Friday, September 2, 2011

Blunt visits floodway, meets with Corps, farmers

CHARLESTON, MO (KRCU) - Army Corps of Engineers officials and Mississippi County farmers met with Senator Roy Blunt Thursday to discuss the restoration of the Birds Point-New Madrid floodway.

The Corps is currently building a temporary levee to 51 feet - more than eleven feet lower than the original levee that was detonated in May to relieve massive flooding on the Mississippi River.

Senator Blunt visited the 170 thousand acre floodway and wants the federal government to fulfill its obligation to Southeast Missouri farmers.

"Hopefully we’re going to reach a good common sense solution here that does what the federal government is now required to do, which is to restore the protection level to where it was before the Corps exercised the half of the plan that takes it down," Blunt said. "The other half of the plan is you have to put it back up."

Blunt says Washington must meet its obligations in Mississippi County. He added that he requested a study to investigate if some federally-declared disasters are only declared as such for political reasons.

"I believe that the federal government has to step in, and has long been committed to step in, in areas where the federal government decides to create the problem," Blunt said. "And such as the federal levees or the federal flood plan, all of that that has been the responsibility of the federal government for a long time."

Farmers argued the Corps ignores local input. Many urged the Corps to rebuild the levee to its original 62-and-a-half feet and to include a concrete spillway at 60 feet.

Mississippi County Presiding Commissioner Carlin Bennett called the spillway approach a common sense solution that would save taxpayer money and provide floodway farmers with equal protection.

"That way you get natural overtopping," Bennett said. "You would get quite a bit of water coming in to the system when needed, when the river needs relief. But the second the river no longer needed the relief the water would stop dumping in because it would drop down below the level of that concrete spillway."

Bennett says the spillway option is the consensus choice for Mississippi County farmers.

Ed Marshall farms the floodway and is the president of Levee District Number 3. He's onboard with the spillway option.

"I think that’s a whole lot better deal than putting dynamite in a levee that you blow up and it costs 35 million dollars to put the levee back," Marshall said. "Not to mention the dirt, the farmers, the roads, the infrastructure, everything that is completely demolished. You know, I think it’s crazy."

Corps officials say the spillway plan is under consideration. They say the levee will be rebuilt to its original 62 feet when adequate funding is released. The temporary levee will be complete by November 16.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU


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