CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (Legal Newsline) - Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan on Friday applauded a federal court's ruling that authorizes the Army Corps of Engineers to go ahead with its plans to detonate a Missouri levee.
On Tuesday, Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster said his office and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources filed a federal lawsuit asking a judge to stop the Corps' plans to destroy the levee at Birds Point in Mississippi County. He argued doing so would cause "serious flooding" across large portions of the county.
The Corps, which manages the Mississippi River, planned to intentionally breach the levee in hopes of keeping Cairo, Ill., from flooding.
Koster's office fears the flooding from the detonation could cover as much as 130,000 acres -- 30 miles north to south and as much as 8 to 10 miles wide at certain points. The attorney general also fears the flooding would leave a layer of silt on the farmland that could take as much as a generation to clear.
"The potential consequences resulting from the Corps' proposed action are significant to both Missouri and Illinois. There are no 'good' options at this juncture," Koster said in a statement.
Madigan's office intervened in the federal case on Thursday. She said the Corps' plan has been in place since 1986.
The levee, she said, was constructed specifically to be demolished.
If deemed necessary, she explained, the controlled demolition would release water into farmland located on the floodway to alleviate flooding on both sides of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers in the tri-state area and beyond.
The Illinois attorney general argued by not demolishing the levee, the lives of nearly 3,000 Cairo residents would be threatened. If the levees are breached, water levels in the city will rise 18 to 20 feet -- a height, she noted, that reaches above most two-story buildings.
"I am pleased that through our joint efforts the people of Southern Illinois were given a voice in this critical decision," Madigan said in a statement, following the decision.
"It is imperative in the midst of this potential disaster that the Army Corps be able to take quick action if and when necessary to protect our communities."
From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.