LITTLE ROCK -- Flooding has caused more than $100 million in damage to infrastructure in Arkansas, according to the governor's request for federal relief.
Also, cleanup and removal of debris will cost local governments more than $8.5 million. State officials estimate that $27 million is needed for temporary housing, replacement housing and repairs to existing houses.
After a tour of flooded areas, the governor called for a renewed effort to assess the stability of the state's levee systems.
Fortunately, that effort is already under way, thanks to a Senate bill enacted by the legislature during a 2016 special session.
Parts of Arkansas experienced flooding in 2015. Senators immediately began work on a plan to modernize the state's system of levees, many of which were in bad condition. They used a legislative audit as a starting point, and concluded that it was time for a thorough re-organization of the levee system.
Legislators learned that it was impossible to accurately determine how many levees needed improvements, because local levee districts were not required to issue reports.
Although the governing boards of many levee districts are dedicated and responsible, many boards had faded out of existence. Others were ineffective due to a lack of membership, one reason being that they did not have a mechanism for replacing members who had died or resigned.
Those failings were corrected by Act 7 of the May special session of 2016.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers inspects levees if the local board joins a federal program. The Corps identifies where maintenance is needed, but has no power to mandate that maintenance be done.
The Corps can re-write flood zone maps to indicate areas that are prone to flooding due to inadequate levees. However, in order for necessary improvements to be made, a functioning local board must be in place.
Before Act 7, if a governing board had ceased to operate, there was no body to apply for and accept available grants and appropriations. Now, there is a process to replace vacancies and restore the ability of local boards to oversee maintenance of levees.
In May, lottery sales generated $8.3 million for college scholarships, which is about $360,000 more than was generated in May of 2018.
Lottery officials reported to legislators on an oversight committee that in May public interest was amplified by enormous jackpots in Mega Millions and Powerball games. They are known as draw games. In May, revenue from draw games increased by $2.3 million.
However, in May revenue from scratch off games went down by $1.6 million. Lottery officials attributed some of the decline to flooding and bad weather.
The fiscal year will end on June 30, and the sales of lottery tickets are on a pace to beat last year's record of $502.4 million in total sales. Most of that amount was returned to players in the form of prizes, and $91.9 million was set aside for college scholarships.
With a month left in this fiscal year, lottery ticket sales have generated $84.9 million for scholarships. The record for a single fiscal year was set in 2012, when $97.5 million was set aside for scholarships. More than 34,000 students have received a scholarship this year.
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Editor's note: Arkansas Sen. Cecile Bledsoe represents the third district. From Rogers, Sen. Bledsoe is chair of the Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee.Editorial on 06/19/2019
Print Headline: Governor calls for renewed effort assessing levees in state