By Barbara Fomina
Valleys to the right and left of Highway 46 bring to mind battlefields where defenders held the line. Two levees didn’t protect locals from the flood last year, and water seized the fields for almost four months.
“This levee to the left is in the program of the Corps of Engineers and the one to the right isn’t”, said Jud Kneuvean, chief of emergency management, indicating Northwest Missouri fields that were inundated during the 2011 flood.
Regulating levees is complicated in Missouri because any landowner in the state has the right to build a levee. The old proverb still works: my house is my castle. Conflict often arises between local farmers and the Corps of Engineers over the total cost and benefit of building levees.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers manages 51 federal levee systems and monitors over 109 privately-owned levees. Across the state border in Kansas all levees built on public and private land fall under the same regulatory structure.
“Levees potentially decrease the stage — the height — of the water for a number of different people on the river. But as a result part of the farmer’s ground is flooded more often,” said Robert Jacobson, chief of river studies at the U.S. Geological Survey. “The discussion is what is the best way to (build and manage levees), and what would local people accept.”
— Edited by Anna Boiko-Weyrauch