Work was being done Saturday, May 6, to stabilize a sand boil situation along the Mississippi River levee near Wolf Lake.Gravel was placed on a Mississippi River levee road west of Wolf Lake on Saturday, May 6. The Mississippi River is on the left. Local road damage due to recent flooding was addressed at a regular meeting of the Union County Board of Commissioners last Friday in Jonesboro.

Flood damage estimate tops $500,000

County disaster emergency proclamation issued

Recent spring downpours and flooding have caused around $500,000 in damage in Union County.

An update on the flooding – and the damage that it caused – was shared at last week’s regular meeting of the Union County Board of Commissioners.

The meeting was Friday morning at the Union County Courthouse in Jonesboro.

Disaster Emergency Proclamation

In related news, Union County Board of Commissioners chairman Bobby Toler Jr. on May 11 formally issued a disaster emergency proclamation in response to the 2017 flood.

Toler, acting upon the recommendation of Union County Emergency Services and Disaster Agency, ESDA, coordinator Dana Pearson, proclaimed that a disaster emergency exists in Union County.

The proclamation noted during April and May, Union County, along with the State of Illinois and the neighboring State of Missouri, received record rainfall. 

Some parts of Union County received more than 15 inches of rain during April.

The record rainfall, the proclamation declared, caused “all rivers and tributaries to overflow their boundaries.

Concerns were raised in the proclamation  about whether or not an aging river levee system would hold back anticipated record flooding.

In Union County, several sand boils appeared along the levee system due to high water. One of the boils required approximately 5,000 tons of rock to be stabilized.

“A levee breach would create a major financial burden to our County,” the disaster declaration continued.

“The farm land it protects is a major part of our infrastructure. Farmers are moving harvested grain, fertilizer and equipment.

“Many residents have evacuated and moved valuables to higher ground.

“Several roads are impassable and when the flood waters recede many roads will need to be repaired and culverts replaced before they can be opened to traffic.

“The County Highway resources will be exhausted soon as we try to bring the County back to a normal state.

“This record flooding event has caused a great financial impact to the County – hence this declaration.”

The declaration stated that county ESDA coordinator Pearson “is ordered to proceed with all haste to bring said disaster to a rapid conclusion for the best interest of the residents of the County.”

Levee, Road Damage Review

Union County Highway Department engineer Kevin Grammer shared an update on the flood situation at last Friday morning’s board of commissioners meeting.

Grammer reported that quick action involving multiple agencies was taken to prevent what could have been a major disaster involving a river levee in the Mississippi River bottomlands west of Wolf Lake.

The situation involved multiple sand boils which developed along the levee, which is in the Preston Drainage District.

The sand boils developed in a location which has been the source of ongoing problems since the early 1970s. 

During the afternoon of Thursday, May 4, Grammer said that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reported that monitoring of the situation showed that multiple sand boils were growing exponentially larger. The concerns were focused on about half a dozen sand boils.

“We were losing the levee at that time,” Grammer told Union County officials at last Friday’s board of commissioners meeting.

Forty hours of non-stop work began. Five thousand tons of rip rap (rock) were transported to the site to fill an area that measured 100 feet by 300 feet by 3 feet deep. The end result of the work is seen as a permanent solution to the situation.

Grammer said that some $200,000 was spent during what he said was a “Herculean effort” to bring the situation under control. 

He said the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, IEMA, has committed to paying for the work, which was done in response to a potentially life-threatening situation.

If the levee had been breached, flooding would have occurred from the location of the sand boils south to Gale.

While state funding is expected to cover the costs of the work at the location of the sand boils, uncertainty surrounds funding for the repair of damage to county roads which has been caused by the flooding.

Grammer said the county sustained $301,000 damage to roads. Damage was reported to more than a dozen roads.

“We don’t know the full extent of the damage,” Grammer said at Friday’s meeting.

Should the burden paying for the repairs fall entirely on local resources, the end result would be a devastating impact on the operations of the Union County Highway Department.

Grammer said that a regional effort is underway involving officials in areas which have been affected by flooding along the Mississippi and Ohio rivers, other rivers and their tributaries.

Officials will be working to tally the costs of flood damage as part of the process to obtain a federal disaster declaration. The county’s issuing of a disaster declaration also is part of that process.

Grammer said Tuesday morning that some roads in the bottomlands of Union County were still closed due to the impact of the flood. An overall assessment of the impact of the flooding was continuing.

Flood Warning

River levels have been falling during the past week in the region. A flood warning remained in effect early this week for the Mississippi River at Cape Girardeau.

The National Weather Service at Paducah advised that a flood warning remains in effect until Tuesday, May 23, for the Mississippi River at Cape Girardeau. 

Areas which are affected by the flood warning include Union, Alexander and Jackson counties in Southern Illinois.

The weather service reported on its website that the Mississippi River’s stage at Cape Girardeau was at 37.4 feet at 11 a.m. Monday. Flood stage is 32.0 feet. 

The river stage was expected to fall to 36.9 feet Tuesday morning. Minor flood conditions were expected.

The Gazette-Democrat

112 Lafayette St.
Anna, Illinois 62906
Office Number: (618) 833-2158

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