Midwest flooding: What's at stake in plan to blast open Missouri levee
A judge on Friday gave the go-ahead to the US Army Corps of Engineers to blow an opening into a Missouri levee. Advocates say it's the best way to prevent worse flooding downriver, but residents could be affected.
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The Corps is doing all it can along the tributaries feeding the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers to reduce the flows, Walsh said.Skip to next paragraph
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In a 12-page ruling, federal district court judge Stephen Limbaugh Jr., denied Missouri's plea for a temporary restraining order against the Corps, noting that "the Corps is committed to implementing the Plan 'only as absolutely essential to provide the authorized protection to all citizens.' Furthermore, this Court finds that no aspect of the Corps’ response to these historic floods suggests arbitrary or capricious decision-making is occurring."
Experiment on the Ouachita River
While the region holds its collective breath to see how the floodwaters behave, a project planned from the outset to control floods and restore the ecological health of the flood plain is underway along a stretch Ouachita River in northern Louisiana.
The project involves some 16,000 acres of land surrounded by a ring levee some 16 miles long and 30 feet high. Its potential for flood control became obvious in 1991, when record flooding on the Ouachita breached the levee and filled the man-made basin. Within 24 hours of the breach, river levels at Monroe, La., 20 miles downstream had dropped markedly, says Joseph McGowan, manager of the Upper Ouachita National Wildlife Refuge, which oversees the tract.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service bought the tract with financial help from the Nature Conservancy to reforest the area and incorporate it into the wildlife refuge. But after heavy rains periodically filled the basin, drowning many saplings, the FWS and TNC breached the levee in multiple places to restore more-natural flows.
Costs prevent the removal of the entire levee, and flood waters aren't like to wash it away – potentially complicating the task of returning the land to the mix of plant and animal life that existed prior to it becoming farmland in the 1960s, acknowledges John Carr, a biologist at the University of Louisiana at Monroe, one of several scientists undertaking a long-term monitoring program to track the tract's ecological health.
Still, the land will do what the Army Corps of Engineers hopes the Bird Point–New Madrid Floodway will do farther upriver. Says Dr. Carr: "It will hold a lot of water."