CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (AP) — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is considering a plan to replace the earthen levee at the Birds Point-New Madrid Floodway with mechanical gates, but area officials oppose the proposal saying it could lead to more deliberate flooding.

The corps intentionally breached the levee near the town of Wyatt on May 2 to reduce the threat of major flooding from the swollen Mississippi and Ohio rivers in nearby Cairo, Ill. The breach, which involved blowing a massive hole through the levee, flooded 130,000 acres of prime Missouri farmland and damaged or destroyed as many as 100 homes.

Corps spokesman Jim Pogue told The Southeast Missourian that the corps will “look at all the alternatives” after it temporarily repairs the levee by March 1. He said the corps is authorized to return the levee to the way it was before blowing it up, and that anything else would likely take an act of Congress, which funds the corps.

“The gates won’t be the only alternative we look at,” Pogue said. “But I think it’s safe to say the gates will be one of them.”

Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, a Cape Girardeau Republican, has said she doesn’t like the idea of adding mechanical gates because it could lead to more frequent activations and intentional flooding.

Mississippi County Presiding Commissioner Carlin Bennett said the commission would fight “tooth and nail” to make sure that the levee was returned to its original state — and faster than the corps’ March 1 goal.

Copyright The Associated Press


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