Levee repair Grant of last resort comes through

Thursday, October 27, 2011

By SARABETH WALLER

Staff Writer

Repairs began Tuesday on a levee in Levee District Seven off County Road 608 thanks to $20,000 in grant money, according to Butler County Presiding Commissioner Ed Strenfel.

Funding came through the Missouri Ag Disaster Relief Fund. The fund was established in June with a $100,000 contribution from Monsanto and $50,000 from the Republic of China (Taiwan). Dow AgroSciences also contributed to the fund.

Repair costs were estimated at about $20,000 on the levee but each award from the fund must be $10,000 or less. To ensure the levee's repair, $10,000 was awarded directly to the levee district and $10,000 was awarded on behalf of Butler County for the levee repairs.

During spring flooding, the levee suffered two breaks. One was 25 by 30 feet along a 40-foot stretch of levee, according to Strenfel, and left a crater about 6 1/2 feet deep.

The funding was a last resort alternative for the levee district.

"Back in the spring, NRCS (USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service) looked at it and they had funding," Strenfel said. "NRCS said, 'We have funding. We'll take care of it.'"

"They get a call from FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency)," he continued. "FEMA says, 'Stand down and we'll take care of it.'"

Later FEMA denied funding for the project because it was not in a drainage district and was too far from the county right-of-way, according to Strenfel.

"It fell between the cracks," he said.

"We had run out of options," Strenfel added.

While in Jefferson City, Mo., recently, Strenfel visited with Dr. Jon Hagler, Missouri's Director of Agriculture, to see if he could help. Hagler introduced him to Tony Stafford, executive director of the Missouri Agricultural and Small Business Development Authority, and MASBDA loan officer Marla Young.

Strenfel credits Hagler and the MASBDA's cooperation with helping the district get the grant.

"Their turnaround time has just been fantastic," Strenfel said. "We did some work yesterday [Tuesday] and sent in receipts and the checks are in the mail. They have just been fantastic."

Although the levee is on private land off of County Road 608, the repairs will help protect acres of surrounding farmland and homes. In the spring, the levee break caused properties and County Roads 607 and 608 to flood.

"That particular break in the levee would flood several thousand acres of farmland," Strenfel said. "If the river was up 14 feet, it would be flooding all that farmland."

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