Telling the truth about flood control

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Our friends from national environmental organizations, and specifically the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), would do well to heed the words of Mark Twain, who once said, "Always tell the truth. That way you don't have to remember what you said."

Unfortunately, the NWF isn't following our fellow Missourian's advice. As they've done many times in the past, they and other radical organizations are conducting a distortion campaign to confuse the public and align neighbor against neighbor. They are doing so by attacking the St. John's Bayou-New Madrid Flood Control Project and the rebuilding of the levee protecting the Floodway that was deliberately destroyed last year in an effort to relieve pressure on other flood control systems on the river. These groups take the position that the completion of this Project, which, includes the closing a 1,400-foot gap in the existing levee system, will put others at increased risk. This is absolutely not true and not supported by any evidence, but it makes for a great scare tactic.

The New Madrid Floodway consists of 130,000 acres, including some of the richest farmland in the world. The St. John's Bayou-New Madrid Flood Control Project will control the flooding of thousands of acres of farmland and prevent flooding of rural communities in Scott, New Madrid and Mississippi Counties. The people who live and farm in the floodway grow their crops, raise their families, and participate in their communities with a constant eye on rising river levels.

For generations, they, and their elected officials, have worked to secure the necessary funding to protect their farms, homes and families from the devastation of frequent, uncontrolled flooding. Shamefully, they have been met, at nearly every turn, with resistance by environmental extremists hired from outside the region, many of whom have never set foot within the confines of the floodway. These extremists, and their powerful Washington D.C. lobbyists, willingly ignore the environmental benefits of the project in order to pursue their broader goal of complete elimination of flood protection.

In addition to providing essential flood control, the project has been designed with many environmental enhancements. The project will increase forested lands in the St. John's Bayou Basin by 35 percent, the New Madrid Floodway by 58 percent, and triple the size of Big Oak Tree State Park. The project calls for keeping flood gates open during portions of high Mississippi River stages, maintaining a hydrologic connection between the floodplain and the river for the benefit of fish, wetlands, waterfowl, and shorebirds. The project significantly increases wetland acreage.

The NWF's extreme agenda should be obvious to all of us who live and work in Southeast Missouri: They want no flood control structures and no levees. They admitted as much publicly to USA Today on May 18, 2011, at the height of the flooding in our region. John Kostyack, the NWF's vice president of wildlife conservation, stated, "We should let the river act more like a river, give it room to run." The article went on to talk about a controversial proposal by Kostyack recommending that the federal government not repair the levee it blew open in Southeast Missouri, but instead allow all 113,000 acres of farmland to be converted into a floodplain with no agricultural use.

Mark Twain was right about telling the truth. It's too bad the NWF isn't remembering what it said in May of last year. However, those of us who live and work in Southeast Missouri do remember. We remember all too well.

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