NEW MADRID -Residents welcomed recent rains in Southeast Missouri but supporters of proposed flood control work, hope residents also remember the spring rains. Those showers had Southeast Missourians wading through flooded streets, destroyed crops and forced some people from their homes.
Now those who worried and complained about flooding can take action. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has released its Final Environmental Impact Statement for the St. Johns New Madrid Floodway Project and public comments can influence their final decisions, according to local supporters.
"This is an opportunity to say this is our problem and this is what we want you to do," said Lynn Bock, attorney for the St. Johns Levee District. "You can't sit on your hands and do nothing and expect this (project) to happen."
The Corps of Engineers is seeking public comments on its Final Environmental Impact Statement which contains their preferred alternative for solving flood problems. It calls for closing the levee gap at New Madrid and installing two pumping plants to remove surface water.
The project is the beginning of a system which will allow for the comprehensive drainage of land east of the Sikeston ridge.
"A lot of folks believe the comment period is just procedure, but the comments do carry weight with the Corps, in court and with the Department of Natural Resources," said Bock.
The 30-day public comment period for the impact statement comes to an end Monday so Bock is encouraging individuals to sit down and fax or e-mail their support for the plan.
It doesn't have to be long or detailed, he emphasized. He recommends, those writing simply say they support implementing the preferred alternative set out in the Final Environmental Impact Statement and include their name and address.
Others will send their comments as well. According to Bock, environmental groups have large mailing lists and generate mass mailings from their members. "Even though they don't live here, they load the Corps up with negative comments and most of these comments are based on inaccuracies," he said.
Among the inaccuracies he points to are claims the project will drain a swamp and destroying natural habitat. Instead, if completed, the project will create 9,000 acres of new habitat and provide protection for people's homes and property, Bock said.
Many local governments are sending their comments, too. Supporting the preferred alternative are Sikeston, East Prairie, Charleston, Miner and New Madrid along with area county commissions and others.
"We've written letter of support. We have been a long-term supporter of the project not only to ease flooding but for the economic and wildlife benefits it will bring," said Sikeston City Manager Doug Friend. "Ever since I've been here - at various times we have had people from the Corps talk to us about the project. Mayor (Phil) Boyer did send a letter to try to make that happen as soon as possible."
While this is a project under consideration since the first pumping station was recommended in 1912 and again in 1954 then restudied in the 1960s, Bock stressed the time to act is before Monday's deadline.
"This is a problem that has been going on for generations, but the time is now to comment," said Bock. "There is strength in numbers. We can make a difference."
Comments can be e-mailed to: firstname.lastname@example.org or faxed to the Corps offices at 901-544-4041.