NEW ATHENS, IL (KMOX) – The small Metro-East village of New Athens, Illinois is facing a major financial crisis thanks to a federal agency and a mile-long levee.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency is requiring the village to have the levee that protects the old section of town from the Kaskaskia River inspected, even though Mayor Gary Kearns says the Corps of Engineers, which inspects it every year, has never questioned the levee’s integrity. Kearns tells KMOX such an inspection could cost anywhere from $350,000 to $1 million, which he says the village of two thousand residents simply cannot afford.
But New Athens has little choice. If the inspections aren’t completed within 18 months, FEMA will declare that the levee does not exist, and the hundred or so homes and several businesses behind it will face skyrocketing flood insurance rates. Kearns says that could force many long-time residents and businesses to move out and would scare away any potential residents or businesses.
Kearns says the village is considering asking the Southwestern Illinois Flood Prevention District Council to help pay for the inspection out of the funds raised through its sales tax in St. Clair, Madison and Monroe Counties. That would take the approval of the three county boards, which we’re told is unlikely because all of that revenue is already budgeted to bring the Mississippi River levees up to FEMA standards.
Kearns says he has appointed a levee committee and village officials will be meeting with the congressional delegation in hopes of finding a solution.