Study suggests Army Corps made right call at Birds Point levee

Apr 11, 2012

A new study suggests the Army Corps of Engineers made the right decision when it blew up the Birds Point-New Madrid levee last year.

The study’s authors argue the floodway would have been inundated with or without Corps action.

Ken Olson is a soil sciences professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and he co-authored the study.

He says the river level at the Cairo, Ill., gauge continued to rise even after the Corps breached the levee on May 2. The next day, he said, the river peaked at 61.72 feet … more than a foot above the level of the levee’s fuse plug.

“It started off as a choice between prime farmland in Missouri and lowering the pressures on an urban levee system. However, the forecasted peak was wrong. It was too low. And in fact, the floodwater was going to go over the top of the fuse plug. We ended up choosing flooding the farmland and the city, or just flooding the farmland," he said.

Olson said, without the breach, Cairo would have been flooded by 22 feet of water.

In another study, Olson found agricultural production levels in the floodway will be comprised for years to come.

Olson’s studies can be found in the Journal of Soil and Water Conservation.