CAIRO, Ill. (IRN) – A federal judge will decide today whether the Army Corps of Engineers should blow up a levee to ease flooding in Cairo, Illinois. The state of Missouri filed the lawsuit to prevent the levee explosion, which Missouri official say would flood thousands of acres of farmland.
“Governor Nixon, back off. I mean, don’t choose farmland over lives,” said State Rep. Brandon Phelps (D-Harrisburg). “He may be a great guy, but in my eyes right now, he’s not showing it.” “He wants to say it’s the backs of the farmers of Missouri,” said Phelps of Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon. “He’s talking about literally wiping out a community (Cairo). And that’s what’ll happen if we don’t explode that levee.”
The southern Illinois town of Cairo is in Phelps’ district. It sits a little upstream from the Birds Point levee in Missouri’s Mississippi County.
Phelps says a voluntary evacuation of the town has seen about 500 of Cairo’s 2,800 residents leave. A mandatory evacuation has not been implemented and Phelps says the decision to implement one rests on whether the levee will be destroyed.
“Here’s the problem with Cairo too, and I know it very well,” said Phelps. “(It’s) very depressed. A lot of people don’t have anywhere to go. With the gas prices where they are, it’s hard…to afford to travel.”
The Army Corps of Engineers has the explosives ready, and Cairo is preparing for what’s expected to be record flooding with sandbags and other efforts. “We’ve got more rain coming in southern Illinois,” said Phelps. “I was on the ground on Monday and it’s getting worse by the day, by the hour.”
As for the court decision, Phelps says he’s not very confident the town of Cairo will be on the winning side. “If I was a betting man, I would say that he’s probably not going to rule in Illinois’ favor,” said Phelps. “Governor Nixon said today that the Army Corps of Engineers should not do this on the backs of farmers in Missouri. They don’t even own the land, and supposedly, if this happens and they blow up the levee…that farmland, they would get reimbursed for that.”