Sierra Club sues to block Jeff City levee

Sunday, November 23, 2003

ST. LOUIS --The Sierra Club has sued the Army Corps of Engineers, arguing that it didn't consider the damage caused by a large, new Missouri River levee.

The environmental group said the corps' proposed 1,000-year levee at Jefferson City would eliminate wildlife habitat, ruin wetlands and encourage construction in what is now undeveloped flood plain. The suit also said the levee would lead to higher flood levels in the St. Louis area and at other points along the 735 miles of the lower Missouri River.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court Friday, said the corps violated the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to study and measure potential damage in an environmental impact statement. Instead the corps released a less-detailed environmental assessment in April 2001 with findings that the project would create "no significant impact."

Tom O'Hara, a spokesman for the corps, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Friday that officials were studying the suit.

O'Hara said a lengthy impact study is not necessary for every project and was not necessary in this case.

The $24.5 million levee project would be constructed on the northern bank of the Missouri River. It would be 4.7 miles long, 150 feet wide and as high as 22.5 feet.

The levee is designed to withstand a 1,000-year flood. That would represent double the protection of the 500-year Mississippi River floodwall in downtown St. Louis.

The levee would protect about 1,500 acres.

The suit noted that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has estimated that the levee would harm more than 38 acres of wetlands. It asked the federal court to halt the project until proper environmental assessments take place.

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