SPRINGFIELD -- A proposal that could enable Jackson County to repair a levee protecting Grand Tower and other low-lying areas along the Mississippi River advanced in the Illinois General Assembly on Tuesday.
In a unanimous vote, the Illinois Senate signed off on a plan to allow the county to spend up to $1.7 million out of a special fund to help pay for repairs to the Big Muddy Levee.
State Sen. Dave Luechtefeld, R-Okawville, said he hopes the measure can be heard quickly in the House in order to help the county get the repair work under way.
"They would like to get this done before the real flooding season begins," said Luechtefeld, who is sponsoring the legislation.
The levee is among those that are no longer eligible for financial help from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers because of an unacceptable rating by the federal agency in 2011.
That means local officials face the prospect flooding or of paying to repair aging pipes, sinkholes and other problems that have surfaced along the levee in recent years.
Concerned that the spring melt could inundate the town and other areas in the Jackson County "bottoms," residents have been holding fundraisers designed to provide some money for repairs.
Luechtefeld singled out teacher Jamie Nash-Mayberry and her students at Shawnee Jr-Sr. High School in Wolf Lake who have been working with federal, state and local officials to raise awareness about the threat.
“The students at Shawnee Jr-Sr. High are the driving force behind this legislation and I’m optimistic we will be able to find a suitable outcome to protect the river bottom communities,” Luechtefeld concluded.
The legislation is Senate Bill 2721.