Plan to raise levees along Mississippi River meets opposition

Tuesday, May 4, 2010 | 1:23 p.m. CDT

BOWLING GREEN — A proposal to raise all but about 20 of the 140 levees along the upper Mississippi River is creating concerns in three Missouri counties whose levees are not part of the plan.

Most of the 20 levees that would not be raised as part of the proposal known as "Plan H" are in Pike, Lincoln and St. Charles counties. The Hannibal Courier-Post reports that officials in those counties are urging Missouri's state and federal lawmakers to avoid endorsing Plan H. They're also asking residents to write to their lawmakers.

The effort is in response to a resolution signed by Illinois legislators asking for federal support for the plan that calls for raising most levees to levels that would protect against a 500-year flood.

The resolution states that "the lives and livelihoods of our citizens depend in great part on robust flood protection" and that Plan H offers "the greatest level of protection to the greatest number of residents" in the region.

Opponents worry that raising levees upstream will create more flooding in places where the levees are unchanged.

"We have to fight," said Pike County Clerk Bob Kirkpatrick. "We don't want to be a flood storage area for everything north of Pike County."

Lincoln County Presiding Commissioner Sean O'Brien agreed.

"If we let it die, it will be forgotten about completely and we'll be the dumping ground for all that water," O'Brien said. "We need to get this ball rolling now."

A website set up by Plan H opponents seeks signatures on a petition objecting to the proposal.

"Protecting some communities should not jeopardize the lives in other communities," according to the site. "If all levees are not improved, we prefer that none be improved."

The Mississippi River Commission recommended approval of Plan H about two years ago. Congress has not offered support or approved funding. Local levee districts would likely have to pay some of the cost of the levee upgrades.


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