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The Neighbors of the Mississippi are worried that a set of bills sailing through the Illinois legislature will mean more high water for Pike, Lincoln and St. Charles counties.
But whether they can stop the Illinois legislature from passing the bills that would raise levees one-half foot remains to be seen.
The battle is reminiscent of the group’s attack on Plan H several years ago, a plan that the Corps of Engineers identified but never advanced that would have allowed the levee increases and probably more floodwaters into the Missouri counties reaching down to the St. Louis area. The bills would do similar things, according to Neighbors Secretary Nancy Guyton.
“This offers us no compensation at all. They can get a half a foot this year and come back in a couple of years and get another half-foot,” Guyton said. “We’re going to be robbed of our livelihood. This is really going to devastate these three counties. We hope we don’t have to sue.”
Those interested in defeating the new levee laws attended a hearing about it in Springfield, Ill. before the House Agriculture and Conservation Committee on Monday, April 7 on House Bill 4502, sponsored by Rep. Jil Tracy.
Clopton R-III Schools Superintendent and Neighbors Chairman Mark Harvey sent a letter on behalf of the Neighbors of the Mississippi to Illinois legislators questioning how neighborly the bill is.
Harvey said HB4502 would cause “devastation of towns along the (Mississippi) with less than 50-year flood protection,” like Ashburn, Louisiana, Clarksville and Annada.
More water pushed downstream by higher levees could also affect the transportation and economy the river provides when not flooded, Harvey said. Coal to Ameren facilities in St. Louis might not get through on rail and trucks would have trouble along highways, Harvey said.
State Representative Ed Schieffer spoke in opposition recently about Illinois HB4502.
“I am strongly in opposition to the Mississippi River Comprehensive Plan because of the adverse effects related to flooding along the Mississippi River in areas I represent in Lincoln County. If the new rule of one-half foot for construction along navigable rivers is enacted, it forces water to the lower side of the river, thus impacting farms, businesses and homes in the area.
“It could also severely damage Hwy. 79 and the Burlington Northern Railroad. Also, the Missouri Attorney General, the Sierra Club and the Illinois Railroad Association all oppose the change from one-tenth to one-half foot.
“I do support the current rules which are consistent with most other neighboring states,” Schieffer said. “The one-tenth rule for construction along navigable rivers is working and changes to the Illinois Flood Construction Rules would allow increased flood damages to neighboring areas, including the current rules on mitigation analysis.”
To read more about the Illinois laws and bills see HB4502, SJR0054 and HJR0078 at the Illinois legislature website: http://www.ilga.gov/