CENTURY-OLD MANAGEMENT AND FUNDING STRUCTURES ARE PUTTING US AT RISK
Although the drainage districts that are responsible for operating and maintaining the local levees have done the best they can, they were set up over a century ago and are not equipped to manage a large urban system in the 21st century.
Originally established in 1917, the drainage districts were put in place to drain water from the floodplain for local agricultural and industrial landowners. Despite the significant growth and changes that have taken place in the area, the drainage districts still function under the same legal framework that was put in place over a century ago.
OPERATING THIS WAY HAS MANY CHALLENGES:
- it's highly inefficient
four separate drainage districts are not needed to manage one infrastructure system
- it's unsustainablethe drainage districts were not set up to manage a large urban flood safety system and have not been able to meet shifting federal safety standards
- it's inequitable
the current funding structure is very limited and does not account for all services delivered or benefit received
- it's outdated
the management of the infrastructure is separated from the health of the natural landscape around it
- it's exclusive
the way leadership is elected is antiquated and leaves people out of the process
More efficient, modern, and equitable management and funding structures are needed to overcome these challenges
After several years of research and discussion, the LRC partners have worked with local state legislators to introduce legislation to reform and modernize the way the local levee system is managed and to make a more robust set of financial tools available to support the system going forward. Their proposal, Senate Bill 431, is currently under consideration by the 2019 Legislative Assembly.
The new management structure has been designed to:
- Meet long-term flood safety needs and shifting federal standards;
- Create a less fragmented framework for management and decision-making
- Provide for a more equitable distribution of costs based on services and benefits received;
- Allow for improved environmental stewardship along the levees and drainageways, which is currently prohibited under the drainage district structure; and
- Create a more democratic and transparent selection process for board members in which significantly more people have a voice.
Hear more about the proposal from our convener, Jules Bailey, during his testimony to the Senate Committee on Environment & Natural Resources on February 19, 2019: