R.D. James, a resident of New Madrid, Missouri, is a farmer, ginner, and cotton broker. And since late 1981, James has been a member of the Mississippi River Commission, responsible for maintaining the Mississippi River shipping channels and preventing flooding along with the Army Corps of Engineers Mississippi Valley Division.

In late April, James was in a unique position of attending sensitive Corps meetings to discuss alleviating flooding around Cairo, Ill., while knowing part of the solution would involve his Bootheel farmland going underwater. When the Birds Point/New Madrid levee was blown on May 2, that’s exactly what happened.

For more, see Corps levee plan dismays Bootheel farmers.

Currently, James and commission colleagues are closely monitoring river levels and flooding as massive water rushes through the Mid-South’s Delta region towards Louisiana.

On Friday morning, James spoke with Delta Farm Press on his way from Vicksburg to a meeting in Baton Rouge. Among his comments:

On current conditions in the Bootheel and the floodway…

“The spillway operation is working as planned. It dropped the river gauges at Cairo, Illinois; Paducah, Hickman, and Smithland, Kentucky; Fulton County levees and it even dropped the stage at New Madrid, Missouri, some.”

Any indication when the water will begin to drop in earnest?

“That’s the big question. Right now, there’s no answer.

“Personally, I’m hoping we can get back in there by the first of July.”

You have farm acreage in the floodway. Can you talk about the run-up to the Birds Point levee being blown?

“Fortunately, I only had some temporary structures to move out – wagons and tanks and that type of things.

“But that wasn’t the case for everyone. There are homes and farm headquarters in that floodway – folks with their way of life there. And they had to move everything. They had about five days to get that done. As far as I know, everyone was successful in moving their personal possessions and farm machinery out.

“But there are some folks who will suffer major, major damage to their homes, their farm sheds and buildings.”