Rich farmland near the town of East Prairie, Mo., was under water for nearly a month and a half as the result of a decision by the Army Corps of Engineers to dynamite the Birds Point levee along the Mississippi river.
At issue is a law created in 1928 that the Corps followed to open a designated floodway that contains 133,000 acres. Eighty-three years later, East Prairie Mayor Kevin Mainord, who operates an agricultural services business, believes the levee should have been left to naturally overflow.
The decision to breach the levee was made to relieve pressure and help protect Cairo, Ill., but Mainord said a concrete floodwall protecting Cairo was two and a half feet taller than the levee protecting farmland in the floodway.
“Cairo had a better chance at surviving this flood without major destruction than we did,” Mainord said.
Mainord said opposition to the levee breach from landowners on the Missouri side wasn’t a matter of keeping floodwaters off of the farmland.
“We wanted the Corps to save both places,” Mainord said. “We think they could have saved both places.”
Mainord does not want the Birds Point-New Madrid Floodway to be used again. The Flood Control Act of 1928 needs to be reevaluated for the modern era, he said.
The floodway was opened on May 2, and the water had receded by June 15. While farmers lost crops they had planted in the spring, the area has since been replanted with soybeans.
Martin Lucas, Mississippi County surveyor, said about 2,800 acres were left unusable for this season and would need work before it can be planted again.
-Steven Rich, Edited by Sarah Alban