USACE emphasizes Metro East Levees are top priority to congressional delegation
By Romanda Walker
St. Louis District
ST. LOUIS — Maj. Gen. John W. Peabody, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Mississippi Valley Division Commander, and Col. Chris Hall, USACE St. Louis District Commander, told Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Representative Jerry Costello (D-IL) that the Metro East Levee System is their top priority for the St. Louis District during a meeting on Capitol Hill.
Members from Senator Mark Kirk (D-IL) and Representative John Shimkus' (R-IL) staff were also present in the meeting.
"Today the Corps emphasized our firm commitment to meet our duty to ensure that the flood risk management structures in the Metro East area will function as designed to protect the 260,000 people who depend on the levees for their safety," Peabody said.
The Metro East Levee System consists of five levee projects located in Madison, St. Clair and Monroe Counties in Illinois. The System reduces flood risk to approximately 260,000 resident and $4.6 Billion in industrial, commercial, and residential property.
"The safety of the residents living and working behind the Metro East Levee System is our top priority," Hall said.
Modifications of the levee system are being proposed by the Southwestern Illinois Flood Prevention District Council in their pursuit of FEMA accreditation. Currently, the levees do not meet their authorized level of protection of 54' on the St. Louis gage, roughly a 0.2% (500-year) flood chance level of protection.
Proposed modifications by the Council will bring the levees to the 100-year level of protection, which is required for FEMA accreditation.
"The Corps is working in continuous collaboration with local authorities to ensure we understand the status of their design development," Peabody said. "This close coordination ensures all parties are able to maximize the pace of engineering analysis and the development of enduring and safe solutions."
As part of the rehabilitation process, the Flood Prevention District Council is required by law to obtain a 401 Permit (Water Quality Certification) from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, a Section 404 Permit (Clean Water Act) and 408 Permissions from the Corps. 408 Permissions are required for any modifications made to federal levees.
"We are working closely with and communicating regularly with the Southwest Illinois Flood Prevention District Council as they prepare to reconstruct the levees," Hall said. "We must also uphold our commitment to the public to ensure all modifications are safe and will not harm the levee or cause catastrophic failure," he added.
The Southwestern Illinois Flood Prevention District Council submitted their first 408 Permission package to the Corps February 6.
During today's meeting, the Corps confirmed their support to the Flood Prevention District Council.
"We understand the Council's construction schedule and we are prepared to meet our commitments to support that schedule," Hall said.
The total length of the levees is 64.6 miles. Combined, the projects reduce risk to approximately 111,700 acres. The levees included are: Wood River Levee, Chain of Rocks Levee, Metro East Sanitary District and Prairie du Pont and Fish Lake Levees.