WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Feds Asked to Build 500 Year Levies on Mississippi

Oquawka, IL – Congressman Phil Hare (D-IL) will bring a thick stack of papers with him when he returns to Washington DC this week.

The papers are petitions signed by 7,000 people. They ask the federal government to come up with the money to build levies on the Mississippi River to 500 year flood levels. Supporters of the proposal say none of the levies north of St Louis meet that standard.

Sam Zumwalt, Chairman of the Hunt Drainage District, says the sooner it happens, the better.

"Tomorrow is too late," says Zumwalt. "We need it now. You can't wait five years because we'll have another flood before five years. That's a fact of life."

Zumwalt was part of a group that gave the petitions to Hare at the Henderson County Health Clinic. Zumwalt says money is spent to maintain highways. He believes the same should be done with levies.

Zumwalt also points out there's been a "Cash for Clunkers" program. He says the nation now needs a "Cash for Combines" program.

"We have to put the money where it actually does some good," says Zumwalt. "Put people to work on the dams and rebuilding the levies and you can actually see some benefit after they get done."

Hare estimates it will cost $6 billion to upgrade all the levies on the upper Mississippi. He thinks the nation should work to find the money for the projects.

"You have $16 billion in bonuses going out to CEOs and bank executives," says Hare. "We can rebuild this levy to 500 year flood levels for one-third of what they gave out in bonuses."

Like Zumwalt, Hare says the levy projects could put more people back to work.

"We don't need more hearings and more engineering studies. These have been completed. What we need is the money (to start construction)," says Hare.

Hare also says the nation cannot afford to sit back and wait for another major flood to devastate the Midwest.

You can listen to comments from Hare and Zumwalt by clicking on the audio button.