The mayor of a small southeast Missouri community devastated by last year’s floods says he and his people were victims of the state transportation department.
Morehouse was a town of about one-thousand people in the bootheel when a levee to the north was breached last spring. Mayor Pete Leija says nobody notified him that floodwater was on the way. He scrambled to evacuate people from a low-income housing unit but had no time to warn many others who lost their homes.
Then something else happened without telling the city of Morehouse it was going to be done.
Leija says the Department of Transportation moved in at night and in the next seven hours built a levee to protect Highway 60, trapping the water flooding Morehouse from the north. He says MODOT never notified him of what it was doing. He tells legislative committees of the House and the Senate, “In our government agencies, who’s the individual that has the right to decide that the homes of these people…that a highway is far more important than that? Those people are there looking at me, saying ‘why’?”
Leija says forty percent of his town would have flooded without MODOT’s levee. But the department’s actions left his town eighty percent flooded.
Seventy-five houses have been demolished in Morehouse since the flood. The mayor says Morehouse still has not gotten back to the population it had a year ago.