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Missouri legislators write Obama on levee plan

In letter to Obama, Missouri legislators express major concerns over possibility of Bootheel levee being blown to alleviate flooding farther north. Claim "known and unknown" risks "demand highest level of attention and accountability."

Missouri legislators have written to President Obama expressing concern over the potential for the Army Corps of Engineers to open the levee near Birds Point. To alleviate flooding around Cairo, Illinois, the Corps may blow a section of the levee and allow a large section of the Missouri Bootheel to go underwater.

The letter, sent on Wednesday, was signed by Senators Roy Blunt and Claire McCaskill and Rep. Jo Ann Emerson. It reads:  

“Dear Mr. President,

“As floodwaters rise in the Midwest as a consequence of near record rainfall, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) are preparing to activate the Birds Point-New Madrid Floodway Operations Plan. This plan, not used since 1937, is, in effect, untested under modern conditions. It is a severe alternative designed to blow the front-line levee and flood 130,000 productive acres of Mississippi County and New Madrid County, Missouri property to partially relieve main-stem river pressure. We are extremely concerned about the consequences of this action and strongly urge that alternative measures be identified.

“As you know, accumulated precipitation has the Ohio, Mississippi, and Missouri Rivers and tributaries at or exceeding flood stage simultaneously creating great danger of flood risk to people, property and the environment. Thus far, we believe the USACE have been diligent in their efforts to coordinate flood-fighting strategies but the magnitude of current risk requires that all agencies and available resources be on alert in preparation for the worst scenarios before us.

“Besides the predictable long-term destruction of property and the environment within the 130,000 acres that would be deliberately flooded, a secondary risk is the uncertainty associated with the Set Back Levee which, if inadequate, will unleash the flood water across (six) Missouri counties of the Missouri Bootheel area with a population over 75,000 in addition to as many as 10 Arkansas counties.

The known and unknown risks of blowing the levee and releasing over one-half million cubic feet per second are sufficient to demand the highest level of attention and accountability. The human evacuation alone would be a critical challenge to public officials as well as the extraordinary cost of post-disaster mitigation and repair and productive economic opportunity cost.”

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