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Corps To Discuss Metro East Levee Upgrades

(Véronique LaCapra/St. Louis Public Radio)

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is holding open houses Wednesday and Thursday evenings to discuss federal levee projects in the Metro East.

The Corps says it’s spent $134 million in federal money for upgrading the levees and more projects are underway.

Yet some in the Metro East worry the Corps may not move fast enough.

Les Sterman, chief supervisor of the Southwestern Illinois Flood Prevention District Council, said the area has until the end of 2015 to prove to FEMA that its levees can protect the area. Otherwise, a significant portion of the area will be designated a Special Flood Hazard Area.

"The economic impact would be tremendous," Sterman said. "It would be $50 million alone simply in flood insurance premiums and that was calculated several years ago before the rates went up, so it would likely be considerably more than that."

Sterman said the Southwestern Illinois Flood Prevention District is on track to finish its levee work in 2015. St. Clair, Madison, and Monroe Counties put a quarter of a cent sales tax in place back in 2009 to fund the work.

The U.S. Corps of Engineers relies instead on federal funding, said spokesman Mike Petersen.

"Right now we don’t have a rock solid timeline," Petersen said. "It really is funding dependent year to year. Based on the current trends we’ll be done with the entire Metro East system somewhere around 2018, which is I think a vast improvement on earlier projections."

It’s unclear whether FEMA will move its 2015 deadline if the Corps does not finish the work.

The open house events:

  • Wednesday, Nov. 13, Granite City Township Hall, 2060 Delmar Ave., Granite City, Ill., 4-6 p.m.
  • Thursday, Nov. 14, National Great Rivers Museum, #2 Lock and Dam Way, Alton, Ill., 4-6 pm.

Follow Maria Altman on Twitter: @radioaltman

Maria is the newscast, business and education editor for St. Louis Public Radio.