The Adventures of Tom Sawyer was the family read-aloud book this past spring. I found myself especially drawn to Twain’s description of the Mississippi River, a reminder of how much of an impact the Big Muddy had on my own childhood as I grew up along its banks. Naturally, I watched the new reports in May as my hometown flooded, and I wondered if the many miles of levees could possibly hold. The system put in place by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers largely did its job, but the river still exacted a price, eating away at the banks and attempting to carve new channels (i.e., doing what rivers do in flood events). A report in the Memphis Commercial Appeal details the costs of “bank failures” from the big flood. With federal budget cutting fever rampant in D.C., you have to wonder about how many federal dollars will be directed toward the repairs.
Corps officials estimate it will cost $222.5 million to undo the damage inflicted by the river as it tried to create new channels during the flood. If the repairs aren’t completed before the next big flood, the Mississippi could complete the course changes it began this year.
That $222.5 million sum is in addition to the projected $327.7 million it will take to fix flood-damaged levees, the $157.4 million worth of flood-related dredging needed and the estimated $70.6 million required to restore spillways and similar structures.
To pay for those and other damages, the U.S. House approved $1 billion in emergency appropriations for the corps in the energy and water bill. But the Senate has yet to approve any funds.
A retired Army Corps hydraulics engineer, Larry Banks is quoted in the article:
“We don’t control the river. The river is the control,” Banks said. ”The works of the corps can tickle it a little bit and keep it manageable.”