After seeing this close up, any tweak you’d make to the system?

“I really shouldn’t discuss that. That’s the president and Congress’ role.

“The Mississippi River and Tributaries Project is about 90 percent complete. So, there are areas where the levees aren’t yet built to the grade or width they’re supposed to be. There are some other structures that aren’t complete yet.

“We have the ability to complete them whenever Congress sees fit to appropriate the funds.”

What about cost/benefit considerations? Are numbers put before the commission or is it strictly going by the law? In other words: do you consider years worth of crop yields in a spillway versus things like buying out and moving the 3,000 residents of Cairo?

“We don’t have that kind of option. The plan for passing the flood is in the Flood Control Act of 1928. There are specific trigger points at which floodways are to be used. Those go off either elevation of water or flow of water.

“When those trigger points are reached, we’re pretty much required by law to use them.”

Anything else?

“It would be my preference to pass a flood of this size from Cairo, Ill., to the Gulf of Mexico and not have one person with a flooded home or farm. But given the amount of water at this time there’s no way to do that.   

“The entire stretch must be seen as a system, a plan. We have to trigger the backwater areas and floodways in order to pass that water through the system.

“An example: if we didn’t use the Bonnet Carre floodway, the boils and levees would overtop into New Orleans.

“I hate to see floodways have to be used. But it’s the only way to get that amount of water to the Gulf while impacting the fewest number of people.

“Right now, we’re trying to pass this flood in the lower half of the Mississippi. It’s not even halfway yet.

“But even while we’re fighting the flood, the commission is trying to figure out, as quickly as possible, how to recover and put the damaged areas back in place. We’re working on that as we speak – recovery efforts are already in the works. Hopefully, Congress will agree that needs to be done immediately and we can secure the funds to accomplish that.”