– Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today announced the creation of the Illinois Long Term Recovery Council which will develop and assist in implementing a comprehensive strategy to help Illinois communities recover and thrive following damaging floods in western, northern and southeastern Illinois this past June.
The Council will be co-chaired by: Jim Bohnsack, Chairman, Rock Island County Board; Terry Bruce, Chief Executive Officer of Illinois Eastern Community Colleges; Alan Dunstan, President, Madison County Board; and John Spring, Mayor of Quincy.
“Several communities were completely flooded when levees in their areas broke, destroying homes, businesses, public buildings, and critical infrastructure,” said Governor Blagojevich. “While we’ve been working to address their immediate needs, it’s important that we look at the long-range issues facing these towns to find the best ways to help them tackle those challenges and ensure that their communities can thrive once again.”
The Illinois Long Term Recovery Council will convene in September and is expected to submit a final report of plans and recommendations to Governor Blagojevich during the next six months. The council will include representatives from state and federal agencies, volunteer organizations and the private sector, as well as state legislators, mayors, county board members, and economic development experts from the flood-impacted areas.
The council will focus on recovery-related issues such as agriculture; housing; critical infrastructure; levees, locks and dams; economic and community recovery; future recovery planning and long-term policy reforms needed to reduce the damage of future floods. The council will determine long-term recovery needs, identify critical recovery projects and estimate and advocate for the resources necessary to ensure full economic recovery. The council’s recommendations will not only help communities recover from this flood incident but will also enhance the state’s ability to recover from future natural disasters.
As a result of wide-spread flooding and severe storms in June, Governor Blagojevich declared 25 counties state disaster areas and sought federal assistance to help people and their communities begin the recovery process. To date, 18 counties have been approved for federal assistance to individuals who suffered losses related to the flooding, including Adams, Calhoun, Clark, Coles, Crawford, Cumberland, Douglas, Edgar, Hancock, Henderson, Jasper, Jersey, Lake, Lawrence, Mercer, Rock Island, Whiteside, and Winnebago.
“Thanks to IEMA’s swift emergency response efforts in coordination with FEMA following the June flooding, we can now begin to focus on the long term recovery needs of individuals and businesses throughout the state. We understand that a healthy business environment is critical to ensure the sustainability of our communities and their ability to retain and create jobs after disasters strike,” said Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) Director Jack Lavin.
“Even as we were still fighting floods, Governor Blagojevich recognized the fact that recovery was going to be particularly difficult for many of these communities and he set the wheels in motion for a long-term recovery strategy,” said Andrew Velasquez III, director of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA). “Right now, we’re working closely with affected communities to meet their short-term needs, such as assistance with debris removal. But some of these towns have much more complex issues, which will be thoroughly considered and addressed by the diverse membership of the State Long Term Recovery Council.”
In addition, 23 counties have been approved for federal assistance to help local governmental bodies recoup some of their flood-related expenses, including flood preparations and response, debris removal, and repair or replacement of roads, bridges and other public property. Counties approved for such assistance include: Adams, Calhoun, Clark, Coles, Crawford, Cumberland, Douglas, Edgar, Greene, Hancock, Henderson, Jasper, Jersey, Lake, Lawrence, Madison, Mercer, Monroe, Pike, Randolph, Rock Island, St. Clair, and Winnebago.
In early July, representatives from the Governor’s office, IEMA, DCEO, Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) met in Springfield to discuss long-term recovery issues, existing programs at the state and federal levels and examples of recovery efforts from other parts of the country. Information from this meeting will be provided to members of the Council as they begin considering recovery initiatives.
“I'm pleased that Governor Blagojevich asked me to serve as one of the co-chairmen of this task force,” said co-chair Spring. “In the past 15 years, we've been hit by two '500-year floods' along the Mississippi River, and there's no reason to believe it couldn't happen again next year. We need to take a close look at the long-term effects of flooding on agricultural, economic and recreational communities in our state and develop a comprehensive plan so that we can recover from the recent flood and be prepared for whatever might occur in the future.”
“I am honored to be a part of the process to solve this problem, and to be a part of the long-term solution,” said co-chair Bruce. “I am proud to be a part of the leadership for the Governor's important and necessary commission to help the long-term sustainability of our community.”
“The long-tern recovery of our communities is an important issue that needs to be addressed,” said co-chair Dunstan. “I am honored to be a part of the project and am looking forward to working with people from across the state to make sure we take care of our residents.”
“This is a great opportunity for the State of Illinois to be proactive in respect to the long-term flood recovery,” said Jim Bohnsack, Rock Island County Board Chairman. “We've had several floods in this part of the state recently, and there are issues that need to be addressed. I'm glad to be part of the Governor's Long-Term Recovery Council that will work on these concerns.”