Metro East levees

(Maria Altman, St. Louis Public Radio)

An 86-mile stretch of levees along the Mississippi River was a source of hand-wringing from Alton to Columbia, Illinois, back in 2007.

Now local officials speak with pride about the work to improve the levee system.

(Véronique LaCapra/St. Louis Public Radio)

Upgrading the Metro East’s aging levees is finally on Washington’s radar, according to officials with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Yet they warn that the push for more federal funding must continue if the Corps hopes to bring the levees back to 500 year flood protection standards by 2021. That's the Corps’ latest projection for completing the work.

(Véronique LaCapra/St. Louis Public Radio)

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is holding open houses Wednesday and Thursday evenings to discuss federal levee projects in the Metro East.

The Corps says it’s spent $134 million in federal money for upgrading the levees and more projects are underway.

Yet some in the Metro East worry the Corps may not move fast enough.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Since his election in 2005, Granite City Mayor Ed Hagnauer has helped steer his community of about 30,000 through some trying times.

In July 2006, severe storms battered Granite City, downing trees and power lines and leaving hundreds of residents without electricity for a week. An ice storm the following November again left many in the community in the dark. But no one was injured or killed, and the city worked with Granite City Township officials to set up emergency generators in cooling and heating shelters.