Farmers take matters into own hands to fix levee - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Farmers take matters into own hands to fix levee

ALEXANDER COUNTY, IL (KFVS) -

Some four months have passed since the spring flood water covered farm land in Alexander County. But some farmers in the area say they're still waiting for help from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to repair a levee.

Levee Board Commissioner James Taflinger says it difficult to see the all the Corps efforts just across the river at Birds Point.

But farmers in the Alexander County area are not waiting around. They've started using their own equipment to move dirt and fix the Len Small Levee, which protects more than 30,000 of acres of farm land.

"We've got to build back where the levee was, plus the berm," Taflinger explained.  

To do so, Taflinger has his crew out moving dirt. Taflinger, like many farmers in the Miller City area, lost thousands of acres of farm land in the spring flood.  Its land he'd like to plant next Spring.

"If we don't get these holes fixed this fall, before harvest or before the ground gets so soupy we can't work, we're stuck with another year of no crops," Taflinger said.  

The Len Small Levee is some 16 miles long. But last spring the swollen Mississippi River broke through it in four places. One of the breaks is hundreds of feet wide.

"It's about 14-hundred feet wide and it's scoured some humongous holes," Taflinger said.

Taflinger says they'll need assistance from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to repair that break. Something he says they still waiting to receive.

Matthew Hunn oversees levees for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He says dollars are tight and they are working to fix levees by priority.

"At the same time we're trying to work with the folks in Len Small, with the county engineer and other state and federal agencies to achieve a level of protection to allow those people to get back with their lives and move on and try to put the flood of 2011 behind them," Hunn said.

Unlike the Birds Point Levee, the farmers in Alexander County must fix 20% of the Len Smalls Levee and the U.S. Corps of Engineers will pick up the other 80%. But Trafalgar adds time is ticking to protect their land from another round of spring floods.   

"Two or three weeks and corn harvest will start and some of the farmers, you know, have enough crop, you know, can't be doing this and harvest both," Taflinger said.

To rally some help, Taflinger recently sent a letter and flood impact information to Illinois Governor Pat Quinn along with state and federal law makers. Taflinger says only got 45% of the crops were planted in Alexander County, which is millions dollars lost not only to farmers, but the entire region.

Hunn says the Lens Small Levee in Alexander County is high on the list to get repaired. But he adds Major General Michael Walsh has said it will take two to four years to fix all the levees damaged in the system from the spring floods.

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