St. John’s Bayou/New Madrid Floodway Boondoggle Returns
By Brad Walker, Former MCE Rivers Director
Published June 2016
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been working on the release of its latest Final Environmental Impact Statement, which is another attempt to justify the St. John’s Bayou/New Madrid Floodway project, for more than a year. The last time this project popped up the Federal Court rejected it because the Corps had manufactured some imitation facts to justify the project. The more than $100 million New Madrid Floodway portion of the project is estimated to destroy or degrade about 50,000 acres of wetlands while serving only to increase the crop yields of a small group of farmers who farm in the Floodway. Those opposing it also believe that the closing of the remaining 1,500-foot gap in the levee near the town of New Madrid will increase the likelihood that the floodway will not be utilized during the next major flood. Read the recent opinion article from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch by the Mayor of Cairo, Illinois on the project here.
The New Madrid Floodway, where they farm, is a legally designated floodway which was last used in 2011 to alleviate Ohio and Mississippi River flooding. In May 2011 the courts had to make a ruling to allow the Corps to use the Floodway after the State of Missouri sued to stop its use; the delay nearly flooded towns in Illinois and Kentucky. One of the larger landowners within the Floodway who would directly benefit from the project is also a longstanding member of the Mississippi River Commission, an organization that has significant influence on Mississippi River-related decisions including this project. MCE is working with national partners to respond to this project.