New Madrid Floodway Project

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New Madrid Floodway map (source: USACE)

The New Madrid Floodway Project is an ongoing project intended to close a 1,500-foot (460 m) gap in the Mississippi River Birds Point-New Madrid Floodway levee at New Madrid County, Missouri, to decrease southeast Missouri's vulnerability to flooding. This area is also called the St. Johns Bayou Basin and is located near Bird's Point, Missouri.

Although authorization for the move was authorized by Congress as early as 1954, the gap remains; as environmental groups, local citizens, and politicians wrestle the issue through the courts.

Controversy[edit]

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers contends that the program is vital to the actual and economic survival of the region.[1]

Opponents of the plans, such as The Missouri Coalition for the Environment say it will not address the flooding problem, but instead, will only destroy fish habitat.[2]

On average, the Mississippi River floods Mississippi County, MO & New Madrid County, MO once every three years; or, a total of 16 times over the past 45. In the spring of 2002, flooding covered over 77,400 acres (313 km2) in the New Madrid Floodway, destroying 48,700 acres (197 km2) of crops.

The flood damage, the United States Department of Agriculture says, could have been greatly limited had the Floodway Project been completed. According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, however, the plan is unworkable; or per Senator John McCain's recitation of an earlier Washington Post article, "absolutely ridiculous".[3]

Southeast Missourians affected by the flooding feel differently. One well respected citizen who many times has been forced to evacuate, then sit helplessly as the churning water consumed her home, put it like this: "It is vital for our community. If you don't get to work, you can't pay your mortgage."[4]

U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, R-MO, who represents the bootheel region in Missouri's Eighth Congressional District, sees it differently: "Flood protection is a necessity.... Last year, [100,000 acres (400 km2) were flooded, and] nearly 50,000 acres (200 km2) of crops were destroyed. Farmers cannot afford to sustain these preventable annual losses.".

Legal battle[edit]

On September 19, 2007, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia dealt a major blow to the $107 million St. John's Bayou/New Madrid Floodway Project. In ordering a halt to the floodwall's construction, Judge James Robertson said the Corps had improperly manipulated its habitat models to make it seem that the project's environmental impacts would be "compliant with the Clean Water Act and the National Environmental Policy Act, when it is not."[4] He further ordered that the already completed work on the project, tallied at $7 million, be undone.

The decision came after environmentalist groups argued that the Clean Water Act and the National Environmental Policy Act were being violated in the name of agrarian prosperity; and that the Floodway project would create no possible human benefit.

"That's a bunch of nonsense," says one local official, "They can say what they want, but they don't live here."[4]

Emerson called the judge's ruling "a pause before we move forward..."[4]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Army Corps of Engineers Info Page
  2. ^ Missouri Coalition for the Environment
  3. ^ Cong. Record - Senate. 152 Cong Rec S 7813. (07/19/06).
  4. ^ a b c d AP Newswire (9/18/07)

Coordinates: 36°49′19″N 89°13′02″W / 36.82200°N 89.21729°W / 36.82200; -89.21729