Comprehensive plan for Upper Mississippi River

We're keeping our fingers crossed that area rivers and streams that have fallen over the past several weeks will stay down the rest of this spring and summer.

Slowing, or even preventing massive flooding along the Upper Mississippi River takes more than luck.

That's where the Comprehensive Plan for the Upper Mississippi River comes in and it got a big boost from lawmakers in Springfield.

Both the state House and Senate recently approved resolutions, asking Congress to officially endorse the plan.

The Comprehensive Plan addresses flood protection for northern states along the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers, including Illinois, Missouri and Iowa.

Even though the plan has been approved and is supported by the Mississippi River Commission, Congress still hasn't approved it.

KHQA's Melissa Shriver shows you why supporters say the plan is so important, and where it goes from here.

Years after the Flood of '93, a federal act ordered the US Army Corps of Engineers to work on a comprehensive plan for flood control in the Upper Mississippi River Valley. Its purpose - to determine where flood protection could be enhanced safely along the upper Mississippi and Illinois Rivers. This finished plan proposes a streamlined process to allow certain levee and drainage districts to have the option to pay to enhance flood protection without harming other communities downstream.

Why is Congressional approval so important?

"What that does is prove some credibility and support as you work with the Department of Transportation, for instance, where we can make improvements, where you shouldn't make it and it provides framework as we move forward," said Upper Mississippi, Illinois and Missouri River Association Vice Chairman Mike Klingner.

There are areas not approved for improvements in the comprehensive plan. In those areas, the river is so narrow, improvements could cause excessive flooding upstream. But in places where improvements could protect property and local, state and federal assets like transportation, the plan would streamline the process for drainage districts to get approval to do improvements themselves.

Why is the plan so important?

"What it provides is the ability to get permits for improvements. With years and years of studies, what we would like to take place is if an improvement is desired, then the state says you're a part of the comprehensive plan, you meet the criteria. As it is, it takes years," said Klingner.

Recently it took ten years for a drainage district in southern Illinois to receive approval to raise its levee to a 500-year flood protection level.

If the comprehensive plan is aprroved on the local, state and national levels, then that would allow drainage districts like here at the Fabius in West Quincy, to improve to a 500-year level of protection.

One example of a levee with 500-year flood protection is on the South Quincy river bottoms. In the flood of 2008, folks here really didn't have to battle the Mississippi, and it protects infrastructure and industries.

Supporters of the comprehensive plan say improving drainage districts and levees like the one in West Quincy would not only protect farmland, but important infrastructure like these highways in and out of Quincy.

But until the plan is approved by Congress, many areas will be vulnerable to the ups and downs of the river

Now that Illinois lawmakers have approved the Comprehensive Plan, they hope Senators Dick Durbin and Roland Burris, and representatives Aaron Schock and Phil Hare will push for its passage on Capitol Hill.

The plan also is in the process of being approved by the Iowa and Missouri General Assemblies.

Now the comprehensive plan for flood protection can't be confused with another program plan which would improve and extend locks and dams down the Mississippi.

Congress approved the Navigation Ecosystem Sustainability Program to extend locks to 12 hundred feet.

Currently they're half that size.

Although that plan has been approved by federal lawmakers, they haven't funded the work.

That's put improvements to locks and dams at a standstill until further notice.

Folks living near rivers and streams in Adams and Pike County will have a chance to see review revised flood maps in the coming days.

FEMA is in process of modernizing their flood maps to help folks living in places like the Sny and South Quincy Drainage Districts determine whether their level of flood insurance and coverage is appropriate for the area.

They also determine where improvements can be made safely.

New maps may have important changes, as drainage districts continue to update the level of their flood protection.

FEMA and Illinois Department of Natural Resources will hold a Flood Risk Open House Tuesday, May 4th at the Pittsfield Community Center from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm.

Wednesday, May 5th another meeting will be held in Adams County at the Cooperative Extension Office from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm.