METRO EAST (KMOX) – Nearly eight years after FEMA threatened to de-accredit 74 miles of levees protecting three metro east counties, the upgraded system has passed its toughest test with flying colors.
“All the projects that we’ve completed towards the 100-year accreditation performed as designed,” says Chuck Etwert, with the Southwestern Illinois Flood Prevention District Council.
Etwert tells KMOX the sixth largest flood on record was held at bay, thanks to the $71 million worth of improvements done so far.
“We built some deep cut-off walls. Shallow cut-off walls. Seepage berms. Relief wells. Everything we did was to prevent seepage either through the levee or underneath the levee.”
The district still has $3.5 million dollars of work to complete.
“We have about a two-mile stretch of clay cap that has to be along the river-side of a portion of the levee. We have, I think, about a half-a-dozen relief wells that still need to be completed. Then we have a 126-inch sewer in East St. Louis that has be relined, because it was leaking,” Etwert says.
Crews are waiting for the water to recede to finish the job.
Without the improvements, FEMA was prepared to declare on future flood maps that the levees between Alton and Columbia did not exist, which would have triggered skyrocketing flood insurance rates for homes and businesses behind the levees.
The work is being funded with a 1/4 percent sales tax in Madison, St. Clair and Monroe counties.
Etwert says they hope to get the work done by September, and then submit the necessary paperwork to FEMA around the first of the year. He hopes the levees will be certified by the end of 2018.