The metro-east’s flood-prevention district plans to financially carry out projects on its own, rather than pooling money with the federal government, because of its insistence on using union workers for levee-restoration projects.
The Southwestern Illinois Flood Prevention District plans to move forward with some levee restoration work on its own no matter the cost because the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers refuses to ensure union works carry out construction work.
More than $170 million of levee restoration work has been done, but $272 million worth of work remains, which includes work on cutoff walls, relief wells and seepage controls, to address the underground portion of the levee restoration, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
For most of the levee work, not on federally owned land, the federal government has promised to pick up 65 percent of the costs, with 35 percent coming from local contributions.
Since 2013, however, the Corps of Engineers and the flood prevention district have disagreed on whether project labor agreements should be required from contractors who bid on work. The flood prevention district wants project labor agreements included, but the corps has said federal policy is to allow contractors to bid on projects either with or without PLAs.
Col. Anthony Mitchell, the commander of the St. Louis District of the Army Corps of Engineers, said it is up to contractors on whether to use unionized workers on federally funded projects.
“The choice of whether and how to use union workers is one made by the construction contractor,” Mitchell wrote in an email to the BND. “Federal law and regulations require full and open competition, and we have established a path forward that would allow federal contractors to use PLAs if the agreements meet those federal requirements.”