(Melissa Miller) [Order this photo]
Work began in March to dig out what was left behind when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers blasted holes in the levee protecting the floodway in a move to relieve flood pressure elsewhere.
On Wednesday representatives of the USDA's Natural Resource Conservation Service and Mississippi County Consolidated Drainage District No. 1 signed an amendment to a cooperative agreement for flood recovery work doubling the number of repair sites from three to six for a total of $3 million.
The amendment makes an additional $2.1 million available to remove sediment and debris left behind by floodwaters from drainage channels and dispose of the excavated material. Much of the material removed will be used to restore nearby farmland scoured from flooding.
The drainage district will provide $335,000 in matching funds for the projects.
NRCS will spend $13.7 million to clean out 108 miles of drainage ditches in the Birds Point New Madrid Floodway, said J.R. Flores, state conservationist with NRCS. Throughout the Bootheel area $35 million will be spent to clean out 900 miles of ditches.
By April 15, there will be 120 excavators and draglines employing more than 200 workers, he said.
"It's really having a huge impact on the immediate income and the economy here in Southeast Missouri," Flores said.
A total of $215 million was appropriated by Congress through the Emergency Watershed Protection Program as a result of disasters nationwide last year. Missouri received the second largest portion, said Harold Deckerd, assistant state conservationist with NRCS. Utah received the most aid.
Repairs are already underway on Ditch 29, the main drainage artery for Consolidated Drainage District No. 1.
In some places, the channel was filled with eight to nine feet of sediment, said Glenn Ault, drainage district vice president. Other spots only had one to two feet of sediment.
So far, one of the six projects in the district has been completed and work is going smoothly, he said.
Elott Raffety, who owns land along Ditch 29 where repairs are being made, said he still has about 320 acres damaged so severely they can't be planted.
Sediment removed from Ditch 29 will be used to help fill in the land's craterlike appearance left behind after the water went down.
"Some of that more than likely we'll get ready and we can put a wheat crop on it this fall," Raffety said.
There are now 73 projects, including 14 in the Birds Point New Madrid Floodway, that will be completed in Southeast Missouri this year through the Emergency Watershed Protection Program. Work is scheduled to be completed by October.