Mississippi County government: Levee breach would come at huge cost

Sunday, May 1, 2011

CHARLESTON, Mo. -- Covering the local share of the cost to deal with infrastructure damage from backwater flooding will be tough for Mississippi County. A breach at Birds Point would be devastating.

"Over the last four or five days, all the new business is the water," Commissioner Steve Jones said during their regular weekly meeting Thursday.

Commissioners approved reimbursing Danny Harris, county emergency management director, for time spent operating the county emergency operation center at Charleston City Hall to make up for wages lost from his regular job.

"He opened it Monday afternoon in Charleston," Jones said.

County Clerk Junior DeLay said the county needs to document all equipment, material and overtime expenses related to flooding.

Based on other recent disasters, the Federal Emergency Management Agency will reimburse 75 percent, the State Emergency Management Agency will reimburse 10 percent and the remaining 15 percent must be "absorbed by the county," DeLay said.

Damage estimates at this point are "a shot in the dark," he said. "When everything's under water, you can't see it."

"We do have lot of roads under water," said Richard Wallace, county road and bridge superintendent.

He estimated 10 percent of the county's roads were under water, most of those being gravel roads.

Commissioners advised Sheriff Keith Moore to document any additional overtime or fuel expenses for patrols in the spillway for public safety activities related to flooding for possible reimbursement as well.

DeLay said if the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers does breach the levee at Birds Point, he doesn't know how the county could possibly come up with its 15 percent for all the infrastructure, such as roads and ditches, that would be damaged.

The backwater flooding is bad enough, commissioners said, but the water with a current from a breach at Birds Point would cause even more damage to infrastructure.

The Corps has still not announced a decision to breach the levee.

County Surveyor Martin Lucas said he feels the Mississippi River is "not going to go to 60 feet" and that if it does, it won't remain at that stage as long as some hydrology reports are predicting

He said it is "almost unheard of" for a crest to last for 10 days.

"It might go 2-3 days," Lucas said.

County officials were perplexed by Corps officials announcing they would first breach the levee at Birds Point and then at the southern end of the floodplain, however.

"That might have been a mistake," Jones said. "He could have just made a misstatement."

Commissioner Robert Jackson said it was his understanding that the plan had always been to blow the south end first to let in the backwater and take some pressure off of the system and then blow the north end.

Hydrology is "not an exact science," Presiding Commissioner Carlin Bennett said.

"It all hinges on Saturday night-Sunday storms," Jones said.

According to the 2010 census, there are 75 homesteads with 233 people in the floodway within Mississippi County, DeLay said.

Almost all of those have been evacuated from the area, according to county officials.

Pertinent address:

Charleston, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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