Congressman urges levee funding

U.S. Rep. Jerry Costello, D-Ill., has urged President Barack Obama to make funding for levee repair and water infrastructure projects a priority in his Fiscal Year 2012 budget proposal.

Costello made a similar request last September when the president announced his proposal for $50 billion in infrastructure investments.

A senior member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and co-chairman of the House Levee Caucus, Costello cited the need for a strong federal commitment to levee repair and maintenance:

“As you know, Illinois and other states across the country are facing serious maintenance and repair issues with our nation’s levees.

"By some estimates, this is a $100 billion dollar problem, and local governments and levee districts, while largely responsible for these improvements, are hard pressed to make these investments alone.

“We are working on a bipartisan basis in Congress and in our districts to meet the challenges posed by levee repair needs, and a robust federal commitment to help fund these important projects is essential to protect our communities.”

Costello has been spearheading an effort to repair levees in the St. Louis Metro East area and in Southern Illinois.

In December, Costello joined other members of the Illinois Congressional delegation in hosting a Southern Illinois Levee Summit.

The summit was held in December at Shawnee High School at Wolf Lake. Several hundred people attended the summit.

Interest in the region's levees has gained significant attention in recent months through the efforts of Shawnee High School teacher Jamie Nash-Mayberry and her students.

Union County is home to an extensive levee system. The county is bordered on the west by the Mississippi River and on the northwest by the Big Muddy River.

The Shawnee School District is situated in the bottomlands of both the Mississippi and Big Muddy rivers.

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