In the wake of excessive rainfall and flooding in the Missouri Bootheel, U.S. Senators Roy Blunt and Claire McCaskill along with U.S. Representative Jo Ann Emerson expressed great concern regarding the Birds Point-New Madrid Floodway Operations Plan and called on President Barack Obama to identify alternatives to this "severe" proposal.
"This plan, not used since 1937, is, in effect, untested under modern conditions," wrote the Members. "We are extremely concerned about the consequences of this action and strongly urge that alternative measures be identified. The known and unknown risks of blowing the levee and releasing over one-half million cubic feet per second are sufficient to demand the highest level of attention and accountability."
[Text of the letter below and attached]
April 27, 2011
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave, N.W.
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President
As floodwaters rise in the Midwest as a consequence of near record rainfall, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) are preparing to activate the Birds Point-New Madrid Floodway Operations Plan. This plan, not used since 1937, is, in effect, untested under modern conditions. It is a severe alternative designed to blow the front-line levee and flood 130,000 productive acres of Mississippi County and New Madrid County, Missouri property to partially relieve main-stem river pressure. We are extremely concerned about the consequences of this action and strongly urge that alternative measures be identified.
As you know, accumulated precipitation has the Ohio, Mississippi, and Missouri Rivers and tributaries at or exceeding flood stage simultaneously creating great danger of flood risk to people, property and the environment. Thus far, we believe the USACE have been diligent in their efforts to coordinate flood-fighting strategies but the magnitude of current risk requires that all agencies and available resources be on alert in preparation for the worst scenarios before us.
Besides the predictable long-term destruction of property and the environment within the 130,000 acres that would be deliberately flooded, a secondary risk is the uncertainty associated with the Set Back Levee which, if inadequate, will unleash the flood water across 6 Missouri counties of the Missouri Bootheel area with a population over 75,000 in addition to as many as 10 Arkansas counties.
The known and unknown risks of blowing the levee and releasing over one-half million cubic feet per second are sufficient to demand the highest level of attention and accountability. The human evacuation alone would be a critical challenge to public officials as well as the extraordinary cost of post-disaster mitigation and repair and productive economic opportunity cost.
United States Senator
United States Senator
Jo Ann Emerson
Member of Congress