Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate made the following statement today on the artificial opening of the Birds Point-New Madrid Floodway in southern Missouri:
"Last night and today, as part of a flood risk management plan designed to minimize damage to property, structures and to protect millions of people from historic flood levels along the Mississippi River, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers artificially opened the Birds Point-New Madrid Floodway in southern Missouri. Even before the decision was made to breach the levee, two-thirds of the farmland within the floodway was under water. Meanwhile, as the waters rose to historic levels, millions of people upriver and downriver were in danger of severe flood conditions. The Birds Point-New Madrid Floodway was designed and built 80 years ago to mitigate these conditions and provide a last safeguard for millions of Americans. Last night, that safeguard was utilized, sparing many from additional hardship.
"For all of those affected by the breach, USDA and FEMA will continue to coordinate with our federal partners to evaluate how we can provide relief to farmers and others impacted by these recent events. Well before this decision was made, FEMA and USDA had long been preparing for, and are now ready, to support the states so they can help begin the road to recovery as quickly as possible. In anticipation that assistance may be needed, a FEMA liaison officer is already on the ground in Missouri's emergency operations center and is ready to support the state in their efforts. USDA agencies that provide flood and disaster assistance are offering support to those in need and standing by to assist others. Although the farming families who live within the floodway have known that this day was a possibility and have remained resilient throughout, our hearts go out to them.
"In the coming days, FEMA and USDA will continue to provide updates on the situation and be sure to inform our partners in the impacted areas as details emerge and the situation warrants. And our message remains the same--as with all potential hazards--that this will be a team effort. Working together, in support of our state partners, we will do everything we can to help mitigate this damage and protect the families, farmland and communities we serve."