"Historic conditions" prompt Corps to activate levee plan - 14 News, WFIE, Evansville, Henderson, Owensboro

"Historic conditions" prompt Corps to activate levee plan

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A representative from the Army Corps of Engineers office in Memphis tells Heartland News "historic conditions on the river" prompted the Corps to activate the Birds Point-New Madrid Floodway Operations Plan. 

Jim Bodrun joined leaders from Mississippi County  and U.S. Representative Jo Ann Emerson at a meeting Tuesday afternoon in East Prairie to talk about the plan that could lead to the artificial breach of the levee that runs from New Madrid, MO to Cairo, IL.

"We're facing historic conditions on the river," Bodrun said.  "And the plan of operation of the floodway is part of our overall system of flood control works.  We have to get ready to operate it just in case it's needed."

Representative Emerson says the Corps should not intentionally break the levee, "no ifs, ands, or buts" and has vowed to do everything in her power to keep that from happening.

Tuesday, the Corps sent a towboat and barge from Memphis carrying the equipment that would be needed to artificially breach the levee.  Mississippi County Presiding Commissioner Carlin Bennett says that equipment had not yet arrived early Wednesday afternoon.

The final step of the plan would be the intentional breach of the levee at areas known as "fuse plugs".  Bennett tells Heartland News there are three fuse plugs; one at Birds Point, one at Dorena, and one at 34 Corner.  According to Bennett, a long metal pipe runs the length of the levee, and explosives would be placed into those pipes at the fuse plugs.  They would then be blown, he says, "south to north at different times".

"Our main concern right now is to be ready in case we're called on to operate the plan," Bodrun said.

The floodway is 35 miles long and varies from 4 to 12 miles in width. Its area comprises about 133,000 acres or 205 square miles of land.

The final stage of the plan cannot be activated unless and until the river rises above 61 feet at Cairo.  It is currently projected to crest at 60.5 feet May 1.

A representative from Emerson's office also tells Heartland News a 1986 revision of the FOP states the intention of the full plan is to allow a "natural overtopping of the upper fuse plug section prior to determining the necessity to crevasse the levee".

Attorney General Chris Koster and a state agency are suing to stop the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from destroying the levee in the Bootheel.

Koster says in a news release that he and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday asking a judge to stop the corps from intentionally breaching the levee at Birds Point in Mississippi County.

Koster says it would cause flooding of up to 130,000 acres of land. Governor. Jay Nixon is also opposed to the corps' plans.

Earlier Monday Governor. Jay Nixon issued a statement Monday regarding plans by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to intentionally breach the Birds Point levee along the Mississippi River:

"Earlier today, I mobilized the Missouri National Guard to respond to significant flooding across southern and southeastern Missouri, and waters across that region continue to rise. At this critical time, I have serious concerns about plans by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to intentionally breach the Birds Point levee along the Mississippi River near Mississippi and New Madrid counties. Intentionally breaching this levee would affect hundreds of Missouri families and pour a tremendous amount of water into 130,000 acres of prime farmland. As Missouri families deal with this dangerous flooding, intentionally breaching this levee would be a harmful and inappropriate action."

The Missouri Farm Bureau released a statement Tuesday against the plant to intentionally break the levee.

The mayor of Cairo says he endorses the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposal to break the levee at Birds Point in Mississippi County, Mo. The move would relieve upstream pressure, protecting Cairo.

Illinois Lt. Governor. Sheila Simon defends the idea of intentionally breaching a Missouri levee to reduce flooding in Cairo.

Copyright 2011 KFVS. All rights reserved.  The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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