Federal government further delays rollout of new Metro East flood maps
By Rachel Lippmann, St. Louis Public Radio.
East St. Louis, Ill – The Federal Emergency Management Agency has again delayed issuing new flood maps for the Metro East.
FEMA had already delayed the release of the maps until January. Now, they will not be released until the end of 2011.
The delay gives the agency time to complete an additional scientific review of the maps, which classify much of the Metro East as a high-risk flood area. That declaration would force thousands of business and homeowners to purchase expensive flood insurance.
The Metro East is one of several regions that have complained about the data used to draft the new maps, but that's not the reason the agency is for the first time introducing this scientific review, said Suzanne Vermeer, a civil engineer in charge of Illinois mapping projects.
"This is something that we've decided to do to allow another step in the process that gives communities an extra opportunity to discuss FEMA's findings with an independent group," she said.
Counties in the Metro East will continue to collect a sales tax that will fund levee repairs, said Les Sterman, the director of the Southwest Illinois Flood Prevention District Council. The system does need upgrades, he said.
"Regardless of the outcome of the scientific panel, six months is six months, that people won't have to pay mandatory flood insurance payments and six months we have to firm up our plans to actually make the necessary levee improvements," Sterman said.
The scientific panel will function as an appeals court of sorts for appeals that several Metro East property owners have already filed over the maps, but Sterman said he expects to end up in court with FEMA over the process used to draw the maps.
Legislation pending in the U.S. Senate would delay the implementation of the flood maps until FEMA answers questions about the data and process. A spokesman for Jerry Costello, a key supporter, said while the announced delay is good news, the Belleville Democrat will continue to push for its passage.