MEMPHIS, Tenn. - The Memphis District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is appealing a state ruling halting a local floodway project.
The Corps has filed an appeal with the Missouri Clean Water Commission in response to the denial by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources of a Section 401 Water Quality Certification for the St. John's Bayou-New Madrid Floodway Project.
The appeal challenges the denial on the grounds that the project fully complies with Missouri water quality standards as well as all other water quality standards required by federal law.
The project represents an intense effort to address environmental concerns while also reducing personal and economic suffering caused by frequent agricultural and urban flooding the Corps said.
Eighth District Representative Jo Ann Emerson applauded the decision of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to appeal the denial.
"This project has been on the drawing board for 50-plus years," said Emerson. "However, despite our best efforts to design a plan that strikes a balance between people and the environment, this decision has put the politics of the environmental elitists ahead of the personal safety and prosperity of those who live and work along the river. This is simply unacceptable and that is why we must do whatever is necessary to ensure the completion of this project."
Also expressing disappoint over the denial were Scott County's three commissioners, who noted completion of the project would benefit Scott County residents as well as those residing in Mississippi and New Madrid counties.
"Scott County has numerous significant flooding hazards extending along the St. John's Ditch from mid-county through the Sikeston area into New Madrid County. Residents of Mini Farms, Sikeston and Miner, and the adjacent eastern areas of the county are at risk when this causeway floods," commissioners wrote in a letter to the editor.
The commissioners noted until the problems with the St. John's ditch are addressed in New Madrid County will flooding be eased in Scott County. (For full text of the letter see today's Your View section).
According to the Corps they have worked closely with local, state and federal agencies to add innovative measures to address concerns regarding environmental impact from the project. These include allowing for a connection between the Mississippi River and the New Madrid Floodway during the critical spring fish reproductive period, plans to reforest 8,375 acres which will double the amount of bottomland hardwoods in the project area and construction of measures to provide water to Big Oak Tree State Park to mimic historic flooding thus preserving its existing bottomland hardwoods.
According to Robert T. Anderson with the Corps, the Missouri Clean Water Commission has 30 days to set and inform the Corps of a hearing on the denial. He said the Corps expects to hear back from the Commission by Jan. 18 with a hearing anticipated on the denial before April.