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General News    H2'ed 6/17/08

Disaster Flood Engineering: Get Busy Iowa and Missouri, and Top Those Levees

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Corps Needs Crystal Balls

On Monday, The Army Corps of Engineers admitted flood waters currently contained by 27 levees along the Mississippi River could spill over about two dozen levees along the river in Iowa and Missouri "unless people top the levees with enough sandbags," spokesman Ron Fournier said.

Attempts to reach Fournier for a clarification resulted in a call from his office saying the "quotes were accurate," and that Fournier stood behind them.

The Chicago SunTimes did make contact with the spokesman.

There is no way to predict whether these levees will break, Fournier told the Sun Times.

''That's a crystal ball that nobody has,'' he said.

Senator and Chairman of the Senate Agricultural Committee, Tom Harkin (D) confirmed in a press release that in eastern Iowa the flooding has washed out railroad lines, major roadways are closed and Mississippi barge traffic has come to a halt. 38,000 people have been displaced, but that is a shifting, incomplete number.

Harkin: "The situation is overwhelming our local agencies"

Today (Tuesday) Harkin's press office announced a federal disaster declaration of 13 Iowa counties out of 99. This was after the powerful committee chairman sent what amounted to a pleading letter to FEMA on June 13 which read, in part, "Governor Culver has already issued an Emergency Proclamation for nearly all of Iowa's 99 counties, all experiencing significant damage due to the combination of severe rainfall, winds, and flooding. The situation is overwhelming our local agencies."

Now, the Army Corps of Engineers is bracing for more flooding near St. Louis and closed Mississippi River Locks 24 and 25 at Clarksville and Winfield.

In a brilliant public relations spin on their webpage, the Corps says sand is being moved and water is being contained on the east, or protected side of the Chain of Rocks Levee in Illinois. Not to worry though. The corps maintains that "this is not because of flooding."


Corps authorities explain it is a "prudent precaution." After all there are "possibilities of water under seepage along the levee," the corps added. This possibility is buried several levels under the web index page. A fluff piece on lighthouses is featured on page one.

Someone should get a photo of this area and ask the question why, if there is no danger, the corps does not move its heavy equipment north and help move a few of those nearly two million sandbags.

No one seems to have asked the question, so this writer will ask it here. With the epic dimensions of this flood and the scope of the levee and infrastructure failures, how can the Army Corps of Engineers go before the devastated people of central Iowa and those threatened in Missouri and tell them they had better get busy and "top the levees?"

Armies of Industrious Amish and Mennonites

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Georgianne Nienaber is an investigative environmental and political writer. She lives in rural northern Minnesota and South Florida. Her articles have appeared in The Society of Professional Journalists' Online Quill Magazine, the Huffington (more...)

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