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Corps Pumps Explosive Mixture to Birds Point Levee

UPI/Bill Greenblatt
Members of the Missouri State Highway Patrol and Missouri National Guard survey a levy breach in Butler County, Missouri on April 26, 2011. The levee along the Black River has breached in several places, forcing authorities to evacuate residents.

The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to halt a plan by the Army Corps of Engineers to blast open a levee to relieve the rain-swollen Mississippi River.

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito did not comment Sunday night in denying Missouri's request to block the corps' plan. Alito handles emergency requests from Missouri and other states in the 8th Circuit in the Midwest.

Maj. Gen. Michael Walsh says a decision has not yet been made on whether to breech the levee. 

Walsh has a difficult decision to make: if he blows up the Birds Point levee in Mississippi County, the river will flood 130,000 acres of farmland and displace about 200 people. But he will also ease pressure on flood walls and levees that are already pushed to the brink.

The Corps is pumping an explosive mixture into a two-mile section of the levee located just south of the confluences of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. The river gauge at the evacuated town of Cairo, Ill has already set a record, and is expected to crest at 62.5-feet on Tuesday. 

General Walsh indicated that Tuesday's crest surpasses the river level that triggers detonation of the levee.

"The operations order says 61 and rising," said General Walsh. "But again, it's also tied to the system and making sure that the system is holding tight."

The explosives should be in place by 11 a.m. on Monday. General Walsh will then decide whether or not to proceed with the plan.


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