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After Yet Another Flood, Clarksville Renews Quest For A Permanent Solution

Camille Phillips/St. Louis Public Radio

Clarksville, Mo., has barely begun to set itself to rights after the latest deluge from the Mississippi River.  But city officials are already worried about the next flood.

"It just seems like the flood comes more and more often now," said Clarksville Emergency Manager Kathy Weiss. "Twenty years ago we didn’t have a flood every year, but seems like now every year or two years we’re having a flood. So we have to think of something more permanent.”

The riverfront district still sits behind a wall of sandbags, waiting for the river to recede enough to prevent storm sewer overflow. Weiss says most of the town was protected by the sandbag wall, but a few homes on the south side were damaged.

Mayor Jo Anne Smiley has been talking to state and local officials for more than three years, trying to find an agency or grant that will pay the $3.5 million needed for E-K-O Flood Systems to install permanent protection from Lock and Dam 24 to the post office — a five block-segment that runs parallel to the river.

Credit Camille Phillips/St. Louis Public Radio
A portion of the historic business in Clarksville, Mo. that city officials are hoping to protect with a permanent flood system. During this flood, they used sandbags and plywood to hold of the rising river.

“It would be a very expensive venture, but it would be a one-time thing," said Weiss. "We’d have a rail-type system that would be put in the ground, and it would be something that would be flush with the ground. And then you’d have easy-up walls that you’d put up.”

Once the flood receded, the walls could be taken down and stored outside. Smiley said the walls are durable and lightweight, eliminating the need for the time, effort and expense of building up and tearing down sandbag walls every time there is a flood.

As a tourist economy, the town needs to stay open in order to make ends meet, explained Smiley. But maintaining the view of their main attraction is also important. That's why they don't want a truly permanent flood wall that would hide the river.

With the floods deterring tourists from late spring to early summer, and ice blocking access during part of the winter, the town has seen a decline.

"We don't have industry and we're unlikely to attract it," said Smiley. "When you can only operate seven months a year, you're in trouble."

Follow Camille Phillips on Twitter @cmpcamille