Legal Battle Brewing Over Big Island Levee - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Legal Battle Brewing Over Big Island Levee

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The Rock Island City Council approved an ordinance building a road over the Big Island levee one month ago.

Even though the levee owners, Milan and the Big Island River Conservancy District have not sent the proposal to the Army Corps of Engineers.

The plan will come before a judge because it will add a $50 fee to dozens of Big Island residents.

The proposed road will lead into vacant land north of Jumer's Casino.

The Jumer's Crossing project is designed to add shopping there, creating an anchor destination to support the casino and bring more business into Rock Island.

Building the road means 300 feet of levee would need to be removed and built further back onto the island.

Allowing enough space to gradually build the road over the modified levee to get people in and out.

Court documents reveal how this fight over 300 feet of property has levee owners everywhere watching.

Milan Mayor Duane Dawson says, "There will be a lot of people up and down the river interested in this, because the whole levee system would be in jeopardy of someone else doing something to it."

Dawson says his Village and Big Island River Conservancy will fight any effort to undermine their authority over the levee. They already won a federal case nearly 10 years ago. Now, Rock Island says in court documents, it believes it has the ability to condemn the portion of the levee it needs. It would use eminent domain to get the road built.

"We are the sponsors, the owners of that levee, Milan and Big Island, so I don't know how anyone can do an eminent domain court case to take over part of another town's property," says Dawson.

"We know that the direction we're aimed is a viable direction, for us to go," says Rock Island Mayor Dennis Pauley.

That's all he'll say on the city's levee strategy.

"Our legal strategy needs to be quiet at this time because that's how we're going to get where we need to be," says Pauley.

The documents also include a letter from Big Island's attorney. It raises concerns that if Big Island's ownership is condemned, the whole levee could lose its accreditation and eligibility for federal money to repair flood damages. Dawson says everyone feels backed into a corner.

"I think Rock Island's trying to save face, they bought a piece of property, they've got to do something to get to it, it's upsetting a whole lot of people in the process," says Dawson.

A process that could fundamentally change the rules for 9,700 miles of levee.

Rock Island says it has no timeline for court proceedings set.

Property owners who object to the special road assessment will be able to take their concerns to a hearing set by a judge.

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