American Rivers named the Middle Mississippi River among America’s Most Endangered Rivers® of 2014.
“The America’s Most Endangered Rivers report is a call to action to save rivers that are at a critical tipping point,” said Eileen Fretz Shader of American Rivers.
“Cutting off the Mississippi River’s connection with its floodplain would destroy critical fish and wildlife habitat and put communities at greater risk of flooding. The New Madrid Floodway project is completely at odds with modern floodplain management.”
The Middle Mississippi is threatened by a proposed U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project that would cut off the last connection between the Mississippi River and its natural backwater habitat in the State of Missouri.
The Corps proposes constructing a new 1,500 foot levee across the gap at the bottom of the New Madrid Floodway.
In addition to allowing the river to sustain vital habitat, the floodway serves as a “relief valve”, operated during large floods to permit floodwaters to spread out on the Floodway instead of threatening upstream communities like Cairo, IL.
American Rivers and its partners called on the Corps to abandon the New Madrid Levee project, and urged the Environmental Protection Agency to veto the project if the Corps continues to move it forward.
“The levee closure project is an unjustified handout to a small group of landowners who farm within this essential floodway. Its completion would only serve to benefit their bottom line, while making it politically harder to operate the floodway during an inevitable future flood,” said Brad Walker, Rivers and Sustainability Director for Missouri Coalition for the Environment.
“Severing the last remaining connection the Mississippi River has to its floodplain in this part of the river would devastate fish and wildlife populations,” said Melissa Samet, Senior Water Resources Counsel for the National Wildlife Federation. “This project is a subsidy for a small group of landowners that is not in the best interest of the American people. The Obama Administration needs to put a stop to this once and for all.”
“Why should taxpayers build a levee that may need to have a hole blown in it every time the floodway needs to be operated? In terms of the misuse of the public’s money, as well as damage to Missouri’s environment, this is the most wasteful Corps project we have seen in quite some time,” said Bruce Morrison, General Counsel for Great Rivers Environmental Law Center.
The Mississippi River once experienced seasonal floods that spread out over its floodplain, creating a mosaic of backwaters, wetlands, and sloughs.
These periodic floods were the driving force behind robust and diverse ecosystems that were home to an amazing array of fish, birds, and wildlife.
The Missouri “bootheel”, located at the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, was once one of the nation’s largest and richest wetland areas.
The annual America’s Most Endangered Rivers® report is a list of rivers at a crossroads, where key decisions in the coming months will determine the rivers’ fates.
Over the years, the report has helped spur many successes including the removal of outdated dams, the protection of rivers with Wild and Scenic designations, and the prevention of harmful development and pollution.
Press Release, April 11, 2014