Army engineers blast Missouri levee to save town

Chad Sutton, 12, looks over a levee wall holding back floodwaters in Cairo, Ill.

UPDATED REPORT

STEVE CHIOTAKIS: Historic flooding on the Mississippi River is threatening areas in Ill. and Ky. But officials hope the actions by the Army Corps of Engineers, which blew a hole in a Mo. levee, was enough to divert floodwaters away from those towns. Farmers in Mo. worry that diversion could do them lots of harm.

Marketplace's Nancy Marshall Genzer is with us and has the details. Good morning Nancy.

NANCY MARSHALL GENZER: Good morning.

CHIOTAKIS: Why are farmers so anxious about this?

GENZER: Well, Steve they're worried their farmland will be flooded. In fact some Mo. farmers went all the way to the Supreme Court in an effort to stop the Corps. They obviously failed. Now they're watching land that, in some cases, has been farmed by the same family for a hundred years, be flooded.

I talked to Carlin Bennett. He's a county commissioner in Mississippi County, Mo. He says the farmland will be damaged permanently.

CARLIN BENNETT: You have some of the riches farmland in the world that is probably now going to be covered in between 6 and 10 foot of river sand. And of course that will make that ground unusable forever probably.

And Steve, Bennet says the intentional flooding by the Corps will cause at least $300 million worth of damage.

CHIOTAKIS: What would've happened, Nancy, if the Corps didn't do this?

GENZER: Well that's the crux of the issue here. Several towns in Ill. and Ky. could have been inundated with floodwaters, damaging homes and maybe risking lives. One of the towns the Corps is hoping to save is Cairo, Ill. It's home to 2,800 people. But the farmers back in Mo. had argued there's no guarantee the Corps' plan to save the towns will work. The Corps say it had no choice. The Mississippi River hasn't risen this high since 1927.

CHIOTAKIS: Marketplace's Nancy Marshall Genzer in Washington for us. Nancy, thanks.

GENZER: You're welcome.


ORIGINAL REPORT

JEREMY HOBSON: The Army Corps of Engineers blew a hole in a Mo. levee last night. The Corps is diverting the rising Mississippi River onto prime farmland in an effort to save towns in Ill. and Ky.

Marketplace's Nancy Marshall Genzer joins us now live with more on this story. Good morning, Nancy.

NANCY MARSHALL GENZER: Good morning Jeremy.

HOBSON: Well, it looks like this is going to have some big consequences on farmers.

GENZER: Yeah, Jeremy they're not too happy. In fact some Missouri farmers went all the way to the Supreme Court in an effort to stop the Corps. They obviously failed. Now they're watching land that, in some cases, has been farmed by the same family for a hundred years, be flooded.

Chris Koster is the Attorney General of Mo.

CHRIS KOSTER: When that Mississippi comes in, it's going to leave feet of sand on top of good farm soil right now and will pretty much just wipe out this farm soil for the foreseeable future.

And Jeremy, one county commissioner in Mo. estimates the flooding will cause $1 billion in property damage. About a hundred homes are expected to be destroyed by this intentional flooding.

HOBSON: But Nancy, I gather the Corps did this to avoid even bigger problems down river.

GENZER: Yeah, and that's the crux of the issue. Several towns in Ill. and Ky. could have been inundated with flood waters, damaging homes and maybe risking lives. One of the towns the Corps is hoping to save is Cairo, Ill. It's home to 2,800 people. But the farmers back in Mo. had argued there's no guarantee the Corps' plan to save the towns will work. They still says the hole in the levee may not divert enough water to keep the towns from flooding. The Corps say it had no choice. The Mississippi River hasn't risen this high since 1927.

HOBSON: Marketplace's Nancy Marshall Genzer in Washington, thanks.

GENZER: You're welcome.

About the author

Nancy Marshall-Genzer is a senior reporter for Marketplace based in Washington, D.C. covering daily news.

Comments

I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
With Generous Support From...