MISSISSIPPI COUNTY, MO (KFVS) - The Commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Mississippi Valley Division has directed an orderly shutdown of the Birds Point-New Madrid project area due to forecasts of unseasonably high river levels.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is warning those in the Birds Point-New Madrid Floodway of a "significant risk of renewed flooding" in that area for the near future due to unseasonably high river levels.
The Corps has been rebuilding the levee after intentionally breaching it in May to relieve pressure on a swollen Mississippi River and flood more than 130,000 acres of farmland and several of homes.
Maj. Gen. John Peabody ordered the installation of a Hesco Barrier at the upper crevasse to temporarily bring the system to a 55 ft level of protection (on Cairo gage) for the BPNM Floodway. Construction in this region usually stops between December and May due to adverse weather conditions.
The construction of the interim flood protection will take about 10 good weather days to complete and work will begin in 48 hours when weather and ground conditions improve.
A HESCO bastion is a large collapsible wire mesh container with heavy duty fabric liners filled with sand. These materials can be used to quickly raise the levee height. Work on the HESCO bastions and related work can be done around the clock and are not as dependent upon favorable weather conditions, according to the Corps.
"Weather conditions continue to hamper our ability to achieve our revised target of 55 feet using normal levee construction techniques," Col. Vernie Reichling, commander of the Corps' Memphis District said. "The orderly shutdown will commence using supplies and equipment that have been prepositioned which will allow us to reach a 55-foot level of protection with temporary construction methods."
Weather condition prevented the Corps from reaching their target gage of 51 feet on the Cairo gage at the middle crevasse near Big Oak Tree State Park by Nov. 30. The Corps reached 51 feet on Dec. 3. and continued placement of clay material to a level of 55 feet.
The Corps reached 51-foot level of protection by Nov. 30 at the upper crevasse, but weather conditions hampered efforts to reach a revised target of 55 feet using normal levee construction techniques. Col. Reichling says he has directed workers to preposition supplies and equipment that will allow us to reach a 55-foot level of protection with temporary construction methods.
Some of the temporary levee materials include HESCO bastions (large collapsible wire mesh containers with heavy duty fabric liners filled with sand), sand bags and plastic sheeting.
These materials can be used to quickly raise the levee height.
According to the Corps, the HESCO bastions and related work can be done around the clock and would not be as dependent upon favorable weather conditions as conventional levee construction is.
Corps employees will also continue to raise the levee by placing clay as weather conditions permit.
Recent heavy rains in the area have stopped work several times in the last few weeks and slowed progress.
Mississippi County Presiding Commissioner Carlin Bennett is more concerned about the northern crevasse. He says as the river rises, the more water will be against the crevasse, putting it to the test.
His main concern is what would happen if the levee fails and water gets into the spillway.
"The work that we've been doing for the past six months is going to be torn up again," said Bennett. "You could get further damage to the ground. We've got damage bad enough as it is. There could be further damage. Plus you've got to keep in mind there's still thousands of acres of soybeans right now currently in the spillway that haven't been gotten out of the field yet."
The river was supposed to crest Monday at 42 and a half feet. Bennett says it's already at 43-and-a-half, and he anticipates it going up.
The Corps cites a strong La Niña weather pattern over the United States that is expected to continue to bring, heavy rains weekly to the Lower Mississippi River Valley along with the Ohio, Tennessee and Cumberland river basins through the middle of December and bring the likelihood of above normal precipitation through spring.
Residents in the area are urged to closely monitor the river forecasts from the National Weather Service and other information from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps warns those in the area to be prepared to take whatever measures they believe are necessary to safeguard their lives and property.
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