The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says “Out of concern for public safety and due to continued rising of river, holes will be blown in to Birds Point Levee.”
The Mississippi River Commission says it’s coordinated with the Coast Guard and FAA to shut down navigation in that area and are working closely with the National Guard.
“We expect to execute the project between 9:00 p.m and midnight tonight,” says Col. Reichling. “We have worked extensively with the Mississippi County authorities.”
“This does not end this historic flood,” the Corps continues. General Michael Walsh adds that “This is the right time to operate the floodway. The stress on the system is continuing. We need to operate floodway as soon we’re ready.”
The Mississippi River gauge at Cairo, Ill., says the river is now at 61 feet and is expected to be at 63 by Wednesday. The highest on record is just over 59 feet, which was during the flood of 1927.
Plans to possibly blow the levee last night were halted when heavy rainfall accompanied by lots of lightning made loading the levee with charge unsafe.
“Safety is our number one priority. And that was the main reason we stood down operations last night during lightning storms,” the Corps says.
While taking the pressure off of the small community of Cairo, blowing the levee will likely devastate 130,000 acres of prime Missouri farmland.
“One week ago, I activated the Missouri National Guard to protect lives and property in southern and southeast Missouri because of forecasts of historic flooding in that region,” Gov. Nixon says. “In recent days, rainfall has exceeded those initial forecasts, and Missourians are coping with record river levels along parts of the Mississippi. Today, more than 760 Citizen-Soldiers of the Missouri National Guard are on the ground in southeast Missouri. In cooperation with state, county and local law enforcement, they have evacuated the Birds Point-New Madrid floodway and continue to provide protection for the property families have left behind. I appreciate the tireless and professional efforts of all men and women of the Missouri National Guard, the Missouri State Highway Patrol and local agencies who are working long hours to complete their missions.”
“As we have throughout this historic flooding, the State of Missouri will continue to provide resources and personnel to protect the people of the Bootheel. We have boots on the ground. We are prepared. And southeast Missouri will move forward again,” Nixon says.
Earlier, Attorney General asked the United States Supreme Court to overturn an order from the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit that had allowed the corps to proceed with the operation. Meanwhile, Gen. Walsh ordered two barges carrying 265 tons of explosives into place.
Nick Boone, a mechanical engineer leading the blasting team, says, “On this upper end, it’s going to look like a waterfall. It’s an instant removal, and that’s the whole point — instant relief of the entire system.”
Blowing the levee came down to weighing the interests of about 200 people living in the floodway on the Missouri side of the river, and those of the residents of Cairo, a small town of 3,000 people on a wedge of land between the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.
Congresswoman Jo Ann Emerson represents Southeast Missouri. Obviously, she’s disappointed with the decision to compromise the levee.
Emerson says breaching the levee “puts residents’ lives and livelihoods at unacceptable risk.”
“The New Madrid floodway is not a failsafe for the rest of the Mississippi River Basin,” she says. “The likelihood of dramatic flooding at other points along the river has not been changed by the decision today, but opening the floodway guarantees that the people living and working in the New Madrid floodway will suffer. We have a long, long road ahead of us. The certain damage to homes, buildings and productive farmland will take years to undo. I have high expectations that the Corps go above and beyond to aid the recovery effort for the people and communities affected by this disaster.”
Missourians who need disaster information, shelter information or referrals are urged to call 211. The 211 service number is now available for most areas in Missouri. In areas where the 211 number is not operational, citizens can call 800-427-4626. Weather and emergency information also are available on the state of Missouri’s website, www.Mo.Gov.
Ag interests say:
Flooded farmlandland in Missouri could potentially be a $77.6 million loss, based on new crop prices and average yields from the 2010 crop. USDA’s reported yields for Mississippi County, Missouri was 148 bushel average for corn, 41 bushel average for soybeans, and 62 bushel average for wheat. With new crop wheat bids of $7.87 at Cargill in Sikeston, new crop corn bid of $6.20 at Buchheit in Morehouse, and $13.43 for new beans at Cargill in Sikeston, potential crop loss value on 132,000 acres of farmland with c-s-w rotation would exceed $77 million.