Hunt, Lima Lake to consolidate

Levee and drainage districts in Illinois are closely monitoring river conditions and hoping for the best.

KHQA talked with commissioners in the Lima Lake and Hunt Drainage Districts.

They told me right now the crest is expected at around 16 feet and then things should level off, pending no more rain to the North. Fifteen feet is technical flood stage. Hunt Drainage District commissioner Sam Zumwalt says if crest levels surpass 16 feet, the district will begin gearing up for flood fighting efforts.

The good news is pump houses in both districts are up and running, but even after nearly two years, both districts are still waiting for Corps of Engineers crews to finish work on their levees.

Are you prepared for this flood?

Zumwalt said, "Yes, but obviously its a bit different this year because the levees aren't reshaped completely. Right now it seems the river levels they're telling us don't seem to be a problem, but it depends on the rainfall at the moment."

Levee inspections in the Lima Lake Drainage district begin at 19 feet. Right now the river has risen to the base of the levees in Northern Adams County.

While both the Hunt and Lima Lake Drainage Districts are watching the river now, commissioners are making some important decisions that will change the face of the district later. On Friday, commissioners from both districts voted to consolidate their districts, creating the Hunt-Lima Drainage and Levee District, spanning more than 29 thousand acres in Adams and Hancock Counties.

The Hunt and Lima Lake Drainage Districts along the Illinois side of the Mississippi always have operated as separate entities. But the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has recognized them as one district for years.

There is one main reason for that. I'm standing here at the border of the two districts. Lima-Lake is to the south and Hunt to the north. As you can see, unlike many drainage districts, these two are not separated by any type of levee. That means when and where a levee may break, both districts suffer the same consequences.

That's exactly what happened in 2008. When the levee broke here in Meyer, it submerged the Hunt Drainage District under 19 feet of water within 24 hours.

Before the consolidation, both districts held public meetings with landowners to gather input. Then Friday, commissioners voted unanimously to consolidate. They tell me the benefits are clear.

Dianne Barnett, Lima Lake Commissioner said, "We look at efficiency. We're going to spread over 29 thousand acres. In a flood fight, we'll have more people to draw from to work in troubled sites to run up and down levees. Just more efficiency to make improvements as we move ahead."

Sam Zumwalt said, "The benefits are the ability to do and make more improvements than we can on our own. Money is the biggest concern and when you put the district together, you have more money to go to troubled areas and fix that and move on to others."

So when and if the Mississippi threatens again, these districts and their facilities will be ready to respond and unite against a common foe.

Dianne Barnett, Lima Lake Commissioner said, "We look at each other as one big district now fighting the same fight."

The new district will chose three commissioners to take the helm. The consolidation will be final in about six weeks.