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Counties team up to host special meeting on levees

By Rachel Schrage, Public Relations Team

After realizing that attendance at traditional district meetings was dropping off, the Knox and Sullivan County Farm Bureaus teamed up for a targeted meeting on an issue that has been plaguing residents of District 7 for years: levees.

The meeting, which was attended by more than 50 farmers, government officials and lawyers, took place Feb. 5 and brought to light many issues facing those impacted by levees.

In discussing these issues, attendees discovered that minimal oversight of levees has led to a severe lack of money for maintenance and repairs. There is also difficulty reconciling the inconsistencies in EPA and Army Corps of Engineers rules over responsibility for levees, leaving those in charge with questions about which guidelines to follow.

The hope is that this meeting will serve as a starting point for policy development and changes to state laws about the oversight of levees.

“We’ve discovered that there’s a real lack of expertise about laws and guidelines concerning these levees,” said E.B. Rawles, IFB regional manager. “We hope that, in the future, we’ll be able to build on this and put together a levee forum for local levee commissions.”

The meeting was the first of several targeted meetings for residents of District 7. The next will be April 10 to discuss property taxes in Monroe County.

“We left the levee meeting with the understanding that there’s no silver bullet for this, or any other, issue, but people were encouraged that someone was finally looking at something that hasn’t been addressed in a long time,” said Jeff Gormong, District 7 director. “We hope that by targeting specific issues, we’ll be doing a greater service to Farm Bureau members.”

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