Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear praised a decision by the Army Corps of Engineers to breach a nearly two-mile-wide gap in an earthen levee in Missouri late Monday, unleashing a deluge into 130,000 acres of farmland in a last-ditch effort to save a town from rising flood waters.
On Sunday, the attorney general of Missouri asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn an appellate court order that had allowed the corps to proceed with the operation. The high court denied the motion, which allowed the corps to intentionally blow up the levee that could prevent flooding in Hickman, Ky. and Cairo, Ill.
From the governor’s office:
“I support this evening’s decision by the Army Corps of Engineers regarding the Birds Point levee in Missouri. While this was clearly a difficult decision for the federal government, the protection of lives must come before the protection of property. In addition, with bad weather continuing for the Commonwealth, I hope it will provide Kentucky communities some relief.”
The disagreement put residents and officials in Kentucky and Illinois in disagreement with Missouri officials and farmers, who argued it could take a generation to cleanup their land. However, both the courts and corps said that lives trump any protection of property.
Still, there’s the possibility that breaching the levee won’t alleviate flooding.
From the Statesman:
Maj. Gen. Michael Walsh — the man ultimately responsible for the decision to go through with the plan— has indicated that he may not stop there if blasting open the Missouri levee does not do the trick. In recent days, Walsh has said he might also make use of other downstream “floodways” — basins surrounded by levees that can intentionally be blown open to divert floodwaters.
“Making this decision is not easy or hard,” Walsh said. “It’s simply grave — because the decision leads to loss of property and livelihood, either in a floodway or in an area that was not designed to flood.”