On May 7 I was traveling home to Kansas with my son who just finished his second year of college. We passed through Illinois and Missouri. I was unprepared for what I saw when we drove by the tributaries of the Mississippi River.
I had heard the news, but had no idea of the magnitude and the widespread destruction caused by the vast ocean of water.
Several days after returning home, I was watching the news and observed highlights of the Army Corps of Engineers blasting holes in a levee at Birds Point, Ill., inundating an estimated 200 square miles of farmland and damaging or destroying 100 homes. The purpose was to spare Cairo, Ill., population 2,800 people.
On May 14, the Corp opened the Morganza Spillway, La. It is a massive apparatus built in the 1920s that has remained closed for nearly 40 years. The hope was to prevent massive flooding in Baton Rouge and New Orleans.
The outcome of opening the spillway was to divert flood waters into sparsely populated areas in southeast Louisiana. That’s right–farm country or about 3 million acres of farmland.
By opening the spillway, the water was released and eventually blanketed more than 3,000 square miles, leaving standing water up to 25 inches high. It has flooded thousands of homes and acres of farmland along a 100-mile stretch in Louisiana.
The Corp called it a hugh success.
The farmers call it a disaster.
Losses to the farming community are in the billions of dollars. It has been estimated that millions of acres of soybean, rice, winter wheat crop and corn will be lost from this year’s production. These losses are not only cost the farmers, but will result in enormous economic loss for each state located along the Mississippi River.
Plus, it could be years before the farmland is restored and the infrastructure is rebuilt.
Some of the farmers are filing a lawsuit to compel the Corps to compensate them for their damages.
It could be argued that farmers knew exactly what they were getting into when they purchased their farms near these tributaries, spillways or levies. Couldn’t the same be said for the folks and businesses (oil refineries) located in Cairo Ill., Baton Rouge and New Orleans, La.?
Keep in mind most of these folks were banking on the Army Corp of Engineers designing a levee system that was built to withstand a greater than 1-in-500 year flood, whereas this flood has been estimated at “only” a 1-in-100 to 1-in-300 year flood.
In the coming weeks remember your farming community that became the sacrificial lamb from the Ohio valley to the Gulf of Mexico.