|Presson's flooded farm|
Wednesday, May 04, 2011
Feds blast levee, lower river level
River levels dropped Tuesday after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers blasted a hole in a Missouri levee, lifting hopes in Illinois and Kentucky towns where flood walls had strained against the swollen Ohio and Mississippi rivers. "It saved our town," said Cheryl James, a resident of Mounds, Ill., where river waters began to recede overnight. The water had been up to her second step Monday night. On Tuesday, her sidewalk was dry. The sense of relief in Mounds and other river towns came at the sacrifice of Missouri farmers who cultivate more than 130,000 acres in the Birds Point-New Madrid Floodway now inundated by the controlled breaching of the levee. What once had been a broad vista of well-tended farms was replaced Monday by a vast lake, with treetops and some farm buildings poking through the surface of the water. Worried growers took up positions with binoculars along the levee, along with cattle seeking dry land. "We hope that by blowing the levee that it did help somebody," said Ray Presson, 56 years old, who farms 2,400 acres that were under several feet of water. "It didn't help us much, for sure."
Farmers filed a lawsuit Tuesday seeking class-action status, charging that the Corps wrongfully took their property by allowing water to deluge the floodway. More than 50 farmers gathered at a Charleston, Mo., library to listen to lawyers filing the lawsuit. Lester Goodin, who farms 560 acres, said he signed up as a plaintiff to make sure he would have the wherewithal to rebuild once the water subsides. U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the federal government would pay claims to farmers with crop insurance, but it wasn't clear whether growers have sufficient insurance to cover losses of houses, barns and other property...more