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Clock Ticking On Improvements To Metro East Levees

Brett Blume
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EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. (KMOX) -  Members of the St. Louis Metro East Levee Issues Alliance announced Tuesday that the $161 million project to upgrade levees protecting homes and businesses along the Mississippi River will begin in early June.

The improvements are essential to ensuring that the levee system continues to be FAME-certified.

Officials also released the official construction schedule showing work wrapping up by midnight on December 31, 2014.

“We trust the Flood Prevention District Council will do everything necessary to move this project forward and we’re pleased to hear the Corps’ public commitment that this is the District’s number one priority,” said Rich Conner, president of the Leadership Council Southwestern Illinois.

To hold their own feet to the fire and keep the public updated on their progress, the Alliance also activated a Countdown to Completion Clock on its website at www.stlmetroeastlevees.org.

It currently reads 974 days and change until the 12/31/14 deadline.

img 5466 Clock Ticking On Improvements To Metro East Levees

KMOX/Brett Blume

“Any delays in the project will cause the clock to stop and the number of additional days that may be needed will be added to the schedule,” Conner explained.

The ultimate goal is to gain certification for levees that protect the homes of 156,000 residents and companies employing 55,000 workers.

“There are major industries here: ConocoPhillips, U.S. Steel, Solutia, and so many others of national significance that we have to protect,” noted Les Sterman, Chief Supervisor for the Southwestern Illinois Flood Protection District. “That’s fifty-plus thousand jobs here, I mean that’s a huge, huge number.”

When it comes to certification of the levees, few understand what’s at stake better than John Hamm, mayor of Madison Illinois.

“If (the levees) don’t get certified, people who are going to want to invest millions of dollars in the community are not going to do that,” Hamm warned. “They can’t take the chance.”

He’s happier about the impact on the economy that next month’s start of the levee project will have on the entire region, Madison included.

“Over one-thousand jobs are being created as we speak,” he said, pointing out that the actual work gets underway in early June.

A condensed copy of the schedule for levee repairs is now available on the Alliance’s website, www.stlmetroeastlevees.org, visually depicting key milestone dates for the various bid packages that will be worked on over the next two and a half years to bring the levees up to the new federal standards.

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