Year of the Floods reviewed by Corps

Year of the Floods reviewed by Corps
Year of the Floods reviewed by Corps | Year of the Floods reviewed by Corps
By KEVIN BOWDEN
Staff Reporter
It was almost a year ago that powerful spring storms caused widespread flooding across the region.
From mid-April through mid-May, heavy rains swamped the area along the Mississippi River — from Cairo, Ill., all the way to southern Louisiana.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-Memphis District appropriately labeled 2011 as “Year of the Floods.”
On Monday morning, the Mississippi River Commission met with more than 100 officials from across four states to discuss last year’s flooding and to look at how to prepare for future floods in the region.
“It was anything but business as usual last year,” Col. Vernie L. Reichling Jr. said Monday.
The commission held a public hearing aboard the massive four-story riverboat, the Mississippi, which was docked just southwest of Tiptonville on the Mississippi River.
The hearing lasted nearly 31⁄2 hours and was dominated by testimonies from officials representing Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri and Illinois.
At the conclusion of the meeting, Maj. Gen. John W. Peabody announced he had taken five pages of notes from the meeting. He serves as the incoming president of the Mississippi River Commission.
Peabody shared the podium with Reichling as they used a slide show to illustrate the devastating impact of the 2011 floods along the Mississippi River.
Reichling is the commander of the Memphis District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. That title makes him responsible for all the flood risk management and emergency operations along 610 miles of the Mississippi and White rivers. That area covers 25,000 square miles over six states.
When you consider the Mississippi River system is the largest inland water system in the world, and is larger than all the world’s other inland water systems combined, it’s a massive responsibility being managed by Memphis Corps officials.
The Mississippi River watershed covers 41 percent of the United States, covers 31 states and represents an area of 1.25 million square miles.
At Monday’s public meeting, Peabody and Reichling used their slideshow to outline the Corps’ work in 2011.
“Water is a perfect engine of destruction,” Peabody said.
“We’re where we need to be, but we must not rest on our laurels.”
He told the audience this region is still at risk for flooding until early June.
“There is a flood lurking out there in the future that will overcome the existing design,” Peabody said.
The flooding of 2011 almost did that across the Mid-South.
Peabody said $13.9 billion was invested in the region in 2011 for flood management and the corps’ work helped prevent an estimated $486 billion in flood damage — a 35 to 1 return on investment.
Peabody said the region is still “at risk” for flooding.
Reichling said 70 sites were impacted by last year’s flooding, representing $324 million in damages across the corps’ Memphis district. He told the audience the corps’ top priority is the restoration of the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers at Cairo.
It was also announced at Monday’s meeting that contracts will be let in May for work on the Mississippi River in the southwest Kentucky and northwest Tennessee area.
All 10 harbors represented by the Memphis district, including the riverport in Hickman, Ky., are scheduled to be dredged this year, it was announced at the meeting. The contracts for the dredging work are scheduled to be awarded in June and $133 million has been allocated for channel improvements.
Staff Reporter Kevin Bowden may be contacted by email at kmbowden@ucmessenger.com.
Published in The Messenger 3.27.12

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