Army Corps of Engineers Holds Off on Destroying Missouri Levee as Residents Are Rescued

The Army Corps of Engineers’ decided to hold off on its decision to destroy the breeched levee in southern Missouri after being hit with a federal lawsuit issued by the state’s attorney general after critics of the assessment warned about acres of farmland being flooded.

Attorney General Chris Koster and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources filed the federal lawsuit asking a judge to prevent the destruction of the levee.

Koster said the corps should first make sure other alternatives, like employing area reservoirs to take on more water, are exercised.

"I don't want one person in the corps to make a decision from Memphis without even seeing the area," he told "We need to make sure flooding all these acres of farmland is the only option."

It is unclear when the corps will resume talks about the levees.

The corps previously stated that the best remedy to avoid downstream flooding on the Mississippi River is to destroy the Birds Point levee.

The plan was swiftly opposed by Gov. Jay Nixon who said the move would flood 130,000 acres of farmland and a couple of towns in the area.

Portions of some levees in the area had been breeched and authorities on Tuesday were rescuing stranded residents from homes in the area, officials said.

Poplar Bluff, which sits on the southeast of Missouri nestled along the Black River, has been inundated with 19 inches of rain in the past four days. The flooding point of this section of the river is 16 feet and the river is currently at 22 feet, Doug Bagby, the city’s manager, said.

“The amount of rain we had was unprecedented,” he said. “You really can’t prepare for something like this.”

Greg Carbin, the warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., said having two systems develop back-to-back is unusual.
"It's basically in the same place for two days in a row," Carbin said. "That doesn't happen very often. Such rapid succession doesn't give any time for a break.

Authorities were aware of the dangers on Monday and advised residents to evacuate about 1,000 homes. However, some residents to the south of the town decided to stay put and are now being rescued.

“I’m not worried,” Brandon Andrews, 20, told the Missourian. “It’s my favorite time of the year.”

Andrews told the paper that he intended to ride out the flood at his trailer home that was already exposed to flood water.

Sheriff Mark Dobbs said people who stay behind oftentimes put their lives at risk, along with rescuers.

Dobbs is overseeing a rescue effort comprised of 200 National Guard troops, local police and fire rescuers. Rescuers are using rafts and small boats to get to the most severely stranded people.

One challenge in the rescue is that the city is not flat, but hilly. Some homes are perched atop hills while others sit low in a valley.

“We’ve saved people on their homes’ roofs,” Dobbs said.

In 2008 the Birds Point levee on the opposite side of the river breached, so there appears to be recent history of the levee being compromised. But neither Dobbs or Bagby criticized the integrity of the levee.

Tony Hill, chief of the emergency management office for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers office in Little Rock, Ark., told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the levee protecting farmland and homes near Poplar Bluff received an "unacceptable" rating in 2008.

The recent storm system dumped heavy rain on seven states and spawned at least one tornado Monday in Arkansas. The twister killed four people and blasted a path of destruction through the town of Vilonia, 25 miles north of Little Rock. Four others died in floods.

The Humane Society of Missouri also sent teams to the area help rescue and shelter pets endangered by flooding in the region.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.