Metro East levees | St. Louis Public Radio

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.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: WASHINGTON – With the price of flood insurance on the rise and climate change likely to worsen Midwest flooding, a scientific panel wants federal emergency officials to modernize the outmoded tools used to analyze the probability and impact of floods.

Such a change, if adopted by FEMA, could have major consequences in Missouri and Illinois, where debates over flood insurance, FEMA flood mapping, and flood damage from the Mississippi and Missouri rivers have dominated much of the discussion in the Metro East and other low-lying regions.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, March 11, 2011 - WASHINGTON - Federal officials have agreed to take uncertified levees into account when they update flood insurance maps -- a victory for levee districts in the Metro East area and for lawmakers representing states along the lower Mississippi River. The decision by Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Commissioner Craig Fugate, announced Thursday by Illinois' U.S. senators, would stop the practice of FEMA flood-plain modelers designating areas as "without levee" to simplify mapping if the levee in question needs to be repaired or recertified.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 16, 2011 - WASHINGTON - Fearing that the budget-cutting wave in Congress might damage federal support for levee improvements, a bipartisan group of Illinois lawmakers is urging the White House to include levees in the proposed infrastructure plans.

"Protecting our communities from floods is a bipartisan issue, and we are working together in Illinois to address the substantial levee repair and maintenance needs our state faces," the legislators wrote to President Barack Obama, a fellow Illinoisan.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 4, 2011 - WASHINGTON - When is a levee not considered to be a levee? When flood-plain modelers for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) designate an area as "without levee" to simplify mapping - often because the levee in question needs to be repaired or recertified.

This week, all four U.S. senators from Illinois and Missouri - joined by at least 23 other senators from other states - asked FEMA to stop using that "without levee" designation and acknowledge the existence of the levees in the Metro East area and other levees under repair when mapping flood plains.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 17, 2010 - WASHINGTON - When history students at Shawnee High School in Wolf Lake, Ill., asked their representative to talk about a current event -- the state of levees and flood mapping along the Mississippi River -- they got an unexpected response: an important "Southern Illinois Levee Summit" to be held at their school.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 7, 2010 - 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.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, April 24, 2009 - Last summer, the Mississippi River flooded, overwhelming earthen levees along its banks. Spring showers and the anticipated revision of a federally drawn flood map refocus attention on the health of the protective structures that safeguard area homes and businesses within the river's reach.