Next time, the US Army Corps of Engineers might allow farmland to be flooded, on purpose.

The Corps has devised a plan to prevent the massive flooding that took out cities and towns, wiped out crops and devastated the upper Mississippi River earlier this year. The plan would cost $3.7 billion. It would have to be approved and funded by Congress to take effect.

The plan would construct stronger and higher levees to protect the cities along the upper Mississippi. It also would buy out farmland that would be allowed to flood during high water to take pressure off the levees. Farmers would have to be willing to sell. The farm could be used to grow crops during dry years.

A spokesman for the Corps, Bob Anderson, says the Corps learned much after the great flood of 1993, a little more two years later during the flood of 1995 and even more this year. He says the main lesson brought home in dramatic fashion this year was to watch the Mississippi River tributaries more closely. Anderson says they swelled to a point that caused the Mississippi to rise much faster than anticipated. That made it difficult to know where to station volunteer sand-bagging crews to keep the river from overflowing into homes and businesses.

Anderson says the $3.7 billion price tag might seem steep, but is worth it to prevent the widespread damage that occurred this year. Flooding along the Mississippi in Iowa, Illinois and northeast Missouri caused $15 billion in damage, nearly as much damage as caused by the great flood of 1993.

Anderson reaches even farther back in history to make the case for the investment. He points out that extensive work along the lower Mississippi basin took place after the great flood of 1927, which killed 500 people. Anderson says that tragedy woke up Congress to the danger extreme flooding posed. 

Download/listen Brent Martin reports (:60 MP3)