Potential delay of levee reconstruction causes controversy

Missouri politicians and officials have expressed concern about rising waters.

Controversy has stirred about the flooding waters of the mid-America rivers and their effects on local communities in southeast Missouri.

The United States Army Corps of Engineers has expressed the potential of pushing back their levee rebuilding efforts for up to a year.

The U.S. Army Corps has been pushed by various politicians to build a temporary levee that was blown up earlier this year to control the massive flood levels.

“Delaying a temporary levee nearly a year is simply not acceptable and needs to be addressed immediately,” a letter to Memphis District Army Corps Commander Vernie L. Reiching Jr. said.

Missouri politicians expressed the same type of concerns about the issue.

“Taking a year to restore this levee is absolutely unacceptable,” U.S. Senator Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said in a news release. “It’s critical that the Army Corps expedite this restoration as quickly as possible so the farmers, families and business owners in the Bootheel can rebuild their lives as soon as possible without the burden of more bureaucratic red tape.”

Blunt later said he did not want to blame the U.S. Army Corps for the drama surrounding the levee building.

“We are committed to ensuring that this project receives the priority it deserves,” U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said in a news release. “The farmers in Southeast Missouri, who are vital to our state’s agricultural industry, deserve reassurance that their land, and livelihoods, will be protected.”

Reichling said in a news release that pushing back the building a temporary levee by nearly a year is not acceptable and needs to be addressed immediately.

“There's been cases in the past in flooding in the Mississippi and Missouri where entire communities have been affected where it becomes impractical to maintain and sustain these communities,” atmospheric science professor Neil Fox said. “A lot of the issues we come across come from the continuing building on floodplains.”

Fox said in order to balance the relationship between agriculture and the city, levees are consequently built, whether they are detrimental or not. He said vulnerable communities need to be better prepared for extreme weather events.

“If we don't predict or accurately assess the probability of an event occurring, and in this case a coincidence of events, and don't realize that these events can happen together, then we can't protect the land as much as we want,” Fox said.

Fox said it is often difficult to predict a disaster and protect a community because of the unforeseeable state of nature.

“When you have these big events that may only happen every 50 years or 100 years, and you haven't seen that event before, then you don't know exactly what you're building a defense against because you haven't seen the water level get that high,” Fox said.

In light of the recent blizzard, tornado and extreme storm weather that has affected Missouri and the surrounding region, Fox said while the coincidence is not worth noting, it is surprising.

“[The weather] is on the extreme end, but there's nothing really strange,” Fox said. “The strange thing is that they're happening one after another so quickly.”

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