Hamburg Needs Our Help: Rep. Axne Introduces Legislation to Cut Red Tape, Provide Greater Flexibility in Critical Levee Construction

December 18, 2019
Press Release
Hamburg, devastated by flooding earlier this year, was forced to remove temporary levee that could have provided more protection during the 2019 flood

Washington D.C. — Today, Iowa’s Rep. Cindy Axne (IA-03) and Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) introduced legislation in both chambers of Congress to give communities and the Army Corps of Engineers greater flexibility in constructing permanent levees from temporary ones. The bipartisan legislation was jointly led by Rep. Don Bacon (NE-02) and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).

The Local Expertise is Vital for Effective Embankments (LEVEE) Act would allow the Army Corps of Engineers to begin preconstruction on levee improvements without waiting for congressional approval if a project is determined to be critical to flood prevention and cost less than $25 million. The legislation would also provide full federal funding for projects in flood-prone areas.

“No town should have to worry that federal red tape stands between them and a devastating flood,” said Rep. Axne. “What we saw in Hamburg earlier this year proves that we must do something to allow the Corps to act faster and provide full federal funding for flood-prone areas. Our local and on-the-ground experts need to be listened to. I’m proud that this bipartisan, bicameral legislation does just that and addresses this critical issue for Southwest Iowa.”

In 2011, residents of Hamburg, Iowa worked the Army Corps of Engineers to construct makeshift emergency additions to a levee to combat rising flood waters. The levee saved the town from floodwaters, but was determined to be not adequate enough to be made permanent without changes. After Hamburg could not come up with the funds to make the changes, the additions to the levee were removed.

“Last spring, Nebraska experienced the worst flooding since 2011," said Rep. Bacon. "Many homes, businesses, livestock and dreams were lost. Under this bill, the Army Corps would be allowed to evaluate repeated and potential areas of flooding and construct levees to prevent such disasters from occurring again. We must take the proper actions to protect communities from future floods and this legislation does just that.” 

Since disastrous flooding earlier this year, Rep. Axne has been fighting to ensure federal funding reaches ongoing recovery efforts in her district.

Last week, Rep. Axne recently announced the creation of her Iowa Flood Funding Tracker, allowing all Iowans to track updates on where disaster relief funding is being spent in Iowa. The Tracker also identifies federal agencies that have not answered Rep. Axne’s call for transparency in accounting for where disaster relief funds are being spent.

“Securing federal funding for disaster recovery in Iowa is only the first step,” said Rep. Axne. “I’m committed to calling out federal agencies who won’t tell us where the money is being spent, helping constituents navigate the rebuilding process, and pushing for legislation in Washington to fix inefficiencies and reform our disaster recovery systems to work better for Iowans.”

In November, the House passed bipartisan legislation co-sponsored by Rep. Axne to modernize federal disaster recovery programs, ensure funds appropriated by Congress are delivered to disaster victims in a timely manner, and protect taxpayer dollars by increasing safeguards against misuse of program resources.

In May, the House passed H.R. 2157 – Additional Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Act of 2019 – which Rep. Axne successfully amended to increase funding for programs vital to Iowa. President Trump signed that bill into effect on June 7th, effectively making funds available for disaster recovery programs available that day.