WASHINGTON DC (December 19, 2019) — Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) joined Sens Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Kirsten Gilibrand (D-NY) in introducing the Local Expertise is Vital for Effective Embankments (LEVEE) Act to help communities make temporary flood protection structures permanent. In April, Sen Grassley participated in a field hearing of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in southwest Iowa, chaired by Sen Ernst, in which local stakeholders, including Mayor Crain of Hamburg, described the struggles communities have in keeping levee improvements made in face of flooding permanent.
“Cities like Hamburg have struggled after disasters to keep their temporary flood-protection structures in place to provide further protection from flooding. We should use some good Iowa common-sense and not tear down these structures. This bill was discussed at the hearing and we are following through on our commitment. It’s important that communities do not have to go through the situation that Hamburg has gone through along our mighty rivers,” Sen Grassley said.
The Local Expertise is Vital for Effective Embankments (LEVEE) Act gives the Army Corps of Engineers the authority to review whether temporary flood-control structures should be made permanent. In making these determinations, the Corps is directed to consider the likelihood of needing to construct a similar structure in the future, and the economic and safety benefits of making the structure permanent. The legislation also allows the local cost share for making the structure permanent to be waived for communities with populations less than 10,000, or that are financially disadvantaged or at risk from recurring flood events.
In 2011, the Corps raised the Ditch 6 levee by about eight feet to help protect the town against flood-waters. This levee held the floodwaters back, but unfortunately, Corps policy told them they had to take down the additional protection or rebuild it to Corps specifications. Hamburg was unable to come up with the additional funds to rebuild the levee so they were forced to take it down. This same levee was overrun earlier this year, contributing to the destructive flooding that left two-thirds of Hamburg under water.
The City of Hamburg, the State of Iowa and the Corps are committed to rebuilding the levee to its original height. However, this process has been delayed until the spring. Sens Grassley and Ernst have been communicating with the Corps to make sure that this process continues.