State to chip in to help repair levees

Governor Jay Nixon shakes hands with second-graders from Rushville Elementary School Friday, Jan. 6, 2012 near Rushville, Mo. The Governor announced that $3.3 million in community development block grants (CDBG) will be used to assist seven levee districts along the Missouri River with repairing and rebuilding after last years flood. (AP Photo/St. Joseph News-Press, Jessica Stewart)

Governor Jay Nixon shakes hands with second-graders from Rushville Elementary School Friday, Jan. 6, 2012 near Rushville, Mo. The Governor announced that $3.3 million in community development block grants (CDBG) will be used to assist seven levee districts along the Missouri River with repairing and rebuilding after last years flood. (AP Photo/St. Joseph News-Press, Jessica Stewart)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Gov. Jay Nixon said Friday that Missouri is chipping in $3.3 million to help fix seven flood-battered northwest Missouri levees and likely will provide more repair money for three other levees in the next couple weeks.

“We are confident it will make a difference,” Nixon said. “The bottom line is protecting these hundreds of thousands of acres and towns is very important to us.”

The announcement comes on the heels of President Barack Obama last month signing a nationwide disaster relief bill that provides $1.7 billion for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It includes $388 million to repair levees on the Missouri River and other waterways nationally. An additional $802 million is available to repair levees in the lower Mississippi River.

Many of the levees that will benefit from the federal infusion are part of a program that helps operators make flood repairs. The catch is the federal program requires the operators to chip in 20 percent of the repair costs and the levees to pass routine inspections.

The Missouri funds will include $1.4 million in matching money for five of the most damaged levees in the corps’ Kansas City district, which stretches from Rulo, Neb., to the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers in the St. Louis area. Those levees are the Union Township Levee District and Holt Levee District (hash)10 in Holt County, Bean Lake Levee District in Platte County, the Rushville-Sugar Lake Association Levee in Buchanan County, and the Wakenda Levee District in Carroll County. All of them were overtopped and breached.

An additional $1.9 million will be used to help operators of flood-damaged levees that aren’t part of the federal repair program — the Big Tarkio Drainage District and the Corning Levee District, both in Holt County.

“It is very good news,” said Kathy Kunkel, the clerk in Holt County, where the Missouri River flooded more than 120,000 acres. “The levee district guys are really just feeling at ease, super pleased. It is big money.”

The state also is weighing requests for help from the operators of three other Holt County levee districts. Two of them have requested a combined $547,000 in matching money, and a third that isn’t part of the federal program is seeking the full $502,000 needed to make repairs.

Kunkel said she has been told the money is coming and described it as “the difference between getting it done right away and a real struggle on behalf of the levee district to try to come up with those funds.”

Before the infusion of federal money, the corps had said it only had money available to fix 11 of 68 Missouri River levees. The hope is that all of them will be repaired now, said Jud Kneuvean, emergency management chief for the corps’ Kansas City district. He said the goal is to have all the levees along his stretch of the Missouri River fixed by May 1.

“It is great,” Kneuvean said. “I think we are heading definitely in the right direction. We have been communicating with our levee sponsors and partners out there that the funding situation looks much better. Right now we are on a dead run and we have a lot of things going and we have tons of people working it.”

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