CHARLESTON, Mo. (AP) — Three years after 130,000 acres of southeast Missouri was swamped when the government blasted three holes in a Mississippi River levee, part of the area has recovered from the flood, and part of it never will.
It was at the height of the 2011 flood, with water so high that nearby Cairo, Illinois, was threatened, that the Army Corps of Engineers decided to allow water into the spillway surrounded by Birds Point levee in Mississippi County. The strategy worked: Cairo was saved.
But several Missouri homes were destroyed, along with tens of thousands of acres of rich farmland.
The Southeast Missourian (http://bit.ly/1oh6fhK ) reports that the farmland is fertile again, with Mississippi County showing acres of golden wheat with stubby green corn stalks and growing soybean sprouts. But the tiny community of Pinhook is extinct, and residents say they received no financial assistance from the government.
Third-generation farmer Pete Story vividly recalls the damage. Roofs of homes breaking through the surface of a lake. Drowning farm equipment. Men on boats surveying the damage. Stranded wildlife on a front porch.
The floodwaters took about one month to recede, damaging Story's office building and farm equipment. The wheat and corn he had planted on his 2,300 acres were gone.
"And I was just one of the many," he said.
About 1,500 acres of farmland were destroyed by several feet of sand, ruts and erosion.
"This wasn't just about flooded farmland. It was about the two biggest crop-producing counties in the state," said U.S. Rep. Jason Smith, whose district covers southeast Missouri.
Some local leaders had urged the federal agency to activate the floodway by lowering an 11-mile stretch of the levee by one foot rather than the purposeful breach. But Corps spokesman Jim Pogue said that such "natural overtopping would not give us the necessary drop in the river levels that we would need."
Before 2011, the levee was last activated during the historic flooding of 1937.
Information from: Southeast Missourian, http://www.semissourian.com