METROPOLIS - The ongoing need for repairs to the Brookport levee, more than two decades past the necessary date, and the progress of the recovery effort remain pressing issues for state politicians.
An Illinois congressman visited the area Wednesday to address an ongoing need for levee repairs and to check on the progress of the recovery effort in Brookport, Ill.
At a press conference at city hall here, U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill., spoke about a meeting earlier in the day that brought together stakeholders, including Brookport Mayor Pro-Tem Tom Souders, Metropolis Mayor Billy McDaniel and officials from Illinois Emergency Management Services, Illinois Department of Transportation and the National Guard.
Shimkus said although no resolutions were made during the meeting, the session represented a critical step forward.
"We aren't going to give up," he said. "We are hoping that by getting people together everyone realizes the gravity of the situation."
The first immediate priority is to find a leader or local contact person and open the lines of communication between local and state agencies about the ongoing need. The next step would be finding the funding to repair the levee.
The situation is complicated because of the lack of financial resources in the Brookport community, the age and condition of the levee and the inability to add needed repairs on a timely basis.
"If it was up to me, this problem would have been fixed 10 years ago," he said. "We have to get people in a room together and find ways to get assistance."
In spring 2011, sandbags had to be added to low-lying areas around the river in Brookport, Metropolis and several counties due to unrelenting storms that caused local rivers to overrun their banks.
The estimated cost to fix the primary issue, a nonfunctioning pipe, would be about $1.5 million, and a complete overhaul and upgrade of the entire levee would cost about $12.5 million, he said. The levee is not eligible for funding from the Army Corps of Engineers due to prior lapses in local upkeep due to lack of local finances.
Shimkus said he isn't optimistic that the problem will be solved quickly but is motivated to continue working.
"We have to keep talking to each other because an underprivileged community like Brookport needs a lot of support," he said.
He also addressed the ongoing recovery effort in Brookport, Ill. following the EF-3 line of tornadoes that swept through Illinois and killed three residents of Massac County in November. Shimkus said the immediate clean-up efforts, which are coming to an end, have been encouraging and credited local support and voluntarism for the progress.
"The local effort and gifts of equipment, time and personnel have been so important," he said. "The loss of life was devastating, but it's good to see Brookport moving forward."
Contact Kathleen Fox, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8651 or follow @kathleendfox on Twitter.