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Levee repairs necessary, even as steel costs rise

And now the other shoe begins to drop.

Is anyone surprised that the cost of steel for the levee recertification project has skyrocketed? It is partly a side-effect of the COVID-19 public health crisis of the past year.

It will be some time before we see the real cost of closures that helped us navigate the pandemic, but what already has been showing up in certain places has us anxious.

Blame supply chain disruptions.

Just look at prices at the grocery store. And the lumber yard. And, well, likely any number of entities where we go for the basics of life.

When it comes to steel, however, we must consider the impact of another event in the past few years, and that is an increase in tariffs by the Trump Administration.

According to the Brookings Institute, federal revenues from tariffs increased from less than $40 billion in 2016 to $79 billion in 2019.

Those dollars flowing into the U.S. government’s accounts have to come from somewhere. Now we are learning the bill for levee recertification may become one of the sources.

The cost of steel has nearly doubled, according to Jon Sander, city engineer. That has the county “concerned” about bids for the early stage of levee construction on what before the pandemic was estimated to come in at about $16 million. No telling what the bill will be post-pandemic.

These are signs that even after the pandemic is brought under control, the crisis will not be over, that we will continue to feel the impact well into the future.

It will be incumbent on all of us, individually as well as our government bodies, to be judicious with our spending, choosing the most important projects that impact community life — such as the levee — and putting on hold those that are more cosmetic, more “wish list,” more desire than essential.

Yes, it will hurt. Illness hurts, and this is a side effect that we’ll have to face. Let’s hope there will be some extra state or federal funding to help us get past what may be steep increases in cost.

Perhaps, hopefully, the federal government can either relax the tariffs or offset the revenues with tax cuts for the working middle class.

Regardless, this is when we put our best face forward, pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and sally on. It’s what we, as Americans, always do.

Certainly we can agree that repairing the levee should be a priority. How we pay for it will require additional consideration moving forward.

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