FEMA

(St. Louis Public Radio)

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is giving a reprieve to southwestern Illinois and other U.S. areas guarded by levees it was to have deemed functionally useless.

FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate told federal lawmakers Thursday that the agency would hold off on decertifying 64 miles of earthen levees protecting St. Louis' Illinois suburbs.

Fugate says the agency would stop using a questioned assessment technique and turn to a more nuanced measure of the actual protection the levees provide.

Some scientists say risks of another major earthquake from the New Madrid fault are minimal.

But FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate insists the threat to the St. Louis region is real.

FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate says homes and businesses in the Mississippi River floodplain may need flood insurance, even if they are protected by a levee.

Last week senators from Missouri, Illinois and 16 other states sent a letter to Administrator Fugate.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon formally requested federal aid for victims of the New Year's Eve tornadoes that hit several areas of the state - but that request has been denied.

The case of three southwestern Illinois counties suing to block the U.S. government from declaring the region's levees functionally useless could be headed for trial in a federal court this spring.

A judge has scheduled the trial to begin April 16 in Benton on the lawsuit the counties filed in November over the mapping change that Madison, St. Clair and Monroe counties say could saddle thousands of property owners with higher, unaffordable insurance rates.

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