|Corps of Engineers report details efforts to minimize flood damage
|Posted: Tuesday, February 26, 2013 8:26 pm
|By KEVIN BOWDEN
A new report released Monday by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers documents the federal agency’s efforts to deal with the massive 2011 flooding along the lower Mississippi River.
The lower Mississippi Region (from Cairo, Ill., to the Gulf of Mexico) covers about 39,000 square miles and an estimated 7.2 million people. The region is covered under the Corps’ Mississippi River and Tributaries System.
“In pure economic terms, the Mississippi River and Tributaries System is a success — one of the most successful flood risk reduction systems in the world,” the Corps’ report states in part. “In the 2011 flood alone, the system is credited with the prevention of $234 billion in flood damages. Since its inception, it has cumulatively prevented $612 billion, and that’s with an investment over the years of $14 billion.”
The Corps’ report details the overall impact of the record-setting 2011 floods. It is estimated the flooding damaged 21,000 residential and commercial structures and caused $2.8 billion in damage.
“The Flood of 2011 tested the system like none before,” the report states.
In the five-month period from March to August 2011, the corps spent nearly $60 million fighting the Mississippi River flooding and assigned about 1,000 members of the corps staff to the flooding.
Locally, the 2011 flooding caused extensive damage in extreme southwest Kentucky and in neighboring Lake County. Extensive flooding also occurred in Samburg.
“The comprehensive post-flood analysis indicates great success by any measure. River flow levels exceeded all previous major floods of 1927, 1937 and 1973, but the 2011 flood was contained within the system to a much greater extent. And although the 2011 flood caused extensive damages to many MR&T components, the system performed as designed,” the report states.
The Corps’ flood report serves as an evaluation of the Mississippi River and Tributaries System and as a forward-planning document to prepare for future flooding along the lower Mississippi River.
The report describes collaborations with local and state agencies as “key in both planning and execution of flood fight measures.”
“What we’re looking at is how well we did in fighting the 2011 flood, how well the system performed, and what we can do better next time,” Hank DeHaan states in the report. “We have developed a roadmap here for future leaders and decision makers.
DeHaan is the regional project manager for the Mississippi River and Tributaries post-flood evaluation.
The Corps’ 32-page report documents the history of flood control efforts along the lower Mississippi River region and goes into great detail describing such techniques as channel stabilization, floodways, tributary improvements and levees along the nation’s largest waterway.
The report also documents the timeline of the 2011 floods and decisions that were made to deal with the flooding.
“By May 1 it was obvious that reservoirs and levees alone would not stem the steadily rising river. The river gage at Cairo, Ill., was at 60.5 feet and rising, a key decisional trigger point that signaled the need to call into use a rarely used flood relief valve: The Birds Point-New Madrid Floodway. It would need to be activated for the first time since 1937, a decision that meant the additional flooding of farmland and homes lying in the floodway,” the report states.
The report uses headline terms such as “catastrophe” and “uncharted territory” to describe the conditions along the river. Images from along the river are also contained within the flood report to illustrate the flood’s devastation.
The Corps “self-funded” 29 repairs to the MR&T System.
“In December 2011, Congress authorized $802 million in supplemental funding for the Mississippi River and Tributaries System repairs. That, plus emergency supplemental funding for Operation and Maintenance and PL84-99 projects, allowed for another 118 critical repair projects to proceed, as well as 100 more deemed non-critical,” the Corps’ report states.
Published in The Messenger 2.26.13