Maj. Gen. Michael Walsh, president of the Mississippi River Commission, announced today that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will open the Birds Point – New Madrid Floodway in southeast Missouri between 9 p.m. and midnight tonight.

To operate the floodway, explosives placed in pipes buried in the Birds Point levee in southeast Missouri, will be detonated, degrading the levee.

The floodway will divert 550,000 cubic feet per second from the Mississippi River and provide an estimated four to seven feet of river stage lowering in the vicinity of Cairo, Ill.

Opening the BP-NM floodway will impact over 130,000 acres in Mississippi County, Missouri, and will be devastating to farmers and agricultural businesses in and around the floodway. The floodway has not been placed in operation since the 1937 flood.

Walsh noted the stress on the system “is continuing. We need to operate the floodway as soon as we’re ready. This does not end this historic flood.”

On the concern that secondary or setback levees protecting towns outside the floodway may not hold under the rush of water, Walsh noted that the Corps “has continued to inspect the levees surrounding the floodway area (setback levees) and we expect them to perform as designed.”