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Monday, June 13, 2011

Future of levee blown to save Illinois town unclear, Corps says (Reuters)

SIKESTON, Mo (Reuters) – The federal government has not decided whether it will rebuild the Mississippi River levee intentionally destroyed last month to relieve flooding in Cairo, Illinois and other towns, an official said on Thursday.

Jim Pogue, a spokesman for the Memphis District of the Army Corps of Engineers, told Reuters a final decision on the future of the Birds Point-New Madrid levee near here would not come "for months."

Pogue said the Corps was studying the performance of the whole system of levees and floodways along the Mississippi after this spring's record flooding and any decision on Birds Point-New Madrid would be made as part of that larger study.

He said it has been a "challenge" to find money to replace levees along the river and the Corps had been working with Congress to identify possible revenue sources.

The levee at Birds Point-New Madrid was deliberately destroyed by the Corps on May 2, flooding over 100,000 acres of prime farmland in Missouri. Some farmers sued the Corps over the decision to blow the embankment, which lowered the water level on the Mississippi by allowing water to rush into a spillway that had not been used since 1937.

A snowy winter and rainy spring have caused record flooding on the Ohio, Mississippi and Missouri Rivers this year.

To cope with Mississippi water levels that approached or beat records set in 1927, the Corps also opened up the Morganza and Bonnet Carre spillways last month. It was the first time that all three floodways were opened in the same year.

(By Barton Lorimor; Writing by James B. Kelleher and Mary Wisniewski; Editing by Jerry Norton)

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