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Senator urges follow-through on issues plaguing Cahokia Heights

Illinois’ senior U.S. senator reminded federal officials this week of ongoing water and sewer issues faced in the Cahokia Heights area of Metro East.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, a member of the Senate Environmental Justice Caucus, sent a letter Wednesday to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers St. Louis District Engineer & Commander Col. Kevin R. Golinghorst, urging him to use the funding Durbin secured in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Fiscal Year 2022 Omnibus Appropriations Act to remedy the persistent water infrastructure issues in Cahokia Heights.

Cahokia Heights is the community formed in 2021 that once encompassed the separate communities of Cahokia, Centreville and Alorton.

In his letter, Durbin emphasizes the importance of including Cahokia Heights residents in efforts to improve local infrastructure.

“I appreciate the Army Corps of Engineers’ (Corps) efforts to study and address the water infrastructure issues that have plagued the Cahokia Heights community for decades.  Using the initial federal funding I secured in the Infrastructure Jobs and Investment Act and the Fiscal Year 2022 Omnibus Appropriations Act, I encourage the Corps to quickly work to address the community’s water infrastructure problems.  I urge the Corps to engage with local residents, as well as federal, state, and local agencies, to better understand the area’s challenges,” Durbin began.

Durbin acknowledged the Corps’ sewer improvement projects and expressed his support for the Corps’ efforts while urging the Corps to include Cahokia Heights community members in project planning to ensure residents’ needs are being met.

“With the initial federal funding I secured, I am glad the Corps will carry out a sewer improvement project using the Corps’ Section 219 environmental infrastructure authority in Madison and St. Clair Counties.  I also support the Corps’ second project, a study to analyze root causes and recommend solutions to the area’s flooding, using the Corps’ Section 206 flood plain management services authority.  Community input on both the scope and execution of these projects will be essential to the success of the Corps’ work,” Durbin wrote.

Durbin went on to note the impact the water infrastructure issues have had on residents of Cahokia Heights. A majority-minority community, the city has experienced historical neglect and has not received adequate funding to correct the sewage systems causing damage to residents’ health and homes. Their lived experiences in these neighborhoods will provide invaluable insight to ensure resources and project results extend to areas most impacted by the flooding.

“Cahokia Heights is a made up of more than 70 percent Black residents, more than 30 percent of whom are low-income.  The city has long borne the burden of systemic racism and institutional neglect, including water infrastructure that has gone decades without adequate maintenance or replacement.  Residents today find their homes and surrounding areas flooded during heavy rains, with sewer systems overflowing into streets, yards, and homes.  In addition to the health and safety implications of contaminated flood waters, sewer overflow places undue burdens on low-income residents facing damage to their homes and property and rising costs to repair their city’s infrastructure,” Durbin wrote.

“While I continue to pursue additional federal resources and state and local funding commitments, I urge the Corps to engage with the community to identify and execute projects that will produce real measurable results for the residents of Cahokia Heights.  I request that you work with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and my office to meet with Cahokia Heights residents to discuss the upcoming projects and additional project opportunities the community may want to highlight for the Corps to consider,” Durbin concluded.

A copy of the letter is below:

June 29, 2022

Dear Colonel Golinghorst:

I appreciate the Army Corps of Engineers’ (Corps) efforts to study and address the water infrastructure issues that have plagued the Cahokia Heights community for decades.  Using the initial federal funding I secured in the Infrastructure Jobs and Investment Act and the Fiscal Year 2022 Omnibus Appropriations Act, I encourage the Corps to quickly work to address the community’s water infrastructure problems.  I urge the Corps to engage with local residents, as well as federal, state, and local agencies, to better understand the area’s challenges.

Since my initial request for federal assistance last year, the Corps has begun interagency consultations and committed to using two existing authorities to begin addressing the systemic water infrastructure issues in Cahokia Heights.  With the initial federal funding I secured, I am glad the Corps will carry out a sewer improvement project using the Corps’ Section 219 environmental infrastructure authority in Madison and St. Clair Counties.  I also support the Corps’ second project, a study to analyze root causes and recommend solutions to the area’s flooding, using the Corps’ Section 206 flood plain management services authority.  Community input on both the scope and execution of these projects will be essential to the success of the Corps’ work. 

Cahokia Heights is a made up of more than 70 percent Black residents, more than 30 percent of whom are low-income.  The city has long borne the burden of systemic racism and institutional neglect, including water infrastructure that has gone decades without adequate maintenance or replacement.  Residents today find their homes and surrounding areas flooded during heavy rains, with sewer systems overflowing into streets, yards, and homes.  In addition to the health and safety implications of contaminated flood waters, sewer overflow places undue burdens on low-income residents facing damage to their homes and property and rising costs to repair their city’s infrastructure.  This community actively is advocating for solutions and is well-informed on the city’s infrastructure problems.  The residents should be consulted by the Corps as its projects are carried out.

While I continue to pursue additional federal resources and state and local funding commitments, I urge the Corps to engage with the community to identify and execute projects that will produce real measurable results for the residents of Cahokia Heights.  I request that you work with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and my office to meet with Cahokia Heights residents to discuss the upcoming projects and additional project opportunities the community may want to highlight for the Corps to consider.

Thank you for your consideration of this request.  I look forward to working with you and the community to address the infrastructure crisis faced by Cahokia Heights.

 

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