Mississippi County: One year after the breach
It’s been one year since the Army Corps of Engineers intentionally breached the Birds Point Levee in southeast Missouri.
Local television station WSILTV reports that a year later, wheat and corn are flourishing in some places. But in others, the land may never be farmable again, because the river cut deep crevices through the soil and washed it completely away. More than 130,000 acres of farmland ended up under water.
Mississippi County Presiding Commissioner Carlin Bennett told the station that farmers and county officials want to see the Corps of Engineers rebuild the levee back to 62.5 feet:
The breach holes currently sit at 55 feet. The Corps hopes to reach the magic number of 62.5 feet by the end of the year.
Corps officials maintain breaching the levee was the right decision, saying recently that the move prevented more than $110 billion in damage along the river system. In Mississippi County, not everyone understands that math. And while things are slowly returning to normal, Bennett believes the psychological impact of the breach will be much harder to repair.
"A lot of people never thought it really would happen," he said, "Well it did happen. So now you're going to always wonder, when will be the next time?"
Leaders say they're also in talks with the Army Corps of Engineers to see if a natural over-topping of the levee might be possible in the future, rather than blowing it up. They believe letting it happen naturally would help prevent further damage to the land in the spillway.
Sen. Roy Blunt criticized the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for its rebuilding pace, The Associated Press reported.
The Missouri Republican sent a letter to Maj. Gen. Meredith W.B. Temple, acting commander of the corps, urging fast restoration of the levee to its original height of 62.5 feet.
"One year after the Birds Point levee breach, it is simply unacceptable that full restoration still remains months away," Blunt said. "Flood protection for people and property should always be the primary goal in river policy. Our communities cannot return to normal until we fully restore what was lost and rebuild stronger."
Fortunately, river levels are unusually low this spring. The river level here is nearly 40 feet lower than it was a year ago, the AP said.