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*** UPDATED x1 *** AG Madigan preparing to intervene today in Cairo flood fight

Thursday, Apr 28, 2011

*** UPDATE *** OK, here are the documents I promised you earlier…

* AG Madigan press release

* Madigan’s response to motion for restraining order and injunction

* Memorandum in support of motion to intervene with affidavits

You can also find a good history of this floodway by clicking here.

[ *** End Of Update *** ]

* I received this e-mail from the attorney general’s office late yesterday afternoon and was out of the office and didn’t see it until last night. Madigan will intervene today in a lawsuit brought by the Missouri attorney general to stop the Army Corps of Engineers from blowing a Missouri “fuse plug” levee and flooding some farmland in that state in order to save the town of Cairo. The levee was specifically designed to be blown in case other areas needed to be saved…

Hey Rich, here’s the latest:

We will seek tomorrow to intervene in the Missouri governor’s lawsuit to ensure that the people of Illinois are represented in court. Attorney General Madigan intends to do anything she can to defeat Missouri’s motion so as to allow the Army Corps to do whatever possible to protect the people in Illinois who’re in the path of this potential disaster.

I followed up last night and asked for more details…

We’re intervening in the suit on the side of the Army Corps, asking the court not to stop the Army Corps from proceeding with its plans to deal with the rising water and arguing that:

(1) The relief that Missouri wants, if granted, threatens to injure Illinois residents and property.

(2) We will provide detailed information on the extent of the threat to Illinois residents so that the court hears directly from us and has the information to consider.

(3) And, more specifically, we’re arguing that any delay in the Army Corps implementing its operations plan to alleviate flooding conditions will immediately put the health and safety of the nearly 3000 residents of Cairo at serious risk.

I’ll post Madigan’s filing as soon as I receive it, which will be mid-morning or so.

* State Rep. Brandon Phelps represents Cairo and issued a press release yesterday…

“What is most important here is the issue of farmland versus lives, and I find it very troubling that the Missouri governor believes Missouri farmland is more valuable than the lives of Illinois residents. The farmland in question is also designated by the United States federal government for exactly this purpose, and it is up to them to make the decision, not the governor of Missouri.”

He also held a press conference

Rush Limbaugh’s cousin, US District Court judge Steve Limbaugh will preside over today’s hearing, which is scheduled for 1:30. Rep. Phelps joked that if he was a betting man he’d wager that Limbaugh probably won’t rule in Illinois’ favor.

* Gov. Pat Quinn will be in Marion today at 12:30 to discuss the situation. It’s a certainty that he’ll be asked about the Missouri lawsuit, so I’ll post audio or video as soon as I get it.

* This comment from a Missouri state Representative doesn’t make a whole lot of sense

Missouri State Rep. Steve Hodges, D-East Prairie, who represents farmers in the flood plain… said there may be just a few farms there, but those farms would be wiped out.

“People down there can’t get flood insurance because they’re in the flood plain,” he said. “They don’t allow people to build new homes down there; you can put up farm equipment but you can’t build inside the spillway. If the explosion takes place, they’re going to lose expensive homes that they’re going to have to bite the bullet (on) … It would be catastrophic.”

So, they built houses even though they weren’t supposed to, and even though it’s impossible to get flood insurance because those structures are within a legally designated federal flood-control spillway - and now they complain? The area is officially known as the “Birds Point-New Madrid Floodway.” What part of that was so difficult to understand? As mentioned above, the levee was specifically designed to be blown up

The plan required modification to the frontline levee which includes raising 12,500 feet of the upper fuseplug and 7,500 feet of the lower fuseplug and installing horizontal polyethylene pipe in three crevasse locations. These crevasse locations are designated as Inflow, Inflow/Outflow No. 1 and Inflow/Outflow No. 2. In addition to the modifications to the frontline levee, all materials, including the blasting agent which will be pumped into the pipes in the levee, and equipment necessary to place the floodway into operation have been acquired by the Memphis District.

* Missouri’s congressional delegation has also weighed in

But the corps has encountered a tidal wave of opposition from Missouri lawmakers — including U.S. Sens. Roy Blunt, a Republican, and Claire McCaskill, a Democrat — who joined U.S. Rep. JoAnn Emerson, R-Cape Girardeau, in urging President Barack Obama to direct the corps to consider alternatives to the levee-busting plan.

* Illinois’ delegation has been more muted

While Missouri lawmakers were up in arms about a possible Birds Point detonation, their llinois counterparts were more circumspect — saying that they would rely on the expertise and judgment of corps officials in making the call.

“I am in regular contact with Corps of Engineers officials as they assess all pertinent information regarding the best course of action to deal with flood conditions in Cairo,” said U.S. Rep. Jerry Costello, D-Belleville, whose congressional district extends to Cairo. […]

“My thoughts are with all affected families and individuals, particularly those in Cairo, Brookport and Grand Tower who are being asked to evacuate their homes,” said [US Sen. Dick Durbin] in a statement. “I will continue to work closely with federal, state and local officials to ensure that every resource is made available to communities along the Ohio, Illinois and Mississippi Rivers and other affected areas.” […]

Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill, said he wanted to make sure that flooded communities get the help they need. “My staff and I are following the flood situation closely and will continue to work with other state and federal agencies to ensure affected communities get the support and relief they need throughout this rainy season,” Kirk said in a statement to the Beacon.

* You have to read way down to get to it, but the Tribune finally came to its point near the end of today’s editorial

We hope any judge who hears Missouri’s case pays far more attention to engineers than to lawyers or politicians. Any decision on whether to breach the levee or leave it intact will invite the possibility of widespread suffering, either in Illinois or in Missouri.

* A mandatory evacuation has been ordered for the potentially flooded area in Missouri.

* More impact

Farther south, the mayor of Metropolis said flooding along the Ohio had forced a dozen families to move to a church shelter and closed down a casino that employs 600 people. With Harrah’s Casino closed since Monday, city revenue would be affected, Mayor Billy McDaniel said.

* And reports yesterday morning that the Army Corps of Engineers would wait until the weekend to decide what to do aren’t complete accurate, according to this story

Reached at noon on Wednesday, Jim Pogue, the Corps’ Public Affairs Specialist for the Memphis District, said the wait-until-the-weekend claim “is not really correct. Let me tell you where we are.

“The equipment barges are headed north.

“The next decision point will take place this afternoon. That decision point is: do we continue to wait and watch or do we go ahead and prepare the levee for possible detonation? It will be this afternoon before any more decisions are made.

“Right now, we’re moving forward prudently and cautiously and making sure we’re in the right place on this fluid timeline. (That way) if we have to take the next steps, we’re ready to do it.”

When will the barges (which contain equipment and explosives that will be needed if the levee is blown) reach the target area?

“They’ll be pushing up to this general area. The intention is to pre-position in the area and wait – that should be sometime tonight.”

* It’s looking likely that the levee is gonna be blown

As of Wednesday afternoon, it was becoming increasingly likely the corps would have to “operate the plan,” another way of saying detonating explosives at the fuse plugs of the system to relieve the swollen river

- Posted by Rich Miller        

15 Comments
  1. - Hank - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 7:03 am:

    I don’t think it is right to flood either Cairo or the farmland. How about a compromise? Let them flood Springfield with all the pols in town. Worked for Noah


  2. - thechampaignlife - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 8:04 am:

    But Rich, EXPENSIVE homes would be lost! Don’t you care for the commoner with their riverview luxury home?!? Seriously, though, I take it plans to demo a levee were arranged because it was deemed too expensive to build a better levee for Cairo?


  3. - soccermom - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 8:09 am:

    I am so sick of rich people building houses in the wrong places and then whining when the thing they were warned about actually happens. It is not my financial responsibility if you want to blow hundreds of thousands of dollars building in a flood plain, on a crumbling cliff, at the bottom of a lake - whatever. We have to stop offering people compensation for acts of jaw-dropping stupidity.


  4. - Cincinnatus - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 8:16 am:

    Hank said,

    “Worked for Noah.”

    Which two pols would you keep?


  5. - TTWSYF - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 8:22 am:

    Unfortunately those most affected (Cairo) are too busy or unable to be part of any online debate.


  6. - Ghost - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 8:48 am:

    If I understand correctly, the State of IL pays for the damage. So if MO buolt homes in a flood plane, they can be compenstaed by IL (if the levee just fails on its onw they of course would not be compensated.

    So despite building in a location designed to be flooded in an emergency they may still be covered?

    That aside, the financial impact and devastation to cairo will be exponentially greater. When the levee was constructed MO did not protest its creation or the plan to releive water in this area, in fact MO gained useable ground that would normally be flooded every year.

    Lets make MO happy and remove the levee alotgether, then they wont have to worry about plans to releive pressure on the system, they can just address the natural effect of the water flowing by normally.


  7. - Sam I am - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 9:09 am:

    “Rising Tide” brillantly describes the fight over breaching the levees during the 1927 Mississippi River flood. Business interests in New Orleans had them dynamited below the city the day before the river crested anyway. The futile (in hindsight) gesture created terrible physical damage and a toxic political legacy.


  8. - amalia - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 9:17 am:

    soccermom rocks.


  9. - MrJM - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 9:38 am:

    What soccermom said.

    – MrJM


  10. - So. ILL - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 9:49 am:

    We’re drowning down here and our State Rep. says that the Army is “supposubly” (his word, not mine)going to “explode” (not blow up) the levee. I know his heart is in the right place, but please Representative, find the right words! We need your help in Southern Illinois and a clearly articulated message would be most helpful.


  11. - D.P. Gumby - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 10:28 am:

    I would like to know more about these “expensive” homes in the flood plain. Who built them, when were they built and how many are we talking about. Phelps hyperbole is suspected.


  12. - Joeverdeal - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 10:52 am:

    So. Ill….The method to open a levee in a situation like this would actually result in the structure being exploded. Explosives would be inserted into a bore-hole drilled down into the levee and the detonation of these explosives would cause the levee itself to explode.

    Before you are critical of Rep. Phelps, it might help for you to have a more solid understanding of the subject which you are attempting to address.


  13. - Both Sides Now - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 10:58 am:

    It is obvious that we didn’t learn anything from Katrina. Why did New Orleans suffer so much? Because they impacted Mother Nature with water control devices and building where they shouldn’t have; and in the end Mother Nature always wins.

    Though the river is picturesque, provides entertainment and is an economic source, it comes with the risk of flooding. Whether you farm near it, build near it or in the case of Cairo, build between not one but TWO rivers, one day you can be certain the area is going to be flooded, and it will impact your life.

    That is why I said yesterday that it would be an opportune time to give Cairo a fresh start OUT OF THE FLOODPLAIN as was done for Valmeyer. (FEMA paid for this by the way) Yes, I feel badly for those impacted on BOTH sides of the river but the reality is, until we as citizens make smarter decisions and the Government makes better policies and let Mother Nature chart her on river’s course, we will continue to have this problem.


  14. - mokenavince - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 12:50 pm:

    Both sides now said it all.


  15. - wordslinger - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 12:59 pm:

    –soccermom rocks.–

    She does.

    All of us need to stick up for the folks in Cairo right now.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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