Levees | St. Louis Public Radio

Levees

The Sny Island Levee System in Illinois is one of 10 levee systems that have exceeded their authorized heights, according to a survey conducted by the Army Corps of Engineers' Rock Island District this year.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

Data from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are supporting northeast Missouri residents' suspicions that overbuilt levees along the Upper Mississippi River have led to increased flooding for vulnerable communities. 

The Corps of Engineers last spring surveyed levee heights in the Rock Island District, which runs from Keokuk, Iowa, to Thebes, Illinois, and discovered that 40 percent of the levees exceeded regulation. The federal agency released a model at the end of January that measured the impact the overbuilt levees have on river flooding. The model, however, requires an experienced engineer to operate, so environmental advocacy group American Rivers hired a consultant to do so this month.

Arnold residents pile sandbags over a manhole to try to prevent sewage from mixing with floodwater. May 2017
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

More people in Missouri are at risk of experiencing damage from heavy rainfall and river flooding, according to a study released Wednesday.

A view of the Mississippi River from Dubuque, IA, where government agencies, environmentalists, engineers and residents gathered to discuss flood risks along the upper Mississippi River.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

Communities along the upper Mississippi River have seen a major uptick in heavy rains and flooding in the last decade.

Residents, environmentalists, engineers and government agencies agree that they need a coordinated strategy to manage flooding. That could be particularly important in coming years, as scientists predict that climate change will likely bring more heavy rain to the region.

The Sny Island Levee System in Illinois is one of 10 levee systems that have exceeded their authorized heights, according to a survey conducted by the Army Corps of Engineers' Rock Island District this year.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

Nancy Guyton has lived by the Mississippi River her entire life. She and her husband farm in Annada, a small town on the Missouri side of the Mississippi River. She knows that growing crops on the floodplain comes with some risks.

The Guytons’ farm, about 65 miles north of St. Louis, endured major floods along the Mississippi in 1993 and 2008. But since 2008, she’s noticed more flood events.

The Fenton Water Treatment Plant was knocked offline due to historic flooding.
Bill Greenblatt | UPI

The Meramec River is expected to crest at 40 feet on Wednesday, posing a threat to low-lying communities, including Valley Park, Eureka, Fenton and Kirkwood. 

As water levels rise along the same communities that were badly impacted by flooding in early 2016, some local environmentalists say that levees are responsible for the severe floods residents in the St. Louis area have experienced in recent years.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Nov 30, 2011 - WASHINGTON -- Criticized by Missouri lawmakers, farmers and local officials for the response to this year's Missouri River flooding, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers commander on Wednesday promised a more flexible and aggressive approach to managing the river to avoid a repeat of the devastating flood.

Commentary: After the flood: Not business as usual

Jul 29, 2008

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: July 29, 2008 - The recent floods in the Midwest demand a new approach by Congress and by local authorities. As recently as 1993, similar floods in this region produced widespread destruction and loss of life. In the wake of that tragedy, many experts, including American Rivers, called for a new course for managing floods. Sadly, few policymakers heeded the warnings.

This levee was overtopped in western St. Charles County on June 20, 2008. Many houses were built on berms after 1993. 300 pixels
Robert Criss | St. Louis Beacon archive

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: July 3, 2008 - As the turbid, polluted waters slowly recede, it is time to reflect on why 2008 was another disastrous flood year. Why, indeed, did record and near-record flooding strike the Midwest so soon after 1993?

The sad truth is that the flood of 2008 should be no surprise. Experts have long warned that floods are becoming more frequent and more severe, and that this succession of aggravated misfortune is caused by Man.

Water street in Grafton during 2008 flood. 300 pixels
Bob Criss | St. Louis Beacon archives

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: June 16, 2008 - Heartbreaking flooding is destroying thousands of homes and endangering their inhabitants, in an arching belt that extends 500 miles: from Des Moines to Milwaukee to Terre Haute. As the waters gather and flow downstream, they will affect numerous cities along the Mississippi River. Levees will be overtopped in many areas, streets are already flooded in many river cities and acre after acre of crops will be lost, too late to replant this year.

Mercifully, drier conditions are forecast for a few days, but the die is cast: The Mississippi River at many sites in eastern Iowa, western Illinois and northeast Missouri will attain record or near-record levels this year.