of tension for nearly two years.
Davis, the former projects director for U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, said he and Plummer bring to the table "the ability to hit the ground running immediately out in Washington and address some of these issues."
Plummer called for the streamlining of the federal regulatory process "because there are tens of thousands of people being held hostage by this lack of certainty."
Plummer said local groups that fund and control their levee repair projects should be able to implement them.
"And right now the only box that hasn't been checked is the box at the Corps level," he said, "and we need to make sure that gets resolved."
Davis said that he and Plummer are "very much open" to looking "at legislation regarding the regulatory burden of the current process..."
Plummer, an O'Fallon businessman, faces Democratic nominee Bill Enyart, a Belleville attorney and retired commander of the Illinois National Guard, and Green Party nominee Paula Bradshaw, a Carbondale nurse, in the Nov. 6 election.
Davis, of Taylorville, faces Democratic nominee Dr. David Gill, a Bloomington emergency room physician, in the Nov. 6 election.
Contact reporter Mike Fitzgerald at email@example.com or 239-2533.