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Levee repairs, flood recovery to be discussed in Columbia this weekend

A levee breach in northwestern Missouri in 2011.
(Atchison Co. Emergency Management)
A levee breach in northwestern Missouri in 2011.

State and federal leaders are gathering in Columbia Saturday to talk about ways to prevent last year’s devastating floods that plagued northwest and southeastern Missouri.

Heavy snow and rainfall led to record releases from South Dakota dams along the Missouri River–and as a result 200,000 acres of farmland in northwest Missouri sat flooded for months, along with a significant stretch of Interstate 29 in Missouri and Iowa.  Around 130,000 acres were flooded in the southeast part of the state when the Army Corps of Engineersblew a hole in the Birds Point Levee along theMississippi Riverin order to protect the town of Cairo, Illinois.

Governor Jay Nixon (D), Missouri Senators Roy Blunt(R) andClaire McCaskill(D), and U.S. Representatives Vicky Hartzler(R) and Blaine Luetkemeyer(R) are slated to discuss recovery efforts at a meeting of the Missouri Levee and Drainage District Association.  Hartzler says one solution would be for federal officials to make flood control the top priority within the Missouri River basin.

“There’s been too much emphasis, I believe, on recreation in the northern states, which has artificially kept the levels high in those drainage basins," Hartzler said.  "There wasn’t anywhere for the water to go, so they had to release way too much water that caused the flooding for us downstream.”

Saturday’s schedule also includes an update on levee repairs by Army Corps officials.  The meeting is being held at the Holiday Inn near Columbia Mall.

Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.