The US Army Corps of Engineers has given the green light to start levee upgrades in the Metro East.
The Southwestern Illinois Flood Prevention District Council will start the first phase of levee construction next month.
The project supervisor for the council, Les Sterman, says the goal is to get the levees to a 100-year flood protection level by the end of 2014.
That would meet the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s accreditation standard.
"If we can’t get these levees accredited, well, a number of things will happen," said Sterman. "Flood insurance will become mandatory for property owners, home owners, small businesses. The area will be obviously a lot less attractive, property values will diminish. [We'll] likely see economic growth come to a halt, see some businesses move out.”
St. Louis District US Army Corps of Engineers civilian deputy Joe Kellett says the long-term goal is restore the levees to an even higher level of protection.
"In the interim however, they certainly want to meet the FEMA requirements so that when the FEMA maps do come out, that it will reflect the area as protected by a levee," Kellett said. "And the FEMA standard is the 100-year event."
Upgrading the five-levee system is expected to cost at least $160 million.