St. LOUIS, Mo. (IRN/KMOX) – A Southwestern Illinois flood protection district is about to spend millions of dollars to shore up a levee system deemed sub-standard by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Les Sterman, chief superintendent of construction for the southwestern Illinois Flood Prevention District, says FEMA’s labeling of the levee system as sub-standard has made St. Clair, Madison and Monroe counties relatively unpopular places to locate or expand a business. That’s why the district will use tax money to shore up the system.
“We won’t be scaring investors away from this area as we have been for the past couple of years because of these allegations that the flood protection system isn’t adequate or safe,” says Sterman. “These systems can always be made better and stronger and safer and we’ve already made the commitment to make the investment, and we will do that.”
Sterman says the 74 miles of levees running along the Mississippi River in Madison, St. Clair and Monroe counties are tall enough to withstand a 100 year, or even 500 year flood. But he admits the system might have other problems.
“The issue is more under seepage in a high water event, the water pressure from the heighten elevation of the Mississippi River would create a tunneling effect under the levees resulting in what’s commonly;y known as sand-boils on the land side of the levee.”
Sterman says improvements made to southwestern Illinois’ levee system won’t adversely affect other river towns up or down stream because there won’t be any new levees built.
“All we’re doing is restoring the function of this levee system that’s existed since the 1940s, we’re not actually impacting anyone else, this is just restoring what’s already there.”
Sterman says construction could begin next year on the $151 million project, which will be paid for entirely through a quarter percent flood mitigation sales tax, approved two years ago.