Southwestern Illinois Flood Prevention District Council
The Southwestern Illinois Flood Prevention District Council (FPD Council) was formed in July 2009 by Madison, Monroe and St. Clair counties in direct response to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) announcement of its intention to deaccredit the 74-mile levee system protecting the St. Louis Metro East region.
FEMA’s decision would effectively designate substantial portions of the American Bottom area of Southwestern Illinois as a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) on new flood insurance rate maps, with devastating economic impact on our region. Recognizing the urgency of this situation, regional leaders successfully sought authorization from the Illinois General Assembly to impose a ¼ percent sales tax to pay for any necessary improvements to the levee system and created independent Flood Prevention Districts (FPDs) within each county with the authority to collect the tax.
The FPD Council was formed by the three county FPDs as a joint venture to oversee the improvement of the Metro East levee systems so they can continue to protect the lives, property and the economic vitality of the St. Louis Metro East region.
The Council’s website is a good place to keep up with the project. The News and Commentary section shown below discusses the latest developments on the project and related issues in the Metro-East (older posts are shown in the project blog located on the left side of the homepage . The document center page is a portal to the latest materials that are distributed at FPD Board meetings, important correspondence and other useful documents.
Latest News and Commentary
Council Decides to Build Major Project Designed by the Corps
At its meeting on November 20, the Council’s Board of Directors voted unanimously to assume the responsibility for building a “cutoff wall” in the Wood River area that is being designed by the Corps of Engineers. A cutoff wall is a trench adjacent to the levee filled with a concrete-like material, designed to block underseepage during periods of high water. The Council had previously finished the design of the project, but a recent federal appropriation for the project, and the lengthy and unpredictable course of the review of the design by the Corps made it advantageous for the Corps to design and possibly build the project. The Council would pay for about 35% of the cost of the project to match federal funds. However, the Corps was unwilling to comply with the Council’s policies regarding use of the local workforce, and was unable to make a binding commitment to a budget and schedule. Also worthy of note is that work done under contract to the Council is typically costing far less than similar work done by the Corps. The Council has the money from the local sales tax to build the project. These and other factors convinced the Board that the area is best served if federal funds are not used on construction. Although there will be initial delays as our own engineers take responsibility for the final design and an additional Corps review (yes, oddly enough the Corps must do a review of its own design!) there will be more schedule and cost certainty with local control of the project, and the local economic impact will be far greater.
Council Signs Contracts for Two Major Construction Projects and Issues Invitation to Bid for Three More (updated)
Today, the Council signed contracts with Korte Luitjohan from Highland Illinois to build a pump station in the Fish Lake Levee and Drainage District and with Lane Construction from Shorewood, Illinois to build berms, relief wells and other related infrastructure to control underseepage in the Fish Lake and Prairie DuPont districts. Total cost of this work is over $13 million. At its meeting on October 16, the Council also approved awarding a third contract to build five new pump stations along the levee system in Monroe, St. Clair, and Madison counties. And over the past week the Council issued three more invitations to bid on major construction projects (see sidebar “bid documents” below for details). All of this signals that the project is entering a new phase. Design and permitting are nearly complete and construction is underway. While there have been some delays, the Council is still optimistic that work can be completed by late 2015.
Request for Qualifications for Quality Control, Materials Testing, and Inspection
As we prepare for the start of construction, the Council is seeking firms to do independent, third-party quality control for construction materials. A request for qualifications with information on this solicitation is now available by clicking on the title in the bid documents sidebar on the left side of our home page. The deadline for submission of statements of qualifications is June 28, 2013 at 5:00 pm local time.
Council Submits Comments to the Corps of Engineers on the Use of Project Labor Agreements
On May 8, the Council submitted formal comments to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers regarding the use of a Project Labor Agreement on the proposed project to construct a cutoff wall in the Wood River Drainage and Levee District. This project is expected to cost as much as $21 million and involves the construction of shallow and deep cutoff walls on the river side of the levee. The Council submitted comments documenting the basis for our strong support of the use of this pre-hire agreement with the Southwestern Illinois Building and Construction Trades Council. The agreement has been used successfully on hundreds of public and private construction projects in Metro-East and has been proven to reduce budget and schedule risks by eliminating work stoppages due to labor disputes, while improving management/labor harmony. The use of a Project Labor Agreement on the project has also been endorsed by Illinois Governor Quinn and members of our congressional delegation. A decision by the Corps is expected in early June.
Amendment to RFP for Diversity Program Management Services
On April 11, 2013 the Council issued a request for proposal from individuals or firms to serve as Diversity Program Manager for the levee improvement project. The RFP contained an incorrect due date for responses to the RFP. Proposals are due on Wednesday May 8, 2013 at 5:00 PM local time.
Council Advertises for Bids on First Major Levee Improvement Projects
The Council is advertising for bids from construction firms for the first two major projects that are part of the overall levee system improvement project. These projects are on the southern end of the levee system in Monroe and St. Clair counties and consist of constructing a pump station, relief wells, berms, clay caps and other underseepage control features. There will be a pre-bid conference at the Council’s offices on Friday, May 17, 2013 at 1:00 pm and bids publicly opened and read at 2:01 pm on June 11, 2013 at the same location. Further information, including instructions on obtaining the bid solicitation documents, is provided in the announcements available on the Bid Documents section on the left side of this homepage.
Corps of Engineers Calls for Comments on Use of Project Labor Agreement
The Council has adopted a policy requiring all contractors working on the levee improvement project to use project labor agreements. The PLA is a pre-hire collective bargaining agreement with one or more labor organizations that establishes the terms and conditions of employment for a specific construction project. The advantages of the PLA is that it establishes uniform and fair compensation and working conditions for construction workers on the project, addresses jurisdictional and other disputes that might disrupt the project schedule, and it prohibits any work stoppages. Project Labor Agreements have been used successfully on nearly all major projects, public and private, in recent years in Southwestern Illinois. While we have committed to requiring a PLA on all work done under contract, our policy requires that a PLA be used by contractors employed by the Corps of Engineers for all projects partially funded with local tax money provided by the Council. There is no legal restriction limiting the use of PLAs on federally sponsored projects; in fact, the President has issued an Executive Order encouraging federal agencies to do so. However, the Corps has adopted internal guidance establishing procedures to be used in the contracting process if a PLA is to be considered. The first step in the process is to do a “market study” to solicit comments from the industry on the potential use of a PLA. On April 12 the Corps issued a notice soliciting comments. That notice can be found here. The Council encourages all interested parties to submit comments.
Council Seeks Proposals for Diversity Program Manager
One of the Council’s major goals is to provide local firms and workers with opportunities to work on the project. As part of our effort to meet that goal, the Council commissioned the preparation of a Minority Business and Workforce Utilization Plan. That Plan was completed by Marks and Associates and adopted by the Board of Directors in December 2012. The Plan called for the Council to engage a diversity program manager to engage and encourage minority businesses and workers to work on the project. The Council has now released a request-for-proposal for Diversity Program Manager services. The Plan is available on the Council’s website and can be downloaded here. The RFP for Diversity Program Manager for the project can be downloaded through the Bid Document section on the left side of our homepage.
Acquiring Property for the Project
While most of the improvements that are being made to the levee system are being done on property already owned by the affected levee districts, there will be some places where easements may be needed to get equipment and workers to the construction site or where a berm or relief well might need to be placed. In most cases, the owner of the current owner would be able to continue to use the property productively once the project is built. Indeed, the property may become more useful, since the overall objective is to significantly reduce the risk of flooding in the area behind the levee. In a very few cases, the Council may acquire property where it might be needed more permanently, such as for a pump station. We estimate that about 200 parcels may be affected overall.
If you do own property that will be affected by the construction of levee improvements, you can be expected to be contacted over the next few months by our representatives. The value of each parcel is being estimated by an independent team of highly qualified appraisers so that we can make fair offers to affected property owners. Our representatives will individually contact each property owner to begin negotiations.
The start of the property acquisition process is a sign that construction is imminent, which is good news. Because this project is so critical to public safety, to the area’s economy and to the interests of all property owners behind the levee, we hope that this process will go smoothly and provide a mutual benefit to all parties.
One of the most time consuming and often frustrating parts of a project like ours is the process of securing the necessary permits, permissions, and approvals from federal, state, and local governments prior to any construction taking place. Especially when working in environmentally sensitive areas and on facilities that serve a critical public safety function, every precaution is taken both to avoid lasting disruption and protect the public. There is a legally mandated role for the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to assure that water quality is not compromised. The Corps of Engineers has the primary oversight role on plans to mitigate any damage to wetlands. Lastly, the Corps of Engineers gives permission to make any alteration to a Federal levee.
On March 4 the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency issued the project a water quality certification under Sec. 401 of the federal Clean Water Act. It has taken over a year to secure this certification, which means that IEPA has come to the engineering judgment that “the proposed project may be completed without causing water pollution as defined in the Illinois Environmental Protection Act, provided that the project is carefully planned and supervised.”
On March 1, 2013, the Corps of Engineers granted a conditional permit under Sec. 404 of the federal Clean Water Act relating to the impacts of the project on wetlands. One major condition of this permit has now been met — the Sec. 401 water quality certification from the IEPA. The remaining major condition is the permission by the Corps of Engineers to make alterations to the Federal levee under the authority of Section 14 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 (33 U.S.C. Sec. 408).
In essence, now, the last major regulatory hurdle for the project rests with the Corps of Engineers and the Sec. 408 review process. This is a costly, labor and time-intensive process of engineering reviews that has been ongoing for many months. The review is being done in a segmented process, so that approvals can be granted over a period of time, allowing portions of the project to proceed more quickly. The first such approval has been granted (for a pump station in the Fish Lake Drainage and Levee District in Monroe County), and we expect more approvals during the coming months as the entire project is being reviewed.
We are working with our selected provider of wetland mitigation, Republic Services, to finalize the Wetland Mitigation Plan in accordance with the Sec. 404 permit, and to complete and negotiate our contract with them to fulfill the requirements of that plan. We selected Republic last February and have concluded negotiations on contract terms and conditions, but we are awaiting a revised price based on conditions imposed by the Corps as part of the conditional permit.
It has certainly taken longer than we hoped to get to this point, but we are clearly moving toward the day when construction can begin. With further regulatory progress, we hope that happens sometime this summer. The project remains on track for completion in 2015.