On Thursday afternoon, June 16, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Memphis District, began repairs on the Birds Point – New Madrid Floodway frontline levee in southeast Missouri. Crews will stabilize the three intentionally breached sections of levee and repair areas impacted by overtopping.
“The main purpose of this construction work is to establish a safe road for official use only over the areas of the frontline levee that were impacted by the operation of the floodway,” Jim Pogue, the Corps’ Memphis District spokesman said.
Pogue went on to say the work will also provide a stable base for flood fight operations if that becomes necessary and allow for future permanent restoration.
Corps work crews and contractors will close all three crevasse sites and bring those sites on the front line levee to a target elevation of 51 feet on the Cairo gage. Construction will take place using the existing front line levee alignment.
Last week, the Corps announced it would have to complete a study of the entire Mississippi River Valley before repair work could begin on the Birds Point levee. But the rumble of bulldozers running across the levee on June 16, after an early morning announcement that work crews were on the way, was confirmation that the Corps had reconsidered that decision.
“We’re delighted that the Corps has decided to do what I’ve been saying is the right thing – to give us a fighting chance to get a crop in this year, and hopefully by this time next year, put the levee back to how it was originally designed,” said Kevin Mainord, who farms in the BP-NM Floodway, and is mayor of the East Prairie, Mo.
“We’re thankful that the Corps has changed their minds, and we’re thankful for what the media, Missouri Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt and state and local governments did to bring this about," Mainord said. "We appreciate the efforts that everyone made.”
On May 2, the Corp detonated explosives in the Birds Point levee, located just south of Cairo, Ill., releasing water from the swollen Mississippi River into the BPNM Floodway. Over 130,000 acres in Mississippi County, Mo., in southeast Missouri were inundated by the opening of the floodway, which had not been operated since the 1937 flood. The Corps said the opening was necessary to relieve pressure on flood control systems upstream.