- Associated Press - Monday, September 21, 2015

LOUISIANA, Mo. (AP) - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is rebuking an Illinois levee district over “unauthorized alterations” that the federal agency says make some communities on the Missouri side of the Mississippi River more prone to flooding.

The Corps’ sanction means the Sny Island Levee and Drainage District south of Quincy is ineligible for federal repair money should any of its own agricultural levees sustain flooding damage, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (https://bit.ly/1Qtq5jf ) reported.

The federal government says the Sny Island district has added a few feet to the height of most of its levees without approval, which it estimates could add several feet of floodwater to some locations, including historic Hannibal and parts of Lincoln, Marion, Pike and St. Charles counties in Missouri.

“The higher than designed elevations and modified slopes of the levees, coupled with poorly performing relief wells at the pump station, endanger the integrity and functionality of the levees,” Col. Craig Baumgartner, commander of the agency’s Rock Island, Illinois, district, wrote in a Sept. 9 letter.

The Illinois district disputes that its levees were raised above authorized levels.

“We just have a fundamental disagreement with the Corps,” district director Mike Reed said. “The levee elevations down in those areas haven’t changed since they were constructed in the 1960s.”

The levee dispute divided communities better known for coming together to stack sandbags when the river threatens.

“They’re saying our land, our commerce, our crops are more valuable than yours are,” said Al Murry, emergency management coordinator for Pike County, Missouri.

Nicholas Pinter, a professor at the University of California-Davis who previously taught at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, suggested that other local levee districts may also be skirting the rules.

“The broader thing here is a lot of these levee districts manage their floodplains with impunity,” he said.

The Corps is still calculating the Sny district’s flood impact on specific locations, including a possible adverse impact further south on parts of St. Louis, according to Rock Island district spokesman Ron Fournier. He said the Corps cited the Sny Island levee district after “years went by” with warnings and “nothing was happening.”


Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, https://www.stltoday.com

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