PERCIVAL – Flood levee sponsors gathered in Percival Tuesday asking farmers to let grass grow at least 15 feet from the sand-filled levees or risk losing federal help if the area is inundated by another catastrophic flood.
Levee sponsors told about 40 farmers and landowners that five drainage districts are linked together into a System Wide Improvement Framework centered around Levee 575, which failed during the flood of 2011.
Wayne Clark of the Benton-Washington drainage district said the district is experiencing places where farmers have actually run discs up onto the side of the levee slope. He said the practice can not continue.
Clark: “The corps has started recently, when I first got on the levee here, after the 2011 flood, encroachment wasn’t even a issue. And now, it’s a major issue.”
Lowell Blankers and Tommy Aldmeyer of the Corps levee safety program said a 15-foot strip between the levee and plowed land helps officials monitor for sand boils and other signs of trouble.
Clark said he thinks farmers understand limits on local drainage districts and the levee’s role in stabilizing insurance costs.
Clark: “We don’t have the money to pay for things if the federal government doesn’t assist us. It’s a must.”
The flood of 2011 resulted in $125 million in damage to Levee 575 and local landowners would have been left to pay the entire bill had they not been eligible for federal assistance.
Clark said Benton-Washington is still recovering seven years after the flood. Bids have been as high as $550,000 to repair erosion of the north bank of Plum Creek that was left when flood waters receded after seven months.
Lowell Blankers and Tommy Aldmeyer of the Corps levee safety program said a 15-foot strip between the levee and plowed land helps officials monitor for sand boils and other signs of trouble. Cutting into the levee with farm equipment may also result in rapid deterioration of levee strength.
Some farmers attended the meeting said county government should subtract the 15-feet strip from their property taxes and others said the space is essential for the productivity of some fields.
Levee sponsors responded by asking farmers to voluntarily comply because, without the levee, the bottom land could be worth nothing.
Levee 575 Secretary Sandy Graybill said Levee 575 grouping includes Benton-Washington, Northwest Atchison, McKissick Island and Hamburg drainage districts.