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Opinion: Small towns are counting on levee plan

Saturday, October 5, 2002

By Joe Sorrells

EAST PRAIRIE, Mo. -- I laughed at first and then became a little angry after reading the guest column, "Stop politics, support real solutions," by Judith Cureton in the Sept. 25 Southeast Missourian.

I am one of those residents of East Prairie. I also live on top of the so-called sponge and also was in attendance when Jim Talent came to Cape Girardeau to talk about river and flooding issues. Since the author of that guest column was not at that meeting and has obviously not toured our town and surrounding area, I feel inclined to deliver the facts to your readers, to Judith Cureton and to other members of the Cape Girardeau chapter of the Sierra Club.

East Prairie and the surrounding area does flood -- more like every other year rather than every 10 years or so.

These floods do damage houses but not basements, because we only have two basements in town, and both of them were built above ground and back filled.

We do not live on a 35,000- acre sponge but instead on ground just as solid as the ground that the Town Plaza shopping center is built on in the heart of Cape Girardeau.

In order to correct our stormwater drainage problem, we must first reduce our backwater flooding problem.

Our drainage ditch that drains to the Mississippi River is 20 miles long. If we built a levee along this ditch, we would be building 40 miles of levee rather than the 1,500 feet as proposed.

Cureton suggested that we raise our streets in town to meet our flood-control needs. This is like proposing to raise Front, Water Street, Main Street, Broadway and Kingshighway in Cape Girardeau and still let all the businesses and residences flood.

The truth is that the St. John's flood-control plan is a responsible, long-term flood-control plan, just as responsible as the Cape LaCroix project was for Cape Girardeau. Ask any of the businesses in the Town Plaza or surrounding area if flooding was an economic, physical and emotional hardship. Also, ask these people if they were not grateful for the Corps of Engineers project in their area.

The truth is that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has signed off on our project. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is not opposing the project. I am baffled by the statement that the state economist of Minnesota is in opposition. I do not live in Minnesota. As for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, it has not officially commented on this project. DNR's role will be to determine if the environmental process has been properly followed and if it conforms to the criteria for clean-water certification.

Through the hard work of Republicans and Democrats alike, we residents of Southeast Missouri and East Prairie have the hope that truth will prevail.

In a democracy, the people have the final say in the direction of our country. We, unlike other people around the world who live in restrictive states, have a hand in determining our destiny. But along with this gift comes a fairly high level of responsibility to be an informed decision maker and voter. We have a responsibility to follow the laws that we establish and a responsibility to enforce these laws uniformly. If we choose to offer flood control to our citizens, then all people should be treated equally.

The people of East Prairie, New Madrid, Pinhook, LaForge, Dorena and other small communities affected by the flooding are thankful that Jim Talent helped make this an issue. Only this way can we present the facts, inform the people and build the proper support for the Corps of Engineers project that truly will bring long-term flood control solutions for our families and for our future.

Joe Sorrells is a resident of East Prairie, Mo.

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