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Governor Announces Review of State Levee System

2 min read

Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Friday announced plans for a review of the state’s levee system to better prepare for floods and reduce flood risk to people, businesses and critical infrastructure.

Sanders said she signed a memorandum of agreement with the Commissioner of State Lands to conduct the state’s first-ever full inventory of levees. It authorizes the Arkansas Department of Agriculture to work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on the project under a cost-sharing agreement. State Lands has agreed to provide up to $250,000 as the state’s portion of the cost.

The move comes after historic flooding in 2019 that breached levees and caused more than $3 billion in damage across the state. A task force appointed by then-Gov. Asa Hutchinson came up with 17 recommendations for improved oversight of the levee system, but as Arkansas Business has reported, it’s unclear how many of the recommendations have been implemented.

Funding sources continue to remain a major issue for maintenance and repair, and there’s no data on how many local levee boards are active, nor how many submit annual reports about the infrastructure they maintain.

“Arkansas’ levees provide critical protection to communities across our state. But we can’t make improvements and repairs to our levee system if we don’t have a comprehensive inventory of our existing facilities,” Sanders said in a statement.

The levee survey was announced after Sanders issued an executive order in 2023 calling for a comprehensive analysis and update of the Arkansas Water Plan. The plan, not updated in almost a decade, provides guidance for the preservation and conservation of the state’s water resources and related infrastructure, including drainage systems, dams and levees

Many non-federal levees within the state are not in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Levee Safety Program and are not currently eligible for assistance in the event of a levee breach, the governor’s office said in a news release. The levee survey will focus on confirming the number and status of all levees in the state, which will allow state and local leaders to provide better maintenance of levee systems and prepare for future natural disasters.

Agriculture Secretary Wes Ward said the levee survey is long overdue. “The Governor’s Executive Order regarding the Water Plan and this levee inventory are critical steps in making sure Arkansas is prepared for future natural disasters and avoiding the devastating impacts that they cause,” he said.


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