Corps stresses the big picture behind the Birds Point levee breach

In the dark of night on May 2, a series of binary blasting agents blew a 9000-foot hole in the muddy clay walls of the Birds Point levee, the first of three explosions in four days.

Major Jon Korneliussen, a professional engineer with the Memphis District of the Army Corps of Engineers, wasn’t there to see the first blast, or watch the river surge over thousands of acres of farmland and homes in the floodway that night.

But months later, what he does see is a bigger picture.  The Memphis District is responsible for managing water flow for 355 miles of the Mississippi  River and an extensive system of levees running from Illinois to Mississippi.

“Water always wants to flow downhill,” Korneliussen said. “Other levee systems depended on the operation of the floodway. There was no other way to pass that water safely.”

Though Korneliussen believes the decision was necessary, the Corps is currently conducting a full system review of the emergency levee breaching plan that was activated at Birds Point.

— By Emily Garnett,  edited by Tony Schick

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