Nixon tours Birds Point Levee

Gov. Nixon tours Birds Point on Wednesday (Source: John Morgan).
Gov. Nixon tours Birds Point on Wednesday (Source: John Morgan).
Deena Glenn took this picture just a couple days after the levee blast.
Deena Glenn took this picture just a couple days after the levee blast.

MISSISSIPPI COUNTY, MO (KFVS) - Gov. Jay Nixon surveyed the progress being made to rebuild sections of the Birds Point Levee Wednesday.

The levee was intentionally breached by the Army Corps of Engineers in May to relieve pressure on a swollen Mississippi River and flooding threat to Cairo, Ill.

The levee breach flooded 130,000 acres and damaged or destroyed houses in Mississippi County.

Gov. Nixon tells Heartland News that he is seeing progress with the attempt to rebuild the levee and for farmers to rebuild their livelihood.

"Well, we started at the top at Birds Point and worked our way down to the various places where the levee has been breached and 130,000 acres of prime farmland flooded," said Nixon.

"Most folks know, three or four weeks ago I said if the Corps wasn't gonna rebuild the temporary levee, then the state would do it," He said. "After that, they are building that levee back to a moderate range to give short-term flood protection," added Nixon. "Because of that, farmers in land that wasn't washed away in the more moon-scaped areas are actually planting. We saw green sprouts. As you move on down in where the crevasse, where the water came back up, the damage is significant. It looks like a moon -scape in some of those areas."

Then the governor discussed some surprises that he saw.

"Just how deep some of the holes were and how dramatic the damages are, added Nixon. "In fact, in some areas you have 6 or 7 feet of sand washed in there making that land useless until that sand is moved. We've got great farmers in the bootheel, but they can't farm sand. The bottom line is you've got a lot of extra things in that area that has to be cleaned out before all that land is back to its needed productive value."

Nixon says the areas that can be replanted have, and he will work with the farmers and families in that area to get that area rebuilt the land back to "productive agriculture," as the summer goes on and into the fall of this year.

"What we saw, was, folks trying to rebuild the temporary levee," said Nixon. "We saw the park overwhelmed by sand and other damage. But, we saw a resilience among the people to get rebuilt and to get those lands rebuilt to crop value."

Nixon also inspected flood damage at Big Oak Tree State Park in East Prairie.

"The park itself has suffered significant damage. It's gonna require, many of those buildings are going to have to be completely replaced," said the governor.

Gov. Jay Nixon today surveyed the progress being made to rebuild sections of the Birds Point Levee which were intentionally breached by the Army Corps of Engineers on May 2, 2011.

"After the Army Corps of Engineers breached the levee and flooded 130,000 acres of prime farmland, I urged Maj. Gen. Michael Walsh to rebuild the frontline levee so that farmers could begin to plant crops and salvage what was left of the growing season," Gov. Nixon said. "Last month, Maj. Gen. Walsh assured me that this levee would be rebuilt; and already, construction is underway. Today we surveyed the rebuilding efforts to ensure that the work is being done, and that local farmers have the resources they need to begin to recover."

Nixon stressed he and his administration are committed  "until the last load of dirt is in place on the new levee, and until all our farmers can look out over their fields and see crops thriving again."

Gov. Nixon sent a letter to Major Gen. Walsh of the Army Corps of Engineers on June 6, 2011 stating the need for, and offering state resources to assist with the expedited construction of a temporary levee to allow agricultural operations to resume.

Construction of a temporary, 51-foot levee is underway.

In June, University of Missouri economists estimate about $85 million in potential crop value lost from blowing out the Birds Point levee on the Mississippi River.

The university's Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute said that the economic loss climbs to about $156.7 million when other economic changes are factored in.

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