Flood projects progressing on both sides of Mississippi River

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Progress is steadily being made with flood-recovery projects on both sides of the Mississippi River.

Cairo, Ill., will be the beneficiary of a $7.8 million contract awarded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for its flood-control projects, and officials in the Missouri counties of Mississippi and New Madrid are pleased with efforts to repair levees that were intentionally breached during last year's massive flooding.

The contract for Cairo, the county seat of Alexander County, was awarded Friday to R.L. Persons Construction of Poplar Bluff, Mo., and the money will go toward construction of two landside earthen berms and a 4,200-foot slurry trench expected to reduce water seepage under the Ohio River levee. The funding is part of the ongoing $46 million recovery project performed under corps supervision for the city that saw record of flooding in 2011.

"We're happy with the contract that has been awarded and the work that's been done so far," said Michael Caldwell, chairman of the Alexander County Board of Commissioners. "But we know we have a lot more work to do before it's all over."

In addition to the new slurry trench and berm projects, Cairo already has a 7,200-foot slurry trench under construction along its Mississippi River levee that is expected to be completed in January. It has seen the completion of 28 relief wells along the same levee designed to further reduce water seepage, and another set of 30 relief wells near the city's floodwall are scheduled to be operational by September.

Locals don't see the amount of funding Cairo has received as overkill. According to Alexander County engineer Jeff Denny, there had been problems with Cairo's flood-control system before the historic flood of 2011.

"A lot of issues we had with the system hadn't been addressed in the years that led up to the flooding," Denny said. "When the floodwaters hit last year, the problems became obvious. Now we have the opportunity to set things right for a long time."

Denny added he is hopeful the newly awarded contract, expected to represent the last of Cairo's projects, will be finished by the expected date of December 2013.

Across the river in Missouri, work continues to rebuild breached levees. Their destruction in May 2011 submerged a large part of Mississippi County and sections of New Madrid County.

"The weather has really been helpful right now," said Jim Pogue, spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Memphis district. "We fell a little behind with the rain we had a short while ago, but something like that had been factored into our plans. If need be, the contractors can work all day and night to get the jobs completed."

Pogue was hopeful work on the levees, which he said will total more than $11 million, will be completed by the end of the year, restoring the levee to its full height of 62.5 feet on the Ohio River gauge at Cairo.

"We understand the impact the flooding had on people's lives," he said. "We're just as anxious as they are to see this work through and have it in better shape than it was before the waters came. We want to see people's lives get back on track."

Carlin Bennett, presiding commissioner of Mississippi County, said that he would also be happy for the projects to come to an end.

"We had about 110,000 acres go under," Bennett said. "We had homes and farm property that were completely submerged. People are just now getting things together in the area affected by the flooding. The corps is confident, and we're confident, that work will be finished by December. We want our protection back, and I'll see that we get it."

In New Madrid County, Presiding Commissioner Clyde Hawes shared Bennett's optimism.

"I'm happy with the work done on the levee in New Madrid County," he said. "It was so unfortunate when that flood hit us. We had about 22,000 acres drowned by floodwater down here. Anytime you see homes and grain bins get washed away, it's sad."

klewis@semissourian.com

388-3635

Pertinent address:

Cairo, IL

Charleston, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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