Floodwater levels in the tiny community of Cairo, Ill. (pop. 2,800) have dropped a few feet, but at the cost of more than 130,000 acres of land in Southeast Missouri and almost 100 homes.
Southeast Missouri Congresswoman Jo Ann Emerson says she does not support the actions the Army Corps of Engineering has taken, which was to blow out two portions of the Birds Point Levee at New Madrid. Residents say the blasts were felt up to 60 miles away.
“I’m heartbroken and it’s just devastating,” she says. “I don’t agree with what the Corps has decided to do. We, number one, had no idea if it’s going to have a long term affect, and on one hand they’re telling us ‘Well, the river’s going to go down and then come back up again.’ And I’m thinking ‘So you’ve ruined the lives and livelihoods of several hundred people in my district, not the least of which are homes that have floated away, or will be completely destroyed,” rich, fertice agricultural farmland and businesses in the area that rely on those farms and homes.
Gov. Nixon has been talking with authorities in Southeast Missouri communities and surveying the damage. He calls the flooding “dramatic” and says prime farmland is now under 15 feet of running water. He’s working with officials to keep Missourians safe and says he wants the land restored as quickly as possible. Both Nixon and Emerson are working with federal agencies to reimburse farmers for what looks to be a lost season for crops.
“This is the most water that’s been to the central part of this continent since we’ve been keeping records,” Nixon says. “Many, many acres will out of use for many months.”
It could be late July or August before that land is dry again. Farmers say even then, the land could be unusable for quite some time. About 25 have filed a lawsuit against the Corps, says they took land without paying for it. The Corps says lowage easements allowed the breach.
Areas in Southeast Missouri have gotten 20 inches of water in 11 days.
The Corps plans to execute its third blast this evening around 9 p.m.