Sunday, May 1, 2011

Gen. Walsh gives go ahead to pump explosives into Birds Point

MISSISSIPPI COUNTY, MO (KRCU) - The Army Corps of Engineers should make a decision soon about the fate of the Birds Point levee in southeast Missouri. The Corps is only one step away from detonation.

Major General Michael Walsh has a difficult decision to make: if he blow ups the Birds Point levee in Mississippi County, the river will flood 130,000 acres of farmland and displace about 200 people. But he will also ease pressure on flood walls and levees that are already pushed to the brink.

The Corps is pumping an explosive mixture into a two-mile section of the levee, located just south of the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. The river gauge at the evacuated town of Cairo, Illinois has already set a record, and is expected to crest at sixty-two-and-a-half feet on Tuesday.

The Cairo river gauge was at 60.8 feet as of 4 o’clock this morning.

General Walsh indicated that Tuesday’s crest will surpass the river level that triggers detonation of the levee.

"The operations order says 61 and rising. But again, it’s also tied to the system and making sure that the system is working tight," Walsh said.

The explosives should be in place by eleven o’clock this morning. General Walsh will then decide whether or not to proceed with the plan.

The Army of Corps of Engineers has been able to control some flooding on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers by reducing the outflow of water from several reservoirs, including Barkley and Kentucky Lakes.

However, General Walsh warns that the lakes are nearing capacity.

"At this point most of those reservoirs have reached the full amount of pool that they can handle and they will start releasing more flows in the next couple of days," he said.

This will add additional water to a Mississippi River system that is already at full capacity.

Governor Nixon toured the Birds Point levee with General Walsh yesterday, promising a quick return to agricultural production for the region.

"This is a dramatic, one-in-a-two-or-three-lifetime occurrence in which the greatest time in history ever measured more water is here than has ever been here," Nixon said.

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster asked the U-S Supreme Court to review decisions by the 8th District Court of Appeals and the Federal District Court that sought to block the levee breach. Justice Supreme Alito denied the request.

Nixon said his focus is no longer on litigation, but rather making sure that Mississippi County residents are safely removed from the affected area and the operation continues safely.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU


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