Nixon says corps' first responsibility is quick fix of levees

Friday, November 25, 2011

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Gov. Jay Nixon says fixing levees along the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers should be job No. 1 for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers this winter and coming spring.

Speaking at a mid-Missouri farm that had experienced some flooding during the summer's record Missouri River rise, Nixon said it is essential for Missouri's agricultural economy that levees damaged by the summer floods be rebuilt, and in a hurry.

"Our focus from Bird's Point down in the southeastern part of the state ... to northwest Missouri ... is that we need to protect that farmland, keep that land in farming," said Nixon. "Those export agreements we signed (with China) comes from having that bottomland ... continue to be the most productive in the world."

Nixon said levee projects are underway in both Southeast and northwest Missouri but acknowledged they are massive undertakings.

Nixon also said he sees some progress in working with upstream states on the uses for the Missouri River system. He said he is trying to impress upon governors of upstream states that the river's main purpose should remain as a control for flooding.

"I think that my work with the upstream governors is beginning to pay off, to shift to get flood control and navigation ... ahead of some of the recreation and other uses of the upstream states," said Nixon.

Earlier this year, a working group of Missouri River governors reached an agreement that flood control is the primary purpose of the Missouri River. Nixon said his goal now is to keep an eye on the corps of engineers to make sure its policies reflect that intention.

"I've been in this for 25 years, I don't know that I'm ever going to get satisfied and the corps of engineers in the same sentence," joked Nixon. "Satisfied, no. Trying to make changes that will make a difference for Missourians, yes. Guaranteeing that we'll do everything we can in the short term and the long term to make sure that our robust levee system is rebuilt so that land is protected? Absolutely."

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