KMA Land: Axne, Ernst team up on levee legislation
December 19, 2019
(Washington) — Bipartisan efforts continue in Washington to aid communities like Hamburg in securing adequate flood prevention structures.
On Wednesday, Iowa Congresswoman Cindy Axne and Iowa Senator Joni Ernst introduced legislation in Congress to give communities and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers greater flexibility in constructing permanent levees from temporary ones. Known as the Local Expertise is Vital for Effective Embankments–or LEVEE Act, the bill would allow the corps to begin pre-construction on levee improvements without waiting for congressional approval if a project is determined to be critical to flood prevention, and cost less than $25 million. The legislation would also provide full federal funding for projects in flood-prone areas.
Axne and Ernst’s cosponsoring of the bill is in reaction to the situation involving the Ditch 6 levee southwest of Hamburg. Back in 2011, Hamburg residents worked with the corps to raise the levee to protect the community from that flooding episode. But, the additions were removed after Hamburg was unable to come up with funding to make permanent changes to the levee. Thus, flooding overtopped the levee in this year’s flooding, which consumed all but the northern portion of the community. Ernst recently told KMA News the focus is on securing money for levee renovation efforts in flood-torn southwest Iowa.
“We still have a number of levee issues, infrastructure issues,” said Ernst, “and how are they going to work with the state government, the federal government, and of course, those local communities to make sure that we are shoring up the necessary infrastructure to protect these communities?
Back in September, the state’s Flood Recovery Fund Committee allocated $6.3 million towards raising Ditch 6 to 919 feet. But, Ernst says the question remains whether any federal funding can be secured in order to ease the burden on state coffers.
“Unfortunately, what we’re seeing with the corps is because there’s not an immediate emergency anymore,” said Ernst, “there are rules that will prohibit them from investing in the Hamburg levee. That’s the language we are looking at–how do we work through that language, how do we work through that offset, that might allow the federal government to step in and help communities that cannot afford to put forward their own cost share, and still allow the federal government to send funding in their own direction?”
Other cosponsors of the bill include Nebraska Congressman Don Bacon and New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.