As the mayor of Granite City and similar to so many other mayors up and down the Mississippi River, I have seen the devastating power flooding can have on a community over the years.
My residents and businesses are also keenly aware of the value of our levee system. The American Bottoms levees protect my home, residents, businesses and ultimately thousands of jobs of people from all over our regional area. There are more than 86 miles of levees between Alton and Columbia, Ill., protecting an area of 175 square miles that is home to 150,000 people and 50,000 jobs.
In 2007, county and state leaders recognized the urgency of the Federal Emergency Management Agency levee decertification process and mobilized to quickly respond. Madison, Monroe, and St. Clair county leaders cooperated to organize and to work with the Illinois legislature to create the Southwestern Illinois Flood Prevention District Council (FPD). They also adopted a small local sales tax to address this critical challenge. Now, in 2016, the FPD is nearing the completion on a $110 million project to restore the levee system using local contractors and labor. The FPD worked diligently to ensure the community investment in levee restoration was spent here in our regional area.
The restoration of the American Bottoms levee system is a big success story for all of us who are living, working and raising our children in Southwestern Illinois. If we had relied on the federal government to address the issue, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projections suggested the same project would have taken decades. I must commend our county leaders, who recognized quickly that we needed to take the levee restoration project on, raised money locally, cut red tape to compress the time schedule and completed this construction job ourselves with our very skilled workforce and highly competent contractors.
Over the past 10 years, the FPD has diligently completed this project with strong community oversight of every financial and construction aspect. Within our regional area, I cannot think of a more successful collaboration between all three counties. Day in and day out, this construction project continued with our county leadership standing by this project to ensure our communities, residents and businesses were protected now and long into the future. With only one staff member, the FPD has done an outstanding job overseeing the daily project work. Without a doubt, the original strategy used by the organization and our county leadership to restore the American Bottoms levee system has worked and serves as a model of how to do things right. Thank you to all who worked so hard over the past 10 years on this critical project to protect us all.
Ed Hagnauer is mayor of Granite City.