Arkansas Department of Emergency Management (ADEM), in consultation with the Arkansas Natural Resources Com- mission (ANRC). Importantly, this allowed levees that are not currently compliant with federal levee standards — thus in- eligible to receive federal funds — to nevertheless apply for assistance from the state.

Te Arkansas Levee Task Force

Finally, and most germane to this article, Gov. Hutchinson established the Arkansas Levee Task Force, a temporary entity created to study and analyze the current conditions of the state’s levees. More specifically, the Task Force was formed in order to: identify sources of funding and related requirements for the construction, repair, and maintenance of levees; study prospec- tive monitoring and reporting systems for levee maintenance; and review the adequacy of the current laws and organizational structure of the levee system and levee district boards. Findings resulting from this important undertaking are to

be presented within a report to the Governor by Dec. 31, 2019, along with any additional reports and recommenda- tions. Te 25-member Task Force is comprised of leaders from various state agencies; elected officials on the state, county, and municipal level; and other individuals, such as engineers, levee board members, and at least one attorney. Te Task Force has been meeting regularly since July, both in full body meetings and in its subcommittees, which were divvied up to focus more intently on each of the objectives outlined by the Governor’s executive order. St. Francis Levee Board member Rob Rash has led a committee to study and analyze the current conditions of the levees. ANRC Director Bruce Holland has chaired a committee to identify sources and requirements for funding the construction, repair and maintenance of levees. Jackson County Judge Jeff Phillips has run a committee on studying prospective monitoring and re- porting systems for the maintenance of levees. State Sen. Gary Stubblefield has overseen a committee reviewing the adequacy of the current laws and organizational structure of the levee system and levee district boards.

Investigating Arkansas’ Levees In conducting a review of the conditions of our state’s levees,

preliminary findings have not only recapitulated the need for improvements to prevent future disaster, but also have high- lighted another issue: the difficulty of determining exactly how many levees actually exist in Arkansas. Tis task has proven quite onerous due to issues such as slight differences in the names used by districts from one database to the other or mi- nor discrepancies in spelling when reporting to such databases, or failure by some districts to report altogether. According to an analysis by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette,

there may be as many as 181 levee districts across the state. “Le- vee districts” are entities that typically operate and maintain le- vees themselves and, for the purposes of this article, may be read



to include drainage districts, as well. A significant number of the state’s levees were organized through statutes that technically title districts formed under them “drainage districts,” but the primary purpose — to establish levees — is the same. A statement issued by the state of Arkansas indicated that the state contains 92 levee districts. Both of these counts dif- fer slightly from the number given by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) National Levee Database, which lists 114 separate levee systems. “Levee systems” refer to the entire- ty of a levee, which may be broken down into segments and managed by separate levee districts, despite being contiguous. Multiple districts may operate a single system, and in some cases a district may sponsor multiple levee systems. Ultimately, it is the hope of the Task Force to provide a more exact ac- counting in its final report. According to the Corps, the average age of Arkansas’ levees

is 69 years, making many, if not most, of them overdue for renovation and enhancement, whether physically or in regula- tion and oversight. Te damage sustained during the Flood of 2019 has only compounded this need. Complete information on the current needs of our many levee systems will be found in the final report to Gov. Hutchinson in December.

What Has Led to these Conditions?

While merely determining how many levees there are and what deficiencies exist may be difficult enough, an even more complicated question is figuring out why conditions have de- teriorated and how to remedy those problems. As mentioned above, levees in Arkansas are generally operated by levee or drainage improvement districts, which are governed by a board of directors and created in various ways under Arkansas law. In some cases — and for reasons economic, administra- tive, or both — a levee may simply go unattended, leading to considerable deterioration over time. In the case of the breach near Dardanelle, while that levee did have an active board, it had not been sufficiently main- tained such that it was compliant with Corps standards. Tus, that levee district was and is ineligible to receive federal fund- ing for repairs. Tis is the case with the majority of Arkansas’ levees according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Tis non- compliance with Corps standards presents a serious impedi- ment to improving the condition of those levees. Not only do districts fall into disrepair due to this lack of federal funding, they then have very little money with which to work in trying to become federally certified. Tus, without assistance from the federal government, dis- tricts must rely primarily on assessments levied upon the bet- terments (i.e., benefits) received by the residents and/or enti- ties within a district whose lands are protected by the levee(s). Often, these assessments do not raise enough money to pay for adequate levee maintenance. In Jackson County, for example,

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