After months of joint meetings between the Flood Prevention District Council and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the levee improvement project is once again moving forward.
The project had been stalled since July 2012 when we learned that the original project schedule had already been delayed due to extensive design modifications the Corps was requesting related to the use of graded filters. This revelation resulted in the Levee Issues Alliance stopping the Countdown Clock activated on its website earlier that summer to track the project’s progress, in order to assess the extent and ramifications of the delays. At the Sept. 19th FPD Council meeting, we learned that the project team had come up with an alternative, more conventional project design that calls for the use of more relief wells and cutoff wells in the place of the controversial graded filters. The lack of consensus on the original design approach stemmed from the fact that the FPD Council designs are focused on reaching the FEMA-required 100-year flood protection mark, which will provide better protection than exists today and can be locally funded and completed by 2015, while the Corps’ ultimate goal is to improve the levees to the 500-year standard, a project they don’t currently have the funding to do.
The LIA has been meeting regularly with the FPD Council and the Corps of Engineers in an effort to gain the Corps’ approval on this alternative design plan and schedule and determine the final path forward for the work to continue on the locally funded project that will improve the levees to the 100-year flood protection level.
Major issues have now been resolved for the FPD Council’s bid package #2a, which is made up of a small pump station in the Fish Lake district, and a formal approval from the Corps is expected, as is approval of the 401 permit by the Illinois EPA. More importantly, a new project schedule has been finalized and agreed to by both parties. At the meeting facilitated the week of Jan. 20, 2013, by the Levee Issues Alliance, the Corps and the FPD Council committed to meeting the deadlines set forth for review and approval of each phase, so the required permits can be issued in time to meet the revised project completion date on our around January 20, 2015.
With news of this agreement, the Levee Issues Alliance reactivated the Countdown Clock and reaffirmed that it will continue to serve in a watchdog capacity and sound the alarm if it appears the project schedule is being threatened.
While FEMA now acknowledges that area levees are accredited as providing adequate flood protection (see the Milestones link below for details on the lawsuit that led to this pronouncement), the Agency is back at the drawing board working to revamp its re-mapping processes and intends to issue new maps at some point in the future. The Levee Issues Alliance remains committed to doing what it can to help ensure the levee improvement project stays on track and the levees can be re-accredited by FEMA in 2015.
For all the latest updates, visit www.floodpreventiondistrict.org.
(Last updated February 25, 2013)