WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Representative Mike Bost (IL-12) today introduced bipartisan legislation to better protect inland waterway navigation and address a gap in current law that has stymied efforts to rebuild the Len Small Levee.  The Levee Rehabilitation Improvements Act, introduced with Iowa Democrat Abby Finkenauer, would require the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to weigh navigational benefits when calculating whether or not a levee is worthy of repair, an important change in the law that should help Len Small Levee meet the threshold necessary to receive federal rehabilitation funds. 

“For years, I and others have warned that the breach at the Len Small Levee presents a hazard to commercial navigation along the Mississippi River.  Following the most recent floods, we have unfortunately been proven right,” said Bost. “It makes no sense for the federal government to ignore the clear navigational benefits of rebuilding the Len Small Levee.  The costs of repair would be paid for many times over when considering the homes, farms, and millions of tons of cargo that are at stake if the river cuts further inland.  But in order to fix the levee, we first have to fix the law; and that’s exactly what my legislation will do.”

“Overtopped levees from this year’s flooding have created major navigation hazards on the Mississippi,” said Finkenauer. “This isn’t just bad for safety – it’s also bad for our farmers, producers, and business owners who are trying to move their goods to market efficiently. The Levee Rehabilitation Improvements Act will help ensure that our Mississippi River communities get the funding they need to do what makes sense for them. I’ll keep working with my Democratic and Republican colleagues to give Iowans a seat at the table on this important issue.”

The Len Small Levee, located along the Mississippi River in Alexander County, breached in the winter floods of 2015 and 2016.  However, it did not qualify for rehabilitation because it did not present a positive benefit-cost ratio under the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ flood protection criteria alone.

Since the breach, the Army Corps spent substantial sums at the site for the purpose of maintaining commercial navigation, but these measures proved ineffective during the most recent floods.  Several barges and tows were sucked inland at the Len Small breach site, a hazard that will only grow more dangerous with future flooding.  The addition of navigation benefits to the Army Corps’ ratio for determining non-federal levee’s worthiness of repair will better reflect the critical role that Len Small Levee plays in ensuring safe commercial navigation up and down the Mississippi River.  


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