June 27, 2008

Levees Holding in Illinois, but Missouri Residents Not so Lucky

By Jennifer A. Bowen, Belleville News-Democrat, Ill.

Jun. 27--The levees on the Illinois side of the river continue to hold back the Mississippi River, and pressure was eased somewhat when a levee that protects Winfield, Mo., failed early Friday.

"The word I'm getting from the teams out there checking on the levees every day is: Everything is working as predicted," said Alan J. Dooley, a spokesman with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers St. Louis. "We continue to monitor the entire system. We are keeping an eye on the levees in East St. Louis. A very small cluster of sand boils was found early and have been handled. We're in good shape right now."

Even with problems associated with relief wells and a sand scour in the levees in Prairie du Rocher, those levees are "stable," Dooley said.

"The levees in Missouri that are failing are agricultural levees, they are lower protection levees," he said. "The Pin Oak levee is a 14-year levee. The urban levees, such as those in East St. Louis, are 500-year event levees and are fully expected to hold up against this flood."

The Pin Oak levee in Missouri failed around 5:30 a.m. Friday. The earthen, agricultural levee, which already had sandbags added to the top, was overtopped by floodwater when a muskrat reportedly burrowed a hole into the levee, causing a section of it to be blown out, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

In Grafton the river had reached 30.53 feet Friday afternoon and is predicted to crest at 30.6 feet Saturday.

In Alton, the river was up to 32.36 feet Friday and expected to crest at 32.8 feet Sunday.

In East St. Louis, floodwaters had reached 37.7 feet Friday and is expected to reach its peak at 38.6 feet Monday.

With heavy rains expected along the northern portion of the river, the crest dates and heights could change.

The predicted crest dates and heights have continuously changed over the last week as severe thunderstorms drench states along the northern portion of the Mississippi River and levees are breached along the river's path. When a levee is breached, the water escapes the river channel and flows into floodplains, leaving less water in the river to crest further downstream.

A ceremonial signing of the official start of the Wood River Flood Protection system is scheduled for 3 p.m. Monday. The event is scheduled to take place on the Esplanade Overlook at the Melvin Price Locks and Dam in Alton.

The Wood River Project Partnership Agreement is the first step in moving the metro east levee restoration process forward. The agreement will allow the levee district to accelerate the expenditure of local construction funds and condense the timeline for recertification at the base-level standard.

The restoration process will provide improved flood protection to people in the region.

In Randolph County the Cora Levee at Illinois 3 was sandbagged Friday afternoon by the Illinois Department of Transportation. The sandbagging shut down Illinois 3 from the Mary's River bridge south of Chester to Rockwood to all traffic.

Sand boils have been discovered on Kaskaskia Island and the Army Corps of Engineers continue to monitor the situation. A ring of sandbags was placed around the sand boil to prevent further development.

A sand boil also was found at the Kaskaskia River lock and dam and one found on the Mississippi River levee near Fort Chartres. Both sand boils are being closely monitored.

On Friday the U.S. Department of Labor awarded a $3.5 million grant to Illinois to create approximately 200 temporary jobs to assist in flood cleanup and recovery efforts.

Contact reporter Jennifer A. Bowen at [email protected] or 239-2667.


To see more of the Belleville News-Democrat, Ill., or to subscribe, visit http://www.belleville.com.

Copyright (c) 2008, Belleville News-Democrat, Ill.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

For reprints, email [email protected], call 800-374-7985 or 847-635-6550, send a fax to 847-635-6968, or write to The Permissions Group Inc., 1247 Milwaukee Ave., Suite 303, Glenview, IL 60025, USA.