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Levee task force makes mission permanent

By Rachel Lippmann

St. Louis, MO – Officials from five Mississippi River states and seven federal agencies have agreed to form a new regional organization to help prevent future floods on the Mississippi River.

The Regional Flood Risk Management Team is a spin-off of a task force formed last year to help states, including Missouri, rebuild levees damaged in floods last June.

Regional cooperation is essential because of the river's long reach, said General Michael Walsh, the commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Mississippi River Valley District. The Corps and the Federal Emergency Management Agency will oversee the group.

"If you're doing something on the Wisconsin side, or the Illinois side, or the Missouri side, you want to make sure it's not impacted one state more than another," Walsh said.

The permanent group will also help with publicity.

"Any time you're raising awareness, you're improving the odds of finding the necessary funds to do the job," said Travis Tutka, the levee safety program manager for the Corps's St. Louis District. "There's a lot of repairs that need to be done, and it just needs adequate publicity."

It will take about 45 days for the new charter to get the signatures it needs to take effect. The seven federal agencies and five states will each pay for their participation in the group.