Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Army Corps of Engineers to Hold St. Johns Bayou and New Madrid Floodway Project Public Meetings

St. Johns Bayou – New Madrid Floodway Area
(click to enlarge)
Last month the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released a long-awaited draft St. John's Bayou-New Madrid Floodway project environmental impact statement concerning its controversial plan to close a gap in the Mississippi River levee system in southern Missouri (here is a link to the Army Corps' project web site). Yesterday (August 6) the Corps of Engineers announced that it will hold two public meetings regarding the project on August 27 and 28, in East Prairie, Missouri and Cairo, Illinois, respectively (here is a link to the Army Corps' public meeting announcement).

Each of the two meetings will be consist of two parts: one being an open house during which people can view and ask questions regarding project information; and the second consisting of a project overview presented by Army Corps' representatives and an opportunity for members of the public to make statements regarding the project.

The flood control project is designed to reduce flood impacts on small communities and a large area of agricultural land behind the levee system, by cutting off the Mississippi River from the only area in Missouri where the River has significant connection with its natural floodplain.  It was initially proposed in the 1950s, and has been consistently opposed by environmental organizations since. Environmentalists and natural resource agencies argue that the River-floodplain connection is essential to maintain storage for floodwaters, trap and filter River sediment and nutrients, and support area and migratory wildlife and waterfowl. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, for example, noted in its project Coordination Act Report that "The project would essentially eliminate a unique landscape and ecological feature in southeast Missouri and result in loss of thousands of acres of wetlands and their connection to the Mississippi River that cannot be adequately mitigated."  

In 2007 a federal judge ruled that the Army Corps' plan would not do enough to offset its related environmental damages, effectively halting the project. However, the U.S. Congress subsequently appropriated funding for the Corps to revise the project in an attempt to overcome shortcomings upheld by the federal judge, and the Army Corps contends that the current project is based upon "more accurate environmental methodologies, analyses and results."

Persons wishing to submit written comments on the project may email them to the Army Corps of Engineers' Project Manager, Danny Ward, at or to National Environmental Policy Act Coordinator Joshua Koontz at Comments also may be mailed to Ward at Project Management Branch, 167 N. Main St., Room B-202, Memphis, TN 38103-1894. Comments are requested by September 9, 2013.  Either Koontz or Ward may also be contacted to receive additional project information.

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