The flood prevention plan that would put up to $100 million in levee protections for the metro-east is a step closer with the approval of the Madison County Board.
The Southwestern Illinois Flood Prevention District requested authorization to borrow up to $100 million for levee repairs and other improvements to prevent flooding in the metro-east, as part of its ongoing intergovernmental agreement with Madison County and other governmental bodies.
Improvements would help bring the levees up to a 500-year flood protection level.
Chuck Etwert, the district’s chief supervisor of Construction and the Works, has said he expects the district to issue $65 million to $70 million worth of bonds by the end of the year.
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The district council has approved a resolution authorizing the district to issue up to $100 million in bonds, but Etwert said it most likely won’t be that high.
County administrator Joseph Parente said the law requires that all counties associated with the Flood Prevention District approve the funding choices. Madison County itself is not borrowing the money, Parente said; the funds are generated through the flood prevention district.
Dunstan said the county will reach a 100-year flood protection level next year, which means that flood insurance will not skyrocket. He said without those repairs, those living in the flood areas would have seen flood insurance premiums go from $200 a month to $1,000 a month or more. Ultimately, he said, the goal is to get the metro-east to the 500-year flood protection level.
Original plans would have delayed full flood protection until 2044, Dunstan said. “We can’t wait until 2044,” he said. Local cooperation among multiple organizations have speeded up that progress significantly, he said.
Two board members voted against the resolution. Judy Kuhn (R-Trenton) said she thought it was “a tremendous amount of money.”
“It’s the cost that concerns me,” she said.
But Dunstan said if the levees are not repaired, businesses would leave. “Two things hit us at once: One was the recession and the other was the levee issue,” Dunstan said. “We don’t have a choice but to get these levees fixed. If we don’t fix the levees, Madison County might as well close its doors.”
Dunstan said before Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast in 2005, it was acceptable to do “flood-fighting” - piling sandbags on sand boils when water seeped under the levees. “Katrina changed the game,” he said. “Now flood-fighting is out of the question. Since Katrina, they want the levees to hold up without it.”
Michael Madison (R-Bethalto) said he was in favor of the project, but voted no because the work will require a project labor agreement requiring certain standards be met on construction projects. Critics have said that PLAs favor union workers over non-union shops.
But Dunstan said a study done by the Leadership Council said that PLAs save money, and he wants to make sure the work is done by locals. "We’re asking residents pay for this with a 4 percent sales tax, and we want to make sure it’s our (residents) doing the work," he said. "This is a local project and we want them to use Madison County workers."