Lawmakers ask to speed levee upgrade process

Belleville News-Democrat

Federal lawmakers representing the metro-east on Friday asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to speed up the approval process for upgrades to the region's flood protection levees.

U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Springfield, and Mark Kirk, R-Highland Park, and U.S. Reps. Jerry Costello, D-Belleville, and John Shimkus, R-Collinsville made their request to Jo-Ellen Darcy, assistant secretary of the Army.

The federal lawmakers hope to discuss this request in a meeting with Darcy as soon as possible.

They made their request one day after meeting with Les Sterman, the chief engineer for the Southwestern Illinois Flood Prevention District Council, in Collinsville.

"We, along with the people in metro-east, are eager to ensure the safety of all the people, homes, and properties in Southwestern Illinois," the Illinois members wrote to Darcy in a letter released Friday.

Last month, the council released a 5-year, $161 million plan to upgrade the levee systems in Madison, St. Clair and Monroe counties to the 100-year flood protection standard.

The upgrade would shield the region in the event of a major flood and prevent 150,000 property owners from paying higher insurance premiums when new Federal Emergency Management Agency flood maps from taking effect.

Approval by the corps is required for work on the levees to move forward.