Flooding on Missouri River won't cause Mississippi flooding here, corps and forecasters say

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the National Weather Service say while widespread flooding along the Missouri River and its tributaries in Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota will not likely cause another significant flood along the Mississippi River in Southeast Missouri and Southern Illinois, local water levels will remain high through the summer.

More water coming could also push back work the corps needs to do in order to repair the breached Birds Point-New Madrid Floodway levee in Mississippi County. Memphis corps spokesman Jim Pogue said the flooding in the north could bring the water levels back up some.

Mike Petersen, the St. Louis corps' spokesman, said the impact of more water in the St. Louis area and farther south will be felt around the end of June.

"What we're looking at now is a significant amount of water coming down the Missouri while the water levels on the upper Mississippi, Illinois and Ohio rivers are coming down. There will be a much slower fall to water levels along the Mississippi than there has been already," Petersen said.

Dave Purdy, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Paducah, Ky., said with no rain in the forecast for the area in the next several days, river levels will fall slowly along Southeast Missouri, Southern Illinois and western Kentucky.

Petersen said the models used in flood forecasts assume the same amount of precipitation will be received as in previous years, which are above the historical average, and take into account the tributaries of the Missouri River staying high.

"We're not expecting another flood event like we saw earlier, but what we are expecting is to have more water than usual flowing down. Usually we have low water this time of year," Petersen said.

In recent weeks, Mississippi County residents displaced from the floodway and unhappy with the corps' timeline for repairs to the Birds Point levee have been discussing making repairs themselves.

Pogue said the corps strongly discourages any residents of the floodway from making efforts to repair the levee because of potential legal problems.

"Whatever they would do, they would have to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act legal requirements just like we would," Pogue said. "There are restrictions based on the Rivers and Harbors Act that could address the levee usage, and in front of the levee, and who has the authority to do any of that kind of work."

While more water could be on the way, the Mississippi River at New Madrid was forecast to fall below flood levels Friday night.

The gauge at Cape Girardeau was at 37.2 feet Saturday and falling slowly. Flood stage is 32 feet.

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