Corps of Engineers monitoring New Madrid river level

Friday, July 1, 2011
The breached Birds Point levee is shown Wednesday, June 15, 2011 beyond a washed-out section of a restricted road that connects with Mississippi County Road 301. (Fred Lynch)

NEW MADRID, Mo. -- U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials met Thursday to discuss whether further action would be needed to stop a continually rising river from overtopping the levee in the Birds Point-New Madrid Floodway.

Last week, the corps built a temporary berm in the levee's middle crevasse to stop water from coming through when the river was forecast to crest above where detonated sections of the levee could hold.

Despite changing forecasts, which show a rise instead of a fall, Memphis District spokesman Jim Pogue said work done on the levee over the weekend would prevent any overtopping of the levee when the river crests at Cairo, Ill., and New Madrid between Thursday afternoon and tonight.

The corps is now focusing on the water level at New Madrid to determine any additional work on the levee's two southern crevasses. Pogue said the crevasses should hold water back up to a level of between 35 and 36 feet on the New Madrid gauge. The National Weather Service is forecasting a crest of 30.3 feet at New Madrid today.

The reading on the Cairo gauge affects the water level most at the upper crevasse, which Pogue said will prevent overtopping up to a 44-foot reading. The weather service is forecasting a 42.2-foot crest in Cairo by today.

Pogue said the corps has a contingency plan in case water levels continue to rise.

"Right now it looks like we are in good shape," he said," we are watching the gauges closely and we have a plan ready to go if we need to respond."

Although the water levels at Cape Girardeau are forecast to crest above flood stage today as well, Pogue said there is always less of an effect from water coming down the Mississippi River north of the Ohio River because the river widens farther south.

Tim Gramling, Cape Girardeau public works director, said no streets in Cape Girardeau are expected to flood. Flood stage is 32 feet. The floodgate at Broadway closes at 38 feet.

eragan@semissourian.com

243-6635

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