Morning round-up
9:29 am
Tue May 3, 2011

Morning headlines: May 3, 2011

Corps Explodes Bird Point Levee to Save Cairo, Ill

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has exploded a large section of a Mississippi River levee in a desperate attempt to protect the Illinois town of Cairo from rising floodwaters. The corps says the break will help Cairo by diverting up to 4 feet of water off the river. As of Monday evening, river levels at Cairo were at historic highs, creating pressure on the flood wall protecting the town.

The blasts sent a torrent of water onto 130,000 acres of Missouri farmland. Brief but bright orange flashes could be seen above the river as the explosions went off. The blast lasted only about two seconds.

Major General Michael Walsh with the Corps says levees may need to be blown down the Mississippi.

 “Look at the national weather forecast and what they’re looking at," said Walsh. "All the gauges up and down [the river] are going to meet record levels, so this is not the end of this, this just the beginning."

 The National Weather Service says the level of the Mississippi River has dropped dramatically since the Army Corps of Engineers blew the Birds Point levee. The weather service says on its website that before the intentional breach at Birds Point last night the river was at 61.72 feet and rising in Cairo. It says the river is at 60.62 feet as of this morning and is expected to continue falling by Saturday.

Mo. Auditor Investigating St. Louis School

The Missouri auditor's office is investigating whether a St. Louis elementary school inflated its attendance and enrollment records. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that auditor Thomas Schweich served subpoenas Monday to officials of Patrick Henry Downtown Academy. The newspaper says one of those subpoenaed was a teacher who reported the alleged inflation of records to the auditor.

The state determines how much state funding a school gets based on attendance and enrollment.

The school district said in a statement that officials will cooperate with the auditor's office, but made no further comment. Patrick Henry reported last year that its attendance was 97.3 percent, and enrollment has grown to more than 300.

Elk Pass Health Tests

The 34 elk that are to be reintroduced into Missouri have passed their health tests. The Missouri Department of Conservation says the elk passed tests administered after a three-month quarantine at a conservation area in Kentucky.

The elk originally were scheduled to arrive in Missouri last Saturday, but were delayed until the health testing was completed. It’s not clear when the herd will arrive in Missouri.

The elk will be placed at the department's Peck Ranch Conservation Area in southeast Missouri, which is part of a 346-square-mile elk restoration zone. The animals will stay in a holding pen for up to two weeks before being released into the refuge, which will be closed to the public for a few months.

Nixon Vetoes Nuisance Lawsuits Bill

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has vetoed a bill that would limit nuisance lawsuits against farms. The legislation would have capped the money that can be won by neighboring property owners who file multiple lawsuits against the same farming operation.

The bill was aimed primarily at people who have repeatedly sued large hog farms because of their odors. Nixon said Monday evening that he was concerned the limits could have applied to all nuisance lawsuits - not just those related to livestock or crop farms. He also objected to a limit on punitive damages. The governor said he hopes lawmakers can send him a revised bill before the legislative session ends May 13.