U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and U.S. Congressman Jerry Costello (D-IL) today held a meeting with Assistant Secretary of the Army Corps of Engineers, Jo-Ellen Darcy, commander of the St. Louis District, Colonel Christopher Hall, and the head of the Southwestern Illinois Flood Prevention District Council, Les Sterman, to discuss streamlining the review process for the Metro East levee project. The Army Corps pledged their continued commitment to the project, and will nominate the planned improvements to the flood prevention systems in the Metro East for expedited review. A representative from U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL)'s office also attended the meeting.
"By recommending this project for expedited review, Assistant Secretary Darcy confirms that the Metro East levee project is one of national significance. I am confident that the Army Corps of Engineers is committed to working with Metro East communities to upgrade the levee system as quickly and as cost-effectively as possible," said Durbin. "I will continue to work in Washington with Congressmen Costello and Shimkus and Senator Kirk to help avoid any future delays for this important project."
"We had a productive meeting today and Assistant Secretary Darcy pledged to find ways to ensure this project stays on schedule. There was an informative exchange regarding some of the roadblocks that continue to exist and how to address them. While nominating the project for expedited executive branch review is a very positive step, we will continue to work to make the current process is effective," said Costello.
"Fast tracking the Metro East levee system project is important not only for public safety, but also acknowledges the Southwestern Illinois Flood Prevention District's innovative approach for the planned improvements," said a spokesperson for Senator Kirk. "The Corps' recognition of the project's importance underscores the need for a timely review process."
Earlier this month, Durbin, Kirk, Costello and U.S. Congressman John Shimkus (R-IL) sent a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers asking them to recommend including the Metro East levee system repair project in the list of projects to be considered by the President for expedited review. A recent Executive Order, "Improving Performance of Federal Permitting and Review of Infrastructure Projects," creates a Steering Committee that will work to streamline federal permitting and review processes affecting important projects across the country. The President's Executive Order also calls on certain executive agencies to submit projects of national or regional significance to the Steering Committee so their status can be tracked on a new online Projects Dashboard.
The Metro East levee system reduces flood risk for approximately 260,000 residents and $4.6 billion in industrial, commercial, and residential property along the Mississippi River. The Metro East levee project needs approximately $170 million to repair and strengthen the five levees comprising the system. Key Army Corps officials support the much-needed repair and upgrade work on this levee system. Major General John W. Peabody, commander of the Mississippi Valley Division, and Colonel Christopher G. Hall, commander of the St. Louis District, consider strengthening the system their top priority in the St. Louis District. General Peabody believes that the importance of a stronger Metro East levee system will be realized not only through the significantly increased safety of those living and working behind the levee system, but also through the system's use as a model for future levee improvements across the country.