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Corps outlines possible repair strategies for Wood River levee

By Rachel Lippmann, St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis – Officials with the US Army Corps of Engineers say they could decide next week how to repair a Metro East levee.

Leaks are pulling material from the levee near the Melvin Price Lock and Dam in East Alton, weakening the structure. There is no imminent threat of failure, but the Corps says the repairs are urgently needed.

Corps officials outlined the options to elected officials at a meeting Tuesday. Most seemed to prefer the construction of a concrete cutoff wall down the center of the levee, said the Corps' Christopher Wilson, who is overseeing the repairs for the agency.

"Dollar for dollar it's more expensive to build the cutoff wall than it is the seepage berm, but we'd have to basically go out and purchase land someplace else in the region and basically establish a wetland tor replace the wetland we're going to be filling in with sand," Wilson said. The cutoff wall would also reduce maintenance costs by eliminating the need for relief wells.

The federal government will pay for the permanent repairs to the levee, which are expected to cost about $30 million.

The Corps has also devised a strategy to preserve the levee in case of a flood, Wilson said. The agency will use a variety of methods to pond water behind the levee if the Mississippi River starts to rise.

"What it's preventing is the high pressure conditions that result in material being pulled out from underneath the levee," Wilson said. Though failure is not imminent, the Corps is concerned about the consequences of a flood.

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