Governor’s Levee Task Force Issues Report
On Tuesday, January 7th, the Arkansas Levee Task Force issued its final report and recommendations to Governor Hutchinson. The Task Force was established by Governor Hutchinson following record flooding of the Arkansas River in 2019. They were tasked with developing policy recommendations for improving the management and condition of Arkansas’s flood control infrastructure. The Task Force was composed of policy makers at the federal, state and local levels, and Arkansans with expertise and experience in the operations and maintenance of levee and flood control infrastructure.
This report represents a summary of Arkansas Levee Task Force’s findings and recommendations for improved monitoring and maintenance of the state’s levee system. The work developed for this report has been done in a collaborative effort with multiple Arkansas stakeholder groups. Therefore, this report serves a guide for ongoing efforts to provide improved levee systems throughout the State of Arkansas.
The strategies provided in this report involve a variety of recommendations identified by the levee task force. Specifically, this report focuses on the following:
(A) Analyzing the current conditions of the levees within the State of Arkansas
- Recommendation: The Task Force recommends that the administration explore extending the in-depth research and analysis to all remaining rivers.
- Recommendation: The Task Force recommends that the USACE re-implement their required video surveys as an in-house service, which was previously the policy and practice of the Vicksburg and Memphis districts.
- Recommendation: The Task Force recommends that the operation of reservoirs continue to emphasize the priority of flood control with respect to the navigation purpose at lock and dam facilities.
- Recommendation: The Task Force recommends all stakeholders be aware of the importance of fostering closer relationships.
- Recommendation: The Task Force recommends that USACE communicate more clearly with the local stakeholders the step-by-step procedures that outline the purpose and process for an inspection, including but not limited to specific locations at each structure that will need to be viewed, discuss possible obstructions and how access will be facilitated.
- Recommendation: The Task Force recommends that the Arkansas GIS Office continue providing County Officials and any Levee District Board with assistance in mapping and publishing the administrative boundaries of the levee districts.(B) Identifying sources and requirements needed for funding the construction, repair, and maintenance of levees within the State of Arkansas.
- Recommendation: The Task Force members determined that if financial assistance were provided by the state, it should be used to incentivize districts to enter the RIP and maintain long-term active status.
- Recommendation: The Task Force recommends benefited areas be assessed correctly.
- Recommendation: The Task Force recommends all board positions be filled and boards perform their duties as statutorily required.
- Recommendation: The Task Force recommends that districts have an adequate operation and maintenance schedule.
- Recommendation: The Task Force recommends assessments be sufficient to cover all operations and maintenance requirements and capitalize a reserve fund for emergencies.
- Recommendation: The Task Force recommends that decisions for consolidation of independent districts should be made at the local level and that the state should not attempt to force consolidation.
- Recommendation: The Task Force recommends that districts be consolidated if they are dependent on each other in a system, especially if there is a combination of active and inactive districts.(C) Studying the prospective monitoring and reporting of systems for the maintenance of levees within the State of Arkansas.
- Recommendation: The Task Force recommends to utilize a standardized levee report template that meets all legislative requirements as well as provides additional information beneficial to monitoring the levees such as the USACE inspections.
- Recommendation: The Task Force recommends the General Assembly to work with the county officials to determine the most efficient time frame for submitting reports.
- Recommendation: The Task Force recommends that once levee reports are completed by the levee boards, the county emergency manager and/or the county floodplain manager, and county judge will sign off on report indicating that they have reviewed the report and are aware of any levee structural issues. The local emergency manager and/or floodplain manager should work with those residents that have the potential to be impacted by a levee breach to ensure they are aware of any deficiencies. After the report is file marked by County Clerk’s Office, the Clerk will forward a copy of the report to ANRC and ADEM. ANRC will utilize the report to better understand assessments of districts, specifically when funding is requested. ADEM will review the report and compile an annual executive summary of the threat vulnerabilities. The identified vulnerabilities will be used for situational awareness and response priorities during a flood event.(D) Reviewing the adequacy of current laws and the organizational structure of the levee system and levee district boards within the State of Arkansas.
Recommendation: The Task Force recommends that that they work with county officials and other stakeholders to propose any needed legislation regarding annual levee reports, dates of report submission, levee assessments, dissolutions, and consolidation processes.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
January 7, 2020Arkansas Levee Task Force Presents
Final Report to Governor Hutchinson
LITTLE ROCK – The Arkansas Levee Task Force has presented its final report with recommendations to improve monitoring and maintenance of the state’s levee system, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced at a press conference on Tuesday.In the past six months, the Arkansas Levee Task Force has analyzed the current condition of the state’s system of 92 levees. Members of the Task Force have submitted recommendations based on Governor Hutchinson’s four objectives:
- to analyze the current conditions of the levees;
- to identify sources and requirements for funding the construction, repair, and maintenance of levees;
- to study the prospective monitoring and reporting of systems for the maintenance of levees;
- and to review the adequacy of current laws and the organizational structure of the levee system and levee district boards.
Governor Hutchinson created the Arkansas Levee Task Force by executive order last year after the state experienced record flooding that caused extensive damage to the state’s levee system. The Governor appointed both state and local representatives to the Task Force, including a county judge, a county clerk, an elected municipal official, state agency secretaries, state legislators, citizens representing flood-impacted areas, citizens with knowledge of the engineering, construction, funding, or oversight of levees, and other key stakeholders. The report from the 26-member Task Force includes 17 recommendations. Among these are recommendations that the state provide financial incentives to encourage districts to participate in a federal levee inspection and maintenance program, and the consolidation of certain levee districts that are dependent on each other.The Arkansas Levee Task Force’s report and an executive summary of its recommendations can be viewed HERE.“Last May, Arkansas experienced historic flooding that put our levee system to the test and caused uncertainty for thousands of Arkansans living along the Arkansas River,” Governor Hutchinson said. “I appreciate the many hours that this task force has dedicated to the effort of making our levees more reliable and giving Arkansans the utmost confidence that our levees will hold in the event of another catastrophic flood. These recommendations will be useful for our state, county officials, and local levee district boards as we seek to better protect the people who live along our waterways.”Jami Cook, secretary of the Arkansas Department of Public Safety and chair of the Arkansas Levee Task Force, joined Governor Hutchinson at the news conference.“It was an honor to serve as the Chair of the Arkansas Levee Task Force and work with such a remarkable team,” Secretary Cook said. “I am thankful for the many contributors that brought insight and resources from across the state, and for this team’s commitment to producing a comprehensive report for the Governor and the citizens of Arkansas. The Final Report is more than a collection of facts and maps; it is an inclusive tool that identifies areas needing improvement and outlines strategic plans for bolstering our shorelines and levees, and protecting life and property. As Secretary of the Department of Public Safety, I am committed to working with federal, state, and local leaders to implement the recommendations of the Task Force and work together to protect our citizens and our natural resources.”Photos from today’s press conference can be found HERE, and video of the press conference can be found HERE. Media outlets are welcome to use photos and video. Please attribute credit to the Governor’s Office.
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