Central oversight of levees needed, lawmakers told

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Arkansas lawmakers have been told that the state is putting its residents and economy at risk by failing to adopt a centralized system for flood-levee oversight. Members of the Legislative Joint Audit Committee were told Friday that many levees in the state may not pass federal certification and could crumble under heavy rains.

Randy Young, executive director of the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission, said that, even if a disastrous flood doesn't result immediately, lack of federal certification would cost property owners in levee districts. He said they would have to start buying costly flood insurance.

State Rep. Mike Burris of Malvern expressed concern about what could happen if there were a repeat of the disastrous 1927 flood. He said the result of lack of levee maintenance could be flooding even worse than in 1927.

State Auditor Doug Spencer presented a report that recommended compiling a list of levees and developing a set of standards for maintenance and inspection. The audit report also recommended developing uniform financial-reporting requirements for levee districts, along with rules for merging districts found to be out of compliance with certification requirements.

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