(TNS) - The mayors of three towns affected by the recent flooding spoke on a conference call directed by the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative (MRCTI).
Alton Mayor Brant Walker was joined by New Madrid, Missouri Mayor Danny Brown and Cape Girardeau, Missouri Mayor Harry Rediger on a conference call to discuss the aftermath of the recent flooding. Each town was able to escape catastrophic devastation due to pre-planning for such disasters.
“Being proactive is so much better than being reactive in these situations,” Brown said.
Walker said most of the area was spared from the flash flood-like nature of the rising waters due to the recently renovated levee system. He said the levee leaves only the riverfront and downtown area especially vulnerable to the river. He said only the casino and marina were closed as a result of the flooding, leaving downtown open for business.
“We took our businesses seriously,” Walker said.
He credited the saving of those businesses to the volunteers and public workers who worked tirelessly to create a wall 1,000-feet long. That wall was neoprene lining with sandbags supported in the back by rocks. Walker said that wall did not leak.
“It almost looked like the Berlin Wall downtown,” he said. “I don’t know how we did it, but, by the grace of God, we did it.”
That sentiment was mirrored by both Missouri mayors. Rediger said Cape Girardeau was saved partially by new infrastructure such as a $70 million wastewater treatment plant. Walker said Alton’s treatment facility also helped separate storm water from sewage, a function he said many people do not realize is extremely important.
“All in all, through proper infrastructure and proper vision in the past, our city fared really pretty well,” Rediger said.
Brown also credited infrastructure to New Madrid surviving the flood. He said upgraded pump stations were able to help pump the rainwater from the town before the rising river waters came. He noted that parks and green spaces sponsored by the Army Corps of Engineers were able to allow water to infiltrate instead of becoming runoff.
Those green spaces were funded in part by a pre-disaster mitigation program. That program offers $100 million in grants for the entire country to prepare for disasters.
Walker said this flood was the fourth in two years which entered the top 10 worst in the city’s recorded history. The most recent flood ranked third, according to Walker.
“Seems like we’re doing this more frequently than we ever have,” Walker said about flood preparedness.
Damages in Alton will not be assessed until the floodwaters completely recede and the mess created has been cleaned up. Walker said several mudslides and sinkholes also ravaged the town as a result of as much as 12 inches of rain falling in the matter of a few days.
Money to repair those damages will come from federal unfunded mandates. Despite Madison County being declared a disaster area by the county board and 12 other Illinois counties being declared disaster areas by Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, Walker said Alton was not sure if FEMA would provide aid in the future. He said all counties have to have a combined cleanup and flood preparedness expenses of at least $18 million to get aid.
“We have to clean up, assess damages and tabulate all our expenses by the flood,” Walker said. “If all the counties do that and it reaches that amount, we qualify for federal relief.”
The Missouri mayors said Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon had already approved the process to collect federal dollars for flood cleanup.
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