Gov. Rauner tours Illinois flooding

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PONTOON BEACH, IL (KPLR) - On Friday, Governor Bruce Rauner ordered several dozen Illinois National Guard soldiers to active duty to assist for flood response in southern Illinois.

There is a danger of a levee in Alexander County giving way. To date, Rauner has designated 12 counties as disaster areas.

As some of the water began receding on New Year's Day, the governor began a three day tour of flood damaged areas. He started Friday morning in Grafton, traveled south to Alton, where he stopped on the Louis and Clark Bridge to see the impact along the city's riverfront. Rauner praised volunteers and first responders along with the city workers who built a temporary levee to protect downtown Alton.

Mayor Brandt Walker said his public works director engineered a new temporary wall made of large, interlocking concrete blocks. Heavy duty plastic and sandbags completed the effort.

“It has held up fine; it's not leaking at all," Walker said.

The effort has protected almost all of the low lying businesses in downtown Alton. However, the Argosy Casino and the grain elevators were surrounded by water. That has caused a loss of casino revenue during the holiday.

The governor also toured mobile home neighborhoods in Pontoon Beach. There a combination of heavy rainfall and the loss of electricity to a major pumping system caused stormwater back ups that nearly entered the living portion of the trailers.

Pontoon Beach Mayor Mike Pagano said 250 to 300 residents had to be evacuated due to high water. Rauner met with some of the flood victims at a Red Cross shelter in nearby Granite City.

Flood disaster relief in the form of loans and grants comes primarily from the federal government.

“Right now, we don't believe the lack of a state budget is impacting services and support for this recovery from the flood," Rauner said.

The governor went on to say all of the state employees are working to help in the recovery. Illinois has been operating without a formal state budget approved by the legislature since June. However, the governor is hopeful there will be a break in the budget impasse this month.

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