St. Johns Bayou – New Madrid Floodway Project Threatens People and Wildlife

The New Madrid Floodway is located on the west bank of the Mississippi River in southeast Missouri just below the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. It was authorized by the federal Flood Control Act of 1928 to divert water from the Mississippi River during major flood events in order to lower flood stages upstream, notably at Cairo and Olive Branch, Illinois. If it is not used to absorb flood waters during major storms, levees and floodwalls protecting Illinois river communities could fail causing devastating losses in Alexander County as evidenced in the 2011 flooding of Olive Branch, Illinois, which caused millions of dollars in damages. Closing off the floodway will also threatens an integral part of the Mississippi River ecosystem that supports aquatic wildlife.

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The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has proposed the construction of a  $165 million taxpayer funded project known as the St. Johns Bayou – New Madrid Floodway Project (SJNM Project) that will close the gap in the levee between the Mississippi River and the New Madrid Floodway with a 60-foot high, 1500 foot long levee wall.

This project needs to be vetoed now, before the Final Environmental Impact Statement is released. Senator Durbin has come out publicly against the SJNM Project. But, we need Senator Kirk to join him in opposition. Please join the Thursday SJNM Tweets to Senator Kirk. Email Kim Knowles at kknowles@prairierivers.org and ask to be put on the Thursday SJNM Tweet email list. Kim will send you a reminder along with sample tweets once a week.

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May 2011, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers blasted holes in a Mississippi River levee to prevent Cairo from flooding. The water level had reached a frightening 61.72 feet, threatening the home to approximately 2,800 people, 70 percent of whom are African-American, living in an historic city struggling to survive deep poverty and a deteriorating infrastructure. Photo credit: Riverfront Times

Closure of the gap in the levee system will make it even more difficult for the Army Corps of Engineers to operate the New Madrid Floodway during major storms, threatening Illinois river communities during major floods. Such flooding would cause disproportionate harm to the health and safety of low-income populations such as Cairo, Illinois, where census data shows that twenty nine percent (29%) of the city’s residents live below the poverty level.

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The SJNM Floodway is a critical area for millions of animals who depend on the Floodway’s connection to the Mississippi River for clean water and habitat. Hunters and anglers from all over the country rely on the ecosystem services provided by the Floodway, bringing valuable recreation dollars to their states’ budgets. And half of Mississippi River fish spawn or rear in the Floodway. Photo credit: 1mississippi.org

Closure of the gap also threatens an integral part of the Mississippi River ecosystem, which provides vital fish and wildlife habitat, including important spawning and rearing habitat. The connection between the Mississippi River and this vital backwater habitat will result in draining more than 50,000 acres of wetlands, eliminating the most important backwater fishery in the Middle Mississippi River and threatening populations of migratory waterfowl and other wildlife that depend on the wetlands.

Join the Thursday SJNM Tweets and help Stop the Levee!

 

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